The afternoon after our last Alligator Lake Park visit, we tried a new park, San Felasco Hammock State Park. It’s the most understated Florida state park that I’ve been to — there’s maybe space for ten vehicles in the dirt parking area, and just a metal tube to leave your entrance fee in. Maybe the other entrance for the horse and bike trails gets more traffic, which is the way we prefer it anyway. We took the loop trail to the south of Millhopper road.
This is an eastern fence lizard. It was kind enough to hang out on the same log long enough for me to dig out the camera. The moment after this shot, it darted after a bug. It caught two while we were watching.
The three mile walk, taking the longest loop option, takes you through several ecosystems. The first part of the trail, where the eastern fence lizard was hunting, was dryer with mostly grasses and pines. Dropping a few feet of elevation, we entered hardwood.
And then we descended a few feet more to reach the creek. There was barely any water flowing during our visit. Under the dense canopy we found ebony jewelwings. We’ve seen these beautiful damselflies in Little Manatee River State Park in similar habitat, where it is dark enough to make it difficult to handhold shots. I gave up trying and Mike took these.
The male, above, is a brilliant iridescent green. The female, below, is duller, but has bright white spots on the tips of her wings. They both agreeable spend fairly long periods resting on leaves, occasionally spreading their wings in a motion that looks like a flower opening in time lapse.
Moving on, we watched some small, brown, fast birds hover-gleaning above us. They seemed mostly indifferent to our presence, but never sat still for more than a moment.
Farther along, a snapping turtle was wading in the stream, as it was far too large to actually submerge in what little water was flowing.
It’s been and will continue to be a busy month, but we hopped on up to Alligator Lake Park two weekends ago, while it wasn’t too hot. We finally saw the ostriches, but they seemed to be in their own pasture, between the road and the park. When we arrived and while I was still gathering up our things, Mike noticed some birds on the power lines and I handed him the camera. It was a pair of ducks, but not a species we’d seen before, and perhaps they were a bit confused, tottering on the power lines as they were. We think they were black bellied whistling ducks, whose normal range is southern Texas, down the Central American coasts to South America; not really anywhere close by.
The deer were still munching in the early light. The flowers in the foreground should be pickerel, which is a water plant, so I’m guessing the deer were trudging around on pretty mucky ground, but they were still getting around just fine.
We tried growing our own passionflowers, and had pretty poor luck at it. We knew they grow wild here, but had never seen noticed them before. On this trip, they were blooming all along the trail.
This is a gulf fritillary caterpillar busily chomping down a passionflower leaf.
After two turtle carcases earlier on the trail, this live one, a cooter I think, pulled in and waited for us to pass.
Male Eastern Pondhawk on blackberries. In the most exposed areas, there were a few ripe blackberries.
It’s difficult to tell the size from the photo, but this is one of the largest dragonflies I’ve seen. We think it is a swamp darner, which can be 4″ long. And such fantastic eyes.
In the beginning of March we planted seeds. When deciding to rent this place, we thought the south facing balcony would make a good place for herbs, forgetting that this is the land of too much heat and sun. Both of our chives almost died, and the basil we picked up from the farmer’s market immediately bolted. Now, we’ve moved all the plants down to the north facing deck, which everything seems to greatly prefer. Perhaps in winter, we’ll move back up to the balcony. If we can keep them going for long enough, it would be great to get more of those sweet-purple basil crosses.