Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. ~ Rumi

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Plant it and they will come. That has been our motto at the Spring Creek Nature Park and butterfly garden. This season we extended an invitation for the maypop or Passiflora incarnata to break out of the borders of the beds and extend its range as far as it could. Soon this beautiful Florida native vine with the large purple/blue flowers was covering most shrubs and ground covers. This week however the landscapers have trimmed it back considerably. I’m speaking of our natural maypop landscaper, the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, Dione vanillae. The Gulf Fritillary butterflies are blanketing this garden, making up the majority of the butterflies now sharing the space with the polydamas, black swallowtail, monarchs, occasional peacock and eastern swallowtail.

We have cared for this space for a little over a year now, an ecotone between the mangrove forest and the pine uplands. We planted native plants indigenous to this area before our development was carved out here. We have left the immediate edge of the mangroves untouched. This practiced has encouraged many of the native ground covers to return providing for many additional host and nectar sources for our winged dancers that we enjoy so much!

Because of their abundance their life cycle is laid out for everyone to see; two butterflies quietly joined and perched inside native vegetation; a tiny, golden egg on a leaf or tendril, caterpillars devouring the leaves, chrysalides that look like dried leaves and emerging Fritillaries. As the cats begin to hatch, wasps come in for their fill to bring back to their own larvae while anoles wait for the right time to take their prey. But despite their predators they have managed to not only survive but flourish in this small native garden. The maypop eventually rebounds with the rain and summer heat and the cycle begins again.

Gulf Fritillary sipping nectar from the wild sage, Lantana involucrata

Friday, June 11, 2010


                                                     Whatever you can do
                                                      Dream you can do
                                                               Begin it.
                                                     Boldness has genius
                                                   Magic and power in it


A head turn, a shift in weight, a tail twist or expansion, a shoulder roll…I watched closely as the swallow tailed kite, (Elanoides forficatus), spiraled above and around me, defying gravity with such grace and economy of movement, all without flapping its wings. This poetry in motion is always spiraling and adjusting for direction and purpose. Sometimes a bird like this can be inspirational.

One late afternoon, as my husband and I pulled into our neighborhood, once undisturbed pine upland, we were fortunate to observe this bird’s version of an ultimate mind body practice. With its distinctive call attracting our attention, we watched it slowly descend, gliding closer to a bottlebrush shrub pruned to look like a tree. The kite flew, slowly, straight into the tree, dislodging a mourning dove from her nest and grabbed a small chick, six feet off the ground. As it exited the tree, the kite dropped the chick. Still gliding in slow motion, the raptor spiraled around and picked the chick up off the ground. We were both awestruck at its ability to maneuver around the laws of physics in such a graceful way, all without flapping its wings!

While giving tours at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, surrounded by the tall cypress and slash pines, I often describe these birds to the visitors as birds that eat insects on the wing or pick small amphibians and reptiles off the tree tops. “They don’t hunt like the hawks.” I explain. “Their talons aren’t as large and they go for the smaller prey. To drink they will skim water from the surface of a pond. You will never see them hunt on the ground.” Apparently, there is no limit to the size of the tree, no tree top that is too small and no boundary between earth and sky for this adroit flyer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Singing Moon of the Carolina Wren

 I feel a kinship with the Native American tradition of naming a month after what becomes plentiful during the period of the moons’ phases. May at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was the month of the Carolina Wrens, the Cardinals, wildflowers