Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Thursday, February 18, 2010

That Florida Chill

We have been in Florida for a week now. Our annual visit to Key West has traditionally taken place in mid to late January. People kept telling us that the weather would be warmer if we would visit just a couple of weeks later- so this year we did. It's as cold as I have ever experienced here- but that's still way warmer than Chicago, and we're having a very good time.

Last Friday, we stayed close to Miami in the morning, as we were picking our friend Michael up wt the airport at noon. We decided that Key Biscayne would be the ideal way to stay close to the city while getting to experience a bit of nature. We climbed the lighthouse, watched birds along the beach, and wandered through the scrub.

Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus)
Because one good tern deserves another

The park is maintained in part through private donations. Some famous, not famous, and infamous donors are remembered on bricks lining the walkway.

Famous Donors

Even though the weather was a bit chilly, we managed to see a few insects.

A tree hopper (Membracidae)
Especially for Bug Girl
Update: Umbonia crassicorns. Thanks, Ted

Just offshore lies Stiltsville, a group of buildings on pilings that plays a role in several Carl Hiaasen novels, including Stormy Weather.


We collected Michael from the airport and ventured down to the Everglades for a stroll at the Royal Palm area. There is a nice boardwalk that leads out into the sloughs.

Slough at the Royal Palm Area at Everglades National Park

The wildlife is rather habituated to humans in this area- so getting close photos is easy.

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Saturday morning it was off to Fairchild Gardens, still one of our favorite places in Miami. When I blogged about the place last year, somebody asked me if I had seen Atala butterflies. My response then was no, however this year we saw both an adult and a bunch of larvae.

Atala (Eumaeus atala)

The Atala was once nearly extinct in Florida. Widespread plantings of its host plants (cycads, including the native Florida Coontie) have resulted in a dramatic comeback of this spectacular butterfly.

Atala larva on Coontie

After Fairchild Gardens, it was on to the Overseas Highway and Key West where we were to meet up with fellow bloggers UrSpo and Will along with a bunch of other friends. More to follow.

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At 13:08, Anonymous Mark H said...

NICE to see all the nature life....THANKS for taking the time to post while you're sitting in that cold sun...........hah.

At 13:10, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Watch for rattlesnakes.

This reminds me I never sent those coontie seeds. Typical.
I will endeavor to do so.

At 22:18, Blogger Randy Emmitt said...

Atala I've never seen one, missed it several times. I have posted butterflies from my Belize trip 3 times now, hope you stop by to have a look.

At 09:10, Blogger Ted C. MacRae said...

Nice treehopper (Umbonia crassicorns)!

At 00:42, Anonymous MrBrownThumb @ Chicago Garden said...

That Atala is beautiful.

At 07:52, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Mark- It has been fun. You guys came up in conversation this week. We decided that you will and Rodger will have to attend next year, even if that means that one of us has to go up to Portland and kidnap you both to get you down to Key West.

FC- Funny you should mention that. While at Fairchild, Leon was asking about the coontie seeds. I didn't see any snakes. I've only ever seen one rattlesnake in Florida. I'll tell you about it some time.

Randy- Cool! Will head right over to check out your pics.

Ted- Thanks for the ID. Not amny insects out and about on this trip, though I did get some nice shots of Martial's Hairstreak. Posted to Facebook, will blog about it soon.

MrBrownThumb- Thanks and welcome to the Tapestry. It's always good to have another Chicago reader.

At 10:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm glad you had a good time, despite the weather :)

At 01:16, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, though you know I like the birds I have to confess that that is one beautiful butterfly! Its story is amazing. How glad I am that it was saved! I can tell you are having fun. Have a safe trip!

At 14:55, Blogger Will said...

Just how close to the alligator did you get? I assume some sort of close-up lens was involved?

As always, superb pictures. I liked Key West but we both dearly wished it had been warmer. It would have been great to get out on the water. The hot tub pool at the guest house was so good to come "home" to at night!

At 17:23, Blogger Randy Emmitt said...

You asked what butterfly guide book we used in Belize. It is the Swift Guide to Butterflies of Mexico and Central America. Does no cover Belize the range maps touch the northern boundary of Belize.

At 20:44, Anonymous Jyoti said...

Hi Doug,
Nice meeting you..
I did catch the butterfly release!

At 14:27, Anonymous Borboleta said...

Doug your blog is really cool!
Beautiful pictures of butterflies.


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