Don’t Mess With Momma!

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely, sunny afternoon strolling around John S. Taylor Park in nearby Largo. It wasn’t very birdy out but I still found creatures to interest me, namely several alligators.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across three young ones. While I can’t promise that the first photo is of mom, there were too many gators to keep track of, she was definitely that size. The opposite of a helicopter parent, mom was floating out near the center of the pond. That aloof demeanor, however, belied her fierce protective nature.

Which became apparent as soon as another gator mistakenly swam too close. A slow speed chase ensued, with the intruder wisely opting for the other side of the pond.

No wonder they have all those no swimming signs posted!

The Wailing Bird

The Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) is a really unusual bird. Though it is the only living member of its genus, it shares habits, and even resembles, a large rail but structurally it is built more like a crane. I’ve shared photos of limpkins recently, if you’d like more information about them.

While those oddities are enough to make this bird standout, its loud, piteous call is what earns it the nickname, wailing bird. The limpkin making all this noise is standing in the pickerelweed where the shade ends, though I dare say, it will be hard to find.

And here’s a challenge to my fellow birders, what bird is calling in the distance?

Flutterbies

For years I’ve been on a mission to change the name for these delicate, aerial masters from butterflies to flutterbies. I have two simple reasons: they actually flutter by when navigating from flower to flower and they are not, in fact, made of butter.

These are a few of the flitting beauties that I’ve encountered over the past few weeks, roughly in size order from largest to smallest. Left to right, top to bottom: Monarch (Danaus plexippus), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia), Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), Dorantes Longtail Skipper (Urbanus dorantes), Tropical Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus oileus), Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis), Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius), Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole), Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).

Last but not least, this brightly-colored caterpillar, and while not technically a flutterby, it does represent one life stage that all flutterbies must pass through.

White-marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

White-marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma) Caterpillar, Clearwater, Florida April 2020

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.

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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.

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Common Gallinule Toes, Largo, Florida March 2020

Tiny Bubbles

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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…