While on Palm Island, FL, I got an up close and personal look at a nighthawk that I have never had on our VA farm where thousands of nighthawks migrate southwards in late summer. The cryptic coloration of this young bird with a short tail is amazing and illustrates how they can nest on the ground in the open and still be protected from predators. Yet when they fly they have two broad white bands in the wings which make them quite obvious. The distinctive beeping sound they make when hunting for insects overhead is well known.
A bird that is certainly not camouflaged is the adult black crowned night heron which was drinking fresh water from our bird bath in our Manasota key yard. Yet the immature night heron is very well suited for blending in with vegetation and hiding from predators, or perhaps even prey. Such distinct differences between ages of the same species are often interpreted as being associated with a reduction in competition for common food resources.
An unexpected find on a Palm Island beach was a beautiful Rambur’s forktail damselfly. This appears to be an immature female which is a color form which for reasons unclear to me actually resembles a male. Such a fragile and fresh water-dependent insect seems ill suited for the harsh climate of a beach but there it was. It probably grew up in a man-made brackish pond nearby where its aquatic larva fed on small invertebrates.
Some fresh water and estuarine ponds were at a very low ebb in mid June due to a protracted drought and the high evaporation that occurs during summer. Indeed many ponds, such as one of my favorites at Wildflower that I call blue crab pond, were dry (see photo). Yet within a few days heavy rains had refilled them (see photo) and amphibians were calling lustily and seeking mates. Male southern toads were calling around many ponds (see photo) and awaiting the arrival of females to lay their long strings of eggs.
It is amusing that it is sometimes said that Florida has no seasons, but those of us who have spent much time there know all too well how the weather can vary over the year. During a short period in June I experienced one such major shift from dry to wet and the effects on wildlife were considerable. The renewal of the life of seasonal wetlands and the creatures that depend on them by the return of water is one of the truly memorable and inspiring events in nature.
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA