Friday, December 22, 2017

Oleanders and the Aphid Dance

Caterpillars have been the creature of interest lately. 

Not long ago a cluster or Oleander Caterpillars had been hanging around one particular light post that we pass on the way to work. 


Then one day, they were gone and a dirt "cluster" was slowly growing.  We didn't really pay it any mind until one day on the way to work a new creature was noticed in the same general area.

This is the Polka-dot Wasp Moth (a.k.a. The Oleander Moth).  Do not let the word wasp deter you.  This is actually a harmless moth.

Upon realizing that this moth had once been the beautiful Oleander Caterpillar a closer look at the 'dirty-looking' aggregation on the light pole revealed...

                 that it was actually a cluster of Oleander Caterpillar's mid-transformation.

It is difficult to see that they are covered in silken hairs.  So, here is a picture of a single one found on the back of a palm branch.

This singular pupa more clearly demonstrates the fine silken hairs that typically cover the aggregate.

When it is not covered in silken hairs, the pupa reveals itself to be quite beautiful in its own right.

This one, that we had found on the ground, we tucked back into the aggregate after a few photos.

Freshly emerged and getting oriented.  This Polka-dot Wasp Moth has only a few days to find a mate and continue the cycle of the species.  Unlike other moths, the Polka-dot is a day flier and also harbors the unique ability to send out ultrasonic signals to attract a mate instead of pheromones.

Speaking of continuing the cycle... a search of the nearby Oleander bush revealed this wonderful deposit of eggs.


After a successful endeavor with the Polka-dot Wasp Moth, we headed over to Possum Long.  Normally, this is a local spot where birds are the subject.  Today, however, it was butterflies.

           The Monarchs were out in force but it was the skippers that caught our eye.


That is until Darlene turned over a leaf....

Then it was back to Monarchs as she had discovered a Monarch Caterpillar Egg (see the tiny white spec).

What is amazing about these nearly invisible eggs is that they have a characteristic shape and design.

A Monarch egg that has been compromised by Trichogramma wasps who lay their eggs inside. These wasps are so tiny (1/50 th of an inch in size) that they can lay up to 300 of their eggs inside this already microscopic (to our eyes) Monarch egg).  If the egg turns all black it is typically not viable and wasps will emerge instead of a caterpillar.  If only the tip is black then the Monarch is actually ready to emerge.

The benefit for us of the darker color is that it helped our macro lens more easily capture the details of the design.

While Darlene continued to search for eggs, new cats and other critters, Nicole found herself distracted by a tiny creature that most prefer to eradicate.

What had Nicole so intrigued was that these little critters known as Aphis nerii Boyer de Fonscolombe or Oleander Aphids

                            had their butts in the air...


                                          and they were waving them around...

                                                     like they just don't care.

As it turns out, truth of the matter is though that these pinhead sized destroyers actually do this 'dance' when they feel threatened.  Perhaps they should be informed that their dance is more cute than threatening.

Enjoy and see ya later!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ta Dah!

This is it.  After this post we are finally caught up once and for all on the sharing.  It helped that we both have been sick for nearly two weeks.  Neither of us has wanted to go anywhere or cared to see much of anything which means no photos added to the ever growing pile. 

Pretty short and sweet without too much commentary.  Just more shots from here and around.

                                                          Bleeding Heart Vine

                                            new favorite shot of the White-eyed Vireo

                                                 natural honeycomb... a first for us

                                                              Blackberry Lily

                                                          Painted Bunting... LIFER!

                              Eastern Gray Squirrel

                                                   Tennessee Warbler... LIFER!

Did you know there was a program to  tag and track Monarch Butterflies they way they tag birds?  Well, we didn't either but there is. 


                                                             a unique flower

                                 Another afternoon at the beautiful Savanna Preserve.

                                                                We ate lunch.

                                                        We sat down by the water.

                                                      We watched the birds.

                           And the birds watched us.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Birds, Beaches, Parks and Preserves

We are seriously behind on photo / adventure sharing.  So, here's our best effort to get caught up once and for all.

