Butterflies and Stars all in a morning!

One of the many benefits to getting up sooo early… early being, before Sunrise is that you get to watch the butterflies warming up in the morning light.  Do you like to do photography? Go out early and you will have a better chance of photographing some of the more elusive native butterflies by watching for them resting and doing their warm ups – flexing those wings for flight, on cool Fall mornings.

Here is a Gulf Fritillary in my yard soaking up early morning rays.  When I found myself initially standing outside at 7am gazing around at the night sky one of the first constellations I noticed overhead was Orion the Hunter   Just look for the three belt stars in a row that tell you it’s Orion!   Near the belt stars is the bright planet Jupiter, also overhead and down lower, nearer to Orion is the dog star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major

Gulf Fritillary ButterflyGulf Fritillary Butterfly

Screech Owls New Diggs, up in the Bombax Tree.

Screech Owls New Diggs

The Backyard Universe is truly a hub of activity lately…   every evening the mockingbirds are giving the little Screech Owls a difficult time when they make their appearance known.  You can’t miss the disturbed calls of the mockingbirds and the hisses of the Screech owls.  It was at this latest activity that I decided to read online about Screech Owl Boxes.  They had a nest last year in an old palm snag however that snag fell over this year.  After doing some research I ran across a website for the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center located in Palm City Florida.  They actually had a .PDF file with information about Screech owls AND how to build nesting boxes for them.  It just happens that the boxes for the Screech Owls can also be used by the American Kestrel.  Click here for the Download .PDF link to make your own Screech Owl Nesting Box.

We placed our box up onto a Bombax  (African Floss) Tree, part of a stand of them that is along the back of our half acre.  Now we watch and wait to see if the box is noticed and who takes interest!  The box took only a couple hours to make and cost us $13.00 in pine.  It will weather over time.  Please be sure to follow the directions of the .PDF, don’t paint the box.  Now when I go outside I have yet another possible source of activity to keep an eye on.   We have raised other clusters of Screech Owls here, watched them grown up…  I hope you will consider placing a box in your neighborhood backyard.   A big thank you to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center for making the easy to follow directions available.  Check out their website!     AND be sure to visit my new Photo Blog called Metta Nature Photography  Click on the images there for full page views of everything else *outside* of my  BackyardUniverse coverage.    

Eastern Screech Owl

Image of an Eastern Screech Owl sitting on a stump in the BackyardUniverse.   

February brought the Ladies Tresses..

a chill February found me exploring a lonely trail in search of flowers and their attendant butterflies…  Possibly a bear if I could see one.  It was after all why I had picked an early morning and this particular trail that skirted a vast South West Florida marsh   As I rounded an area looking down as I hiked I came across a small grouping, just a very few plants, of Nodding Ladies Tresses  (Spiranthes odorata) Orchids.  I had never seen these in my travels so it was pretty exciting!   Nodding Ladies Tresses grow low and are rather  small and they tend to blend in with the rest of, well, everything in the grasses.  The blooms only last about a week or two so I was very lucky to come across them.  Nodding Ladies Tresses are a ground orchid with just a few leaves and this wonderful flower spike that comes up about a foot.  My book on Wild Orchids of Florida says that these are seen from South Dakota, east to Nova Scotia, south to Texas and in Florida.  If you are lucky to see them in your area, take only photos and leave nothing behind but footprints…   Orchids are protected in many States.

Nodding Ladies Tresses

Nodding Ladies Tresses. 

2,000 words+ that flew over me in an instant….

Image

Great blue heron color morph - White

Great blue heron color morph - White

Great blue heron color morph – White

If one picture is worth a 1,000 words.  This must be at minimum 2,000 words.  

I was sitting, reclining actually all bundled up and gloved for Winter on a swamp buggy at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp   I was looking all around us, as well as overhead at the Cypress trees, the alligator flags and into that icy blue sky scanning for photo targets; gators, butterflies.. small things  when out of somewhere he flew up and over us.  What a magical moment of surprise…..  Look how the sunlight streams through his feathers…..    Looking at the photos and re-visiting the moment I can feel him flying even now…    

Image of a Great blue Heron Color Morph – White.

a Little Bird Said: Go Star-Gazing!

I woke to the calls of a brilliant red sentinel Cardinal sitting up in the tops of the Mulberry Tree..  Today I’m planting out Nasturtium seedlings into pots and then  working on tonights Observing session for CREW Land and Water Trust.  Jim is busy adding a new Telrad to the LaVigne  10″ Dobsonian telescope for tonights use.

If you miss this evenings (Feb 9) Public Observing Session (Registration for tonight is closed)  at CREW we will offer another observing opportunity March 9th so if you happen to be in South West Florida visiting, or you live here, consider signing up via this link to attend our Family Star Gazing session.    

What will we see?  Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, various Star Clusters.. Galaxies M31 and M32 as well as pointing out numerous constellations and bright stars as well as telling some star-tails from CREWs beautiful Dark-Sky observing site I simply call Star Gazers Field.  If you go to the above Star Gazing link it will give you all the information about what you need to bring (don’t forget the blankets!) as well as where CREW Gate 5 is located.  Pre-Registration is required so check your calendar for March and include the Night Sky – Star Gazing, in your next family adventure into the Wilds of South West Florida! 

Sentinel Cardinal

Sentinel Cardinal

an Osprey for an Eagle.

I had really really really wanted to go pack a lunch and drive across the County today.. into another County  to see if I could photograph this Bald Eagle that I knew hung out in this one area..  Well, I found out he was there from some other people I was along with and we all saw him and they said “Oh he’s been there for-ever.”  SO I had got up with the Eagle on my mind… however I didn’t have the gas funds to get over there so I decided to stick to my original plan to go work in the Backyard Universe weeding and trimming around the garden putting in my Tropical Sage plants I had grown.  The tomatoes I found to be doing good.  I check them daily for insects to pick off.. and so far no blossom end rot  

My Tomatoes are coming right along!

My Tomatoes are coming right along!  

I was in the process of making this Tropical Sage filled  Humming Bird garden around the Sabal Palm for the Ruby-throat Humming birds that visit my feeders:

Newly planted Tropical Sage seedlings I started.

Newly planted Tropical Sage seedlings I started.

When I had just got the area weeded and dug up for the sage and I heard one of the occasional, distinctive calls of the neighborhood Osprey    So, being a gal who packs cameras at-all-times I hastily washed my hands in my bucket of water, dried them and grabbed my trusty Nikon D5100 in hopes of seeing the bird…  I looked around and then I saw him – or her, about 200 feet away sitting up in a tall Slash Pine tree snag in a neighbors backyard.  I often hear Osprey calling as I live down the street from a Middle School with a good sized, deep waterway running behind it that the wading birds – and Ospreys love to fish.   

Yes, the Backyard Universe was a busy place today!  There’s allot that goes on here day and night with animals, plants and insects… even the skies overhead are busy with meteors, the ISS, and constellations wheeling overhead.  I can’t imagine not being able to go outside and spend at least part of the day or night in the yard – I consider it a part of the house.  

Our yards can be a part of our living rooms if we include them.  Thousands of years ago, they WERE our living rooms – around a good fire to ward off carnivores.  Somehow many of us got away from that “outdoorsy” need.  Why?  What purpose could it possibly serve to exclude nature in our lives? To be glued to the TV (and news) as much as some are.  For me, I have to go outside and get my hands in the soil… walk barefooted around in the grasses, and take interest in what is happening in the trees, on the ground around me, and in the sky overhead:  

a Black Vulture flies a little too close to the Osprey enjoying his or her meal.

a Black Vulture flies a little too close to the Osprey enjoying his or her meal.

Osprey having lunch!

Can you get any further out on that limb!?

When I looked over I saw this Monarch Butterfly sunning on a native Milkweed…  

I grow a variety of natives in my yard specifically for the Butterflies and Hummingbirds.

Monarch sunning on a native Milkweed today.

Monarch sunning on a native Milkweed today. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

The first Weekly Photo Challenge of the New Year is here and the title is “Resolved.”  My resolve is to go hiking and exploring more of our South West Florida wilderness areas this year, and to do even more photography.   This isn’t to say I’m opposed to going into the “City” to shoot photos.   It’s just that if  I’m given the choice, and have the gas money to get there  (I’m still looking for that elusive Part Time Job,)     I’d rather be out on a peaceful trail not wondering how I’m going to get across an Intersection in one piece, feeding parking meters, or wondering where to eat a lunch that’s gluten free –  It’s the little things.     I’m certainly content to eat a snack bar out on a trail in a nice Oak Hammock….  To me, hiking is part of my overall “taking care of me” routine.  It is good for the body, good for the soul and it’s allot of fun.  I hope that you will get out into your local wilderness areas more this year too.

 

Me on the Prarie