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Posts tagged ‘butterflies’

Love in the Florida Forest

Still not quite able to tackle the bigger hikes, we ventured to lovely Fern Forest, a magnificent conservation site and wildlife refuge located in Broward County. Encompassing 247 acres, researchers have characterized the site as “the last remaining stronghold of ferns in southeastern Florida.” This beautiful and diverse natural area represents the last remnant of the historical Cypress Creek floodway. Today, Fern Forest remains a significant refuge for wildlife in this highly urbanized region, and hosts many educational activities, conservation events, and nature programs. The park encompasses ten plant communities, including a tropical hardwood hammock, an open prairie, and a cypress-maple swamp. Visitors can investigate three main trails: The Cypress Creek Trail (a wonderful boardwalk); the Prairie Overlook Trail, which includes a 20-foot-tall observation platform; and the Maple Walk, winding through an often soggy red maple swamp.

During our weekend visit we hit the Prairie Overlook Trail and the expansive boardwalk; the butterflies were especially active after an unexpected Saturday monsoon. As always, I try to catch the swallowtails in action, but fail miserably and land in the oversized banana spiderwebs. But I did manage to snap a private moment between mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus) — cue the appropriate music; I was humming it for them at the time.

Deep in the darkness of the Prairie Overlook Trail, my guy spotted this sublime palm…a love tree! I’m only sorry I didn’t find it first; it was completely tucked away in a riot of Florida growth.

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Arthur’s Butterflies

A brief hike within Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — along a secluded section of cypress swamp bordering a sliver of meadow — yielded both heavy blossoms and lots of…BUTTERFLIES! While the human male was busy exploring, I was exceptionally careful not to trip over any large, scaly objects as I thrashed about the bushes at the water’s edge, chasing butterflies. I had nearly crossed paths with one particularly large and silent scaly object — quite unlike a butterfly — in my efforts to photograph these lovelies…. Last picture proof positive to always be aware of one’s surroundings when hiking near water in Florida, and to be fully respectful and knowledgeable of alligators’ behavior. This certainly isn’t the first close encounter with these interesting creatures in our years of Florida hiking, nor will it be the last.

My mother would *not* be happy….

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Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius)

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)? Julia?, Arthur R. Marshall

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

White Peacock Butterfly (Anartia jatrophae), Arthur R. Marshall

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)? Julia?, Arthur R. Marshall

White Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus albescens) (?), Arthur R. Marshall

Hullllo, Mr. Alligator. You’re not a butterfly.

Chasing Florida Flutterbys

On our hikes, we often stumble upon areas of flurried butterfly activity, due to Florida’s abundant all-year blooms. The most common encounter is the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius), designated as the official state butterfly of Florida in 1996 (something I just learned). No wonder it’s the state butterfly; it’s found throughout Florida in hardwood hammocks, swamps, gardens, and in the Everglades.

It’s tempting to want to cheat and run to Butterfly World to nab some prime shots of our butterflies, but for now I like to rely on the natural environs. We’ve spied some lovelies — swallowtails, sulphurs, whites, milkweeds and longwings — but sometimes, they just don’t want to pose for the camera. Or if they do, and aren’t as shy as the others, they rest in unfortunate spots — I find myself plowing through beastly banana spider webs, or trampling through swamp, to chase butterflies.

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Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Riverbend Park

Poplar Sphinx Moth or Poplar Hawk Moth Larva, Big Cypress National Preserve

A Rainy Day at Riverbend

Riverbend Park in Jupiter, Florida, remains one of our favorite places to hike, providing both leisurely strolls and more advanced hikes. When we don’t feel up for a longer hike, or hitting the Florida Trail (accessible across Indiantown Road), we’ll stay within the park proper and its abundance of pathways.

During our most recent trip, we thought we would take advantage of the cloudy skies, but as soon as we stepped into the park — literally — the skies opened up. For the next three hours we hiked in the rain, most of which were downpours,  which is perfectly fine. Save for the fact that I was waiting for my camera bag in the mail, so my camera-baby was wrapped in 2 Publix bags and crammed under my shirt. No worries; we saw several hawks, a few skittish deer, and LOTS of butterflies (in between the really rainy spots). I did feel badly for the drenched, lost (and inexperienced) kayakers, though — we tried our best to guide them. OK, Dave did. I had absolutely no idea where to point.

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