Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Viera Wetlands 7/29/13

You guessed it, this cicada did not impale itself on the branch....

This Loggerhead Shrike looks a bit guilty.

Sure enough, it was the "butcher bird"!

 I was a bit annoyed with myself that I got busy following this Ceraunus Blue and missed the impaling event.

At least I got my first photo of this tiny, colorful butterfly with its wings open.

Ceraunus Blue

Another slow day for birds, but lots of butterflies still around.

Phaon Crescent

Southern Dogface

Dainty Sulphur

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Heart Damselflies

Although damselflies are smaller and weaker fliers than dragonflies, I find them equally as interesting to observe. I sometimes have to look a little hard to find these little guys, but they are generally easier to photograph as they seem to stay still longer. Here are a few of the species  I've encountered over this past week, most of which were at the local ponds/wetlands.

Rambur's Forktail

Rambur's Forktails are one of the most prominent damselflies found around ponds and wetlands. There are currently a large number of them at the Viera Wetlands.

This is how most of them are spending time right now. When damselflies mate, the male can be seen on top, clasping the female's thorax with the terminal appendages on the end of its abdomen. The  female loops forward so copulation can be completed. In this heart-like position (which lasts for various amounts of time), the connected damselflies are still able to travel about.

The pair usually then separates so the female can go lay her eggs. It looked to me like the female laid her eggs on the male in this pair that I observed?

mating Rambur's Forktails

There is also a variation of female Rambur's that is orange, which I believe is what this is. I only saw one of these at the wetlands.

color variant female Rambur's Forktail

This past weekend I took a short trip to Missouri to visit some friends. I found this Azure Bluet (I think) one evening while I was out wandering around. This species was quite vibrant, well at least the male was, and easy to find!

male Azure Bluet eating a mosquito

Another reason I love to see damselflies, as well as dragonflies, around is they consume those ever so pesky mosquitoes that are always preying upon me. As I was photographing this damselfly, it captured a blood filled mosquito (that had probably just stung me).

It didn't take the damselfly long to eat up the mosquito!

female Azure Bluet

Have a great week:)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wetland Butterflies

What makes for a great day of bug hunting...very few birds to see (it's just that time of the year), even fewer people in the area (not so many people looking at me like I'm crazy for laying/crawling in the dirt), and being sans toddler (3 year olds do not enjoy being still or quiet for long periods). So, my Saturday visit to the wetlands, which happened to be open to foot traffic only (which means significantly less people), while the toddler was spending the day with grandparents made for the perfect day to go exploring with my macro lens...

~Dainty Sulphur~ 

The Dainty Sulphur is a small butterfly that is found year round throughout Florida. I also saw several Cabbage White butterflies (also part of the sulphur family), which are pretty dull compared to the Dainty.

~Ceraunus Blue~

This was the first Ceraunus Blue that I've found. These butterflies are really small (3/4-1 inch) and easy to overlook. They are considered common and found year round in Florida. The species is very similar to the Cassius Blue. The Cassius, however, has 2 spots on the hindwing, where the Ceraunus only has one.

~Gray Hairstreak~

I think hairstreaks are some of the most interesting butterflies. Most (but not all) are identified by a small protruding "hair" at the bottom of its tail. This Gray Hairstreak was feeding on some Shepard's Needles, one of its favorite nectar sources.

~White Peacock~

White Peacocks are common throughout Florida and were the most abundant species I saw.

~Gulf Fritillary~

I observed both species of fritillaries laying eggs.

~Variegated Fritillary~


Queen butterflies are always delightful to see. Queens are cousins of a species they strongly resemble, the Monarchs. Both of these "milkweed butterflies" are part of the same subfamily and are known to lay their eggs on various types of milkweed. The ingestion of milkweed contributes to the defense of these species as it makes them toxic to predators.

~Fiery Skipper~

Most Skippers have large, moth-like bodies, small wings, and hooked antennae.

~Checkered Skipper~

The Common Checkered Skipper is found throughout Florida. These skippers like open areas with bare ground and low growing vegetation. Adults feed from a wide variety of flowers.

~Southern Skipperling~

The Southern Skipperling is the smallest skipper in North America. This little fellow sure was tiny!

Some of the other species that I saw but didn't get any presentable photos of were Zebra Long-wings, Spicebush Swallowtails, Sleepy Oranges, and Cabbage White butterflies. So long for now....  next up the damselflies and dragonflies of the wetlands:)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When Ospreys Attack

Sunday afternoon was an exciting time as the juvenile Osprey I've been watching took its first flight out of the nest. Later in the afternoon, I left to take my son to the park for a bit. Upon returning, I took a quick look up the tree and was quite surprised to now see 2 juveniles...what....I know for certain only 1 was raised in this nest. There are many nests in very close proximity and most of all the juveniles have fledged. It quickly became apparent this "nest crashing" juvenile was not receiving a warm welcome from the resident mama. 

Nope...Mama was making it clear there were no vacancy or free meals in this tree.

Resident Mama was repeatedly attempting to get the trespassing juvenile to leave, but the juvenile seemed to be determined to stay. I quickly became concerned that this youngster was going to be injured.

Mama even came down and tried to discuss her concerns..."what part of get out are you not understanding???" she squawked.

When the talks failed...

it was back to the attacks.

After over a dozen attacks, the juvenile decided it was time to leave. I felt relieved the youngster was on its way. Mama escorted the juvi away. My relief was very short lived as moments later they both returned and this time the juvenile landed right in the nest.

And you guessed it, Mama was angrier than ever!

Nope, not happy...

Mama held the juvi down for several minutes and I was really worried the juvi wasn't going to resurface, but finally it did. This time it was smart enough not to return and the tree was drama free for the remainder of the day. I found these interactions interesting and did some reading on "visiting" juveniles. I didn't come across too much information, but did read that juveniles will occasionally attempt to nest switch after fledging. These juveniles are usually motivated to switch by hunger. Once a juvenile fledges the nest, they still rely on their parent for food to survive for up to 3 weeks as they learn to catch fish on their own.  I did read that some adult Ospreys will accept other young and feed them. Obviously this mama wasn't too accepting!

Monday, July 15, 2013

So You Think You Can Fly

For the past week or so I've watched the juvenile Osprey spend a great deal of its time preparing for its big upcoming adventure...fledging!

For up to 2 weeks before fledging, juvenile Ospreys prepare by exercising their wings.

For the past few days, the Osprey has been lifting off and hovering above the nest (also known as helicoptering).

Each time I see this, I'm certain the Osprey is just going to take off, but it doesn't.

I think the Osprey was even practicing its fishing catching technique.

Well, yesterday was the big day. The juvenile Osprey finally left the nest! Its first landing place was a large branch just above the nest. The Osprey stayed there for several hours. Some serious drama erupted during this time as a wayward juvenile from another nest decided to be a nest crasher...(my next post). The Osprey took a few flights later in the day as its mom shadowed close behind. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wandering the Wetlands

A pair of Black-necked Stilts had been tending to a nest over the past month at the Viera Wetlands. Last week all four eggs hatched! She was still sitting on the fourth egg the one morning I was there, but it hatched soon after. They are on the other side of the pond, so these images are very heavily cropped. 

Mama Black-necked Stilt & 2 of her chicks

The next day I went back and didn't  see any of the chicks. A little while later, I saw this adult Stilt with a few extra legs!

There are several Mottled Ducks and Mottled families around the wetlands right now.

 This Tricolored Heron was snapping up some breakfast... was this White Ibis!

There are so many species of dragonflies and butterflies every where!

Four Spotted-Pennant
I loved the appearance of eyes on the back of this dragonfly's head.

Spicebush Swallowtail