Florida’s “Other” Magic Kingdom

Georgia SatyrIn between meetings and events at last week’s American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, I managed to get out a see a few interesting leps (and a couple birds, too) in nearby Kissimmee Prairie and Tosohatchee WMA.

Despite the sunny hot weather on Monday the 4th, butterfly activity was pretty minimal at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.  Very few nectar sources in evidence, although it was a very odd thing to see blooming patches of pickerel weed at nearby Highland Hammock State Park with absolutely nothing working them.  Big floppy Palamedes swallowtails sailed by every so often, and I saw a couple of giant swallowtails as well.  A few common buckeyes, pearl crescents, and northern cloudywings were about all Monday provided, except for the life bird on the drive out of Kissimmee – crested caracara.

So it was with minimal hope that I went very late on a cloudy Tuesday to a location closer to Orlando, Tosohatchee WMA.  Things were pretty calm – a couple of Palamedes again on the tall blue iris, a few more cloudywings.  But then I walked out into the marshy grasses under the powerlines on the aptly named Grassy Trail and scared up a life butterfly – Georgia satyr.  Just one, but a very obliging one that gave good looks in the late afternoon light.  On the other side of the powerline road, Grassy Trail went off for some distance along a wide, recently cut (it appeared) swath through the palm scrub and pines.  First real nectar sources I’d seen:  lyre-leaved sage was in full bloom, and while they were past peak, there was a good bit of Erigeron and a bright orange Coreopsis was at peak.  First thing I noticed were quite a few pearl crescents on the coreopsis and fleabane, and then started spotted dark skippers on the fleabane that turned out to be a number of clouded skippers.

By then it was getting dark so I promised to come back for a couple hours next morning before heading off to the airport.  And good thing I did.  In fairly short order, I ticked off Gulf fritillary, little metalmark, sachem, more common buckeyes, and zebra swallowtail, and kicked up literally hordes of pearl crescents.  I inspected just about every one I could in hopes of turning it into a Phaon or Cuban, to no avail.  Carolina satyrs hugged the edges, and flew up well into the upper layers of the shrubs, a most un-satyr-like behavior.  I examined most of these, too, to see if any were Viola’s wood-satyr, but sadly they were not.

With the clock ticking for an on-time departure on AirTran back to Baltimore, I headed back out toward the highway, stopping along the way to listen again to some very vocal Bachman’s sparrows — another life bird for me.  And then picked up another life butterfly:  twin-spotted skipper, nectaring on a thistle at the turn on Bee Head Road.

My luck even held out at the airport – mysteriously upgraded to business class!

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