With the migrating / new bird numbers dwindling, Nicole settled on attempting to improve on her best shot of each bird and continued taking the usual photos of insects, flowers and fungi.

                                                 Best shot yet of a Red-eyed Vireo

Mushroom... condo style.  More formally known as Armillaria tabescens, Ringless Honey Fungus.

                                                Leucauge argyra - Orb Weaver

Back in October Nicole's brother came for a visit.  We had intended to snorkel some of the wrecks in the area. 

                                                The ocean had other plans.

So, we adapted and took many walks and explored more of the land-based area on foot.

      At Maggy's Hammock we saw many familiar birds like the tiny black and white warbler.

           We also saw a Conradina grandiflora a.k.a. the Largeflower False-rosemary plant.

When walking a local trail the last thing you want to encounter is a fresh pile of mans-best-friend.

As we all approached we made sure to warn each other of the unwelcomed deposit.  But as Nicole passed by she noticed that some of the stinky stuff was moving. 

So, against her better desires, she held her nose and squatted down to take a closer look.  Low and behold, there it was... a fresh ball of poop just rolling along.  It was then that she realized this was her first real-life sighting of a dung beetle 'in action'!

Of course, she shared this with the rest of the gang and everyone took a closer look.  Isn't it funny how nature can make you take a closer look at shit you would normally avoid.

When he realized he was being watched, this fellow laid claim by climbing on top of his property.  If only he knew that we were not as excited to find what he was so excited to have found.

In the unusual category, we saw this one day while driving.  A sheriff's vehicle with the back 1/2 painted like a Taxi and the phrases "Choose your ride, DUI TAXI.", "This ride is about $20.00." and "Price subject to change."  What a sense of humor they have here.

We explored a wonderfully desolate and preserved 5 mile stretch of beach on another day.  Although the seabean season had begun, no new ones were found.  We did however find...

                   a new Queen for the Flotsam Army!

Someone in Nicole's seabean group commented on her 'epic hair'.  Yes, it was epic as was the smell that it possessed!  She has now become the Queen of the Plants and resides on the back porch.

Another day, we explored Savannas Preserve State Park.  Savannas Preserve State Park is predominantly open grasslands. The park is made up of pine flatwoods, basin marsh, scrubby flatwoods, wet prairie and the Atlantic scrub ridge. 

                          Mostly, there is the feeling that you are away from civilization. 

                                Well, as far as you can get in the middle of a city in FLA.

                       The park comprises seven thousand acres and 13 miles of trails.

                            We saw a familiar grasslands hunter, the Loggerhead Shrike.

                                                A Kingfisher kept watch over the water.

                                          And, a Northern Harrier hunted for lunch.

            A, new-to-us, Palmetto Skipper Butterfly was hanging out on a blade of grass.

                                     Caught sight of this Oak Toad... another first.

The neat thing about the Savanna Preserve State Park is that the water portions make up southeast Florida's largest freshwater marsh lying only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean just behind a line of ancient sand dunes. 

                                         Does he know he lives in such a special place?

Despite seeing several winged things, Nicole continued to comment on how surprised she was that we weren't seeing more birds of prey.  The vast area of dead snags seemed perfect for them to perch in.

Still, it wasn't until we got home and she was reviewing the day's photos on the computer that she discovered we had seen one very important bird of prey

                                        The Peregrine Falcon - a winter migrant.

                                                               And, a LIFER!

Do you see what we saw?  This little booger had about ten babies.  When she heard us coming she squeaked to them to hide, they scattered like leaves in the wind and then mama ran across the path in front of us to distract us from them.  Classic parent instinct.

We originally thought we had missed the opening of what we thought was a hibiscus.  Turns out the Hibiscus furcellatus (which is also known as the Sleepy Hibiscus) just doesn't have the energy for a full open bloom.

How could the crazy hair day look of the Florida 'Sunshine' Mimosa not make you smile?

                                    That's what we're talking about!  Have a happy day.