Monday, January 4, 2016

Farewell Tour, Part 2

            Since our home in Florida is still for sale, we decided we had time for a second “Farewell Tour” of Florida, this one to South Florida. Our goal was to photograph some rare butterflies, plus whatever else struck our fancy. We are fortunate to have friends who are serious butterflyers and could take or tell us where we needed to go.

            Our main target butterfly was the Florida Purplewing found on Lignum Vitae Key. The island is accessible by boat, and the trails accessible only to researchers doing a count. Kay and Sara Eoff were our researchers, and Barbara and Mark Woodmansee cleared most of the cobwebs by leading the way. We were pleased that Kathy Malone, who has a tendency to wander off in pursuit of photographs, joined us from Tennessee. We tagged along.

Florida Purplewing. The dorsal view shows flashy purple colors.

            The good news is that we found a lot of insects on Lignum Vitae. The bad news: most of them were mosquitoes and chiggers. In fact, Kim got so many bites (over 600!) that Genne’ renamed the island “Likemom Bitey.” We did see a few of the Purplewings, and we speculated as to why the population this year was so much smaller (3 sightings) than what we found a year ago (over 80). Could the mosquitoes have eaten them?

            Another rewarding sighting was the Hammock Skipper, hard to see and photograph because they hang out on the underside of leaves.

Hammock Skipper. The green on the body is sunlight passing through the leaf.
            We appreciated our taste of “old Florida,” and we especially appreciated the air conditioning when we got back to our car.

            Another target butterfly: the Atala. Thought to be extinct in the 1950s due to loss of habitat, it was rediscovered on Key Biscayne in 1979. It can now be found in a few places in and around Miami. They are not shy, largely due to the presence of deadly cycasins in its wings and body.

A few others we saw:

Barred Yellow

Zebra Heliconian - Named Florida's State Butterfly a rare legislative triumph.

These two were doing their best to remedy the declining Monarch population.
            Kathy alerted us to a rare tropical bird, the Western Spendalis, in a park about an hour north of Florida City. We didn’t see it the first time we tried, but we were rewarded on our way home.

Western Spendalis - in the Tanager family, from the Bahamas
            The Spendalis was hanging out with Spot-breasted Orioles – not quite as rare, but dazzling.

Feasting on an olive. We did not locate the martini.

            So we netted two new birds on our life list, now standing at 409.

            We also got some new looks at birds we’d photographed before.

Purple Gallinule. Note the large feet - good for walking on lily pads.
Green Heron - David's favorite. It sometimes uses bait to catch fish.
            And Kim, being Kim, found other things to photograph.

Chiton - a mollusk whose fossil record goes back 400 million years.

Green Alole

Fungus, first spotted by Mark

Sunrise on the way to Lignum Vitae


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