Monday, August 10, 2009

Climbed Up The Waterspout

One tiny little jumping spider did not want to be forgotten about after yesterday's spider day. This tiny one was on the gate when I unlocked it this morning. Jumping spiders do not spin webs to catch their food, though they can make sort of a silk tent or cave for protection or to lay eggs. They catch their prey by leaping several times their body length in a surprise attack. There are 95 different species of jumping spiders in Florida and I wasn't able to identify this little one. I don't know if it is tiny because it is young or if it is an adult.
After opening the park, I headed to the office for my usual Monday procedures of paperwork and more paperwork. When that was done, I headed outside for a much needed walk. It was another beautiful sunny summer day and it was already starting to get hot. I made my walk around the park and picked up a bit of litter here and there, but really not much. There were no people in the park, but the park was BUSY with wildlife. The bugs were buzzing, literally! I spotted a Cicada climbing on a pillar in front of the restroom. I'm sure the acoustics were terrific there. Cicadas are well known for their sound which can be heard in a very loud chorus on a hot summer day. They sound like a mixture between the sounds of a water faucet first coming on and a whole bunch of people saying SHHHH at different times. If you haven't ever seen this insect before, you have probably seen its exoskeleton at least. The brown casing is often left on tree bark or any available rough wood. Cicadas start as eggs laid in tree bark. When they hatch, they fall to the ground and burrow. They spend most of their lives in the ground sucking on tree roots to feed. When they burrow out of the ground, they climb to a nice spot and shed their exoskeleton and emerge as a winged adult. I found some really terrific information and even a video of a Cicada emerging on Wikipedia. Many people have heard that Cicadas often have a 13 or 17 year cycle and wonder why we can hear them every year. There are thousands of species of Cicadas and some are synchronized to emerge all together in one year. Others are staggered so that there are Cicadas emerging as adults every year, but each individual may spend several years as a nymph underground. I think that they are really fascinating bugs. I hope you will read more about them at the Wiki link because I couldn't include all of it here... I already have too many photos today, I will try not to be too wordy as well.
Another critter spotted on my walk was a Green Anole. I have already posted photos of them a couple of times, but this one was so tiny, cute, and tolerant of me that I couldn't resist a few more photos. In the first photo, I had just approached it. It eyes really looked surprised to me and it is still a bright green color. When it realized that I was going to continue to stand there with a camera in its face, it moved down the stem a little and started to brown up a little to hide.
While I was still on the walkway coming from the spring, I could hear a woodpecker working so loudly on a tree. I was following the noise on the way back to the office. I kept my eyes near the tree tops in hopes of spotting the woodpecker. I am not much of a birder, but I do know most of the woodpeckers in my area and I enjoy watching them. By sound, I had narrowed down the woodpecker to one group of trees. I still couldn't see it though. I put my hand on the tree that I suspected and I could FEEL the bird pecking! It was really cool. I must have walked around the same tree looking upward 4 or 5 times and never did find that woodpecker. I'm glad no one was in the park, I'm sure I looked like I had lost my mind. What I did find was a Rainbow Scarab Beetle. I have been chasing these silly little things around for three days trying to get a photo. They can move really quickly and they always move away from me. This one was too busy pushing dirt around to be bothered by me. I see them often because they are a type of Dung Beetle, and I have a Great Dane that keeps so many Dung Beetles happy and well fed in our yard. I never have to scoop poo in our yard because the Dung Beetles make quick work of it. They have a very good sense of smell (I guess they don't even need to with what they are after) and can locate fresh dung very quickly. They have an interesting burrow system and they pull the dung underground... SO cool to watch! Now you think that I HAVE lost my mind.
If there are any other bug lovers like me out there, I want to tell you about a fabulous site that I stumbled upon a year or two ago. It has helped me identify countless creepy crawlies and keeps me entertained on rainy days. I identified the specific type of Dung Beetle today as well as another insect that you will see in this blog today with the aid of this web page. The site is called What's That Bug and I hope that you will check it out or keep it in mind the next time you see a strange insect. They have a pretty extensive database of photos and will even identify photos e-mailed to them (though there is much more demand for that than they have time for).
Once I got back to the office I headed out for my Monday Ichetucknee run. I found out why the park is empty... everyone in Florida was at Ichetucknee! I couldn't believe how full the parking lot was on a Monday! I dropped off my paperwork and headed back to Troy. I stopped to gas up the truck and pick up some lunch. After lunch, I went for a drive on the Gator. I stopped to clean out the picnic area grills and drove the roadways in and out of the park picking up soda cans, a Gatorade bottle, and a beer can or two no doubt, tossed from a window. I even went out of the entrance and picked up more beer cans outside of the park. I would really like to catch Mr. Natural Light drinker in action. I pick up after him far too often. Because the park was still virtually empty (I saw 2 cars all day) I went continued my drive to less visited areas of the park. I patrolled around the barn area and was reminded that a section of gutter fell and will need to be reattached. That is a two-person job that will have to wait until Wednesday when I have a co-worker. I also drove through the tall grass along the south fence line of the park. I don't have reason to go back there often, but it is so fun when I do. I found so many more busy bugs and even a wildflower or two.
I stopped to photograph one flower (the photo of which didn't make the cut today, but will on a day off) and while I was standing there, I had a bit of a serendipitous moment. Just like when I looked for the woodpecker and found the beetle, I looked for one flower and found another. There were the tiniest purple Violets hiding deep down in the tall grass. I never would have seen them from just driving by. Next, I stumbled upon a bug haven. There were tall leafy greens and plenty of sunlight. I saw caterpillars and grasshoppers happily munching, butterflies fluttering from flower to flower... and big mean bugs feasting on other bugs, what fun!! The scary fellow devouring the grasshopper is a Robber Fly who probably pounced upon the unsuspecting grasshopper while it was munching on the plant. Have no fear, there were so many grasshoppers out there! I also photographed a butterfly and its caterpillar, but I will save them for my days off. Today was just too exciting for one blog post.

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