Bathing Beauty

I had the great fortune to watch an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) preen after it took a dip in the nearby creek. It took ages as this fish hawk carefully used its sharp beak to fluff and zip each feather.

It was so involved in the ritual that it didn’t seem to mind my close proximity. I was mesmerized by the bird’s actions, though with crisscrossed legs and awkward poses, I can’t say the process was anything close to graceful.

IMG_8289

What Are You Looking At?!

Patterned Terrapin

I came across this shy Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri) last week. As the name implies, it is endemic to this state (and the southeast corner of Georgia). This species is far less tolerant of cold weather than other box turtles. Apparently, we have that in common.

The yellow dashes on the carapace are distinctive. To be honest, I think it looks like a Common Gallinule walked over the turtle’s shell after stepping in yellow paint.

IMG_7955

Common Gallinule Toes, Largo, Florida March 2020

Tiny Bubbles

IMG_8088

Colorful Bubbles, Treasure Island, Florida April 2020

When conditions are just right, the sea floats foam onto the shore. When the light is just right, the bubbles in the foam iridesce. I’ve been fascinated by these ephemeral phenomena for years. I first captured some on the beach in Carpinteria, California in 2006.

When I lived on the Oregon Coast in 2018 I was fortunate to be treated to not one but two sightings. Because I’m such a music lover this song pops into my head every time…

After the Storm

IMG_8199

Stormy Afternoon, Treasure Island, Florida April 2020

Lightning, thunder, wind, and sideways rain pummeled us earlier today. From my window, I watched palm trees bend, patio furniture flip over, and water flow down the road. It was loud, chaotic, and a bit worrisome for awhile.

After the tempest blew out to sea, a quiet calm prevailed. The sun reappeared and birds emerged from their sheltering places. It brought to mind the Persian adage, “This, too, shall pass.”

A saying which is also relevant in light of the global crisis we are living through right now. Though perhaps this updated version is more apropos? “This, too, shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”

 

The “Marshan”

As the common name implies, I discovered this Florida Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris paludicola) in a riparian area the other day. The second part of the binomial also references its preferential habitat as palustris is Latin for “of the marsh”.

These strong swimmers live in the marshes and swamps of coastal regions of the southeast. I had hoped to see it swim but no such luck. Though, now that I know where it lives I will be on the lookout during my next visit.

Please forgive my partially obscured photos, this was a secretive animal and I feel fortunate to have seen it during the day as they tend to be more active at night.

Compared to the Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) I photographed a couple weeks ago, it is easy to discern the Marsh Rabbit’s smaller ears and darker, more rufous, overall coloration.

IMG_8068

Eastern Cottontail, Dunedin, Florida March 2020

Pretty Predators

I snapped this collection of photos from a couple local parks over the past few weeks. I am always pleased to see so many of these ravenous beauties around – if not we’d be swarmed with multitudes of mosquitoes and no-see-ums! They are ferocious predators, in both their aquatic larval stage and as aerial adults.

I do wish I had better shots of a few but I still included them to show some of the diversity. Granted, this is only a small smattering of the 150+ species that have been documented in Florida. Note the colorful differences between the males and females.

Occasionally, if the light is just right, I can capture the metallic sheen of their wings glinting in the sun.

Top to bottom, left to right: Great Pondhawk (Erythemis vesiculosa), Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) Female and Male, Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii) Male and Female, Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida), Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina), Female and Male.

 

 

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

While roaming Walsingham County Park last week I saw six Southern Black Racers (Coluber constrictor priapus), though I’m sure I missed many others. Since this species is active during the day it is the most commonly seen snake in Florida. I think I saw more than usual since they are in the midst of their breeding season (March through May).

As their common name implies, their first defense is to flee and man, are they fast! It was a definite challenge to get a few good shots of these speed demons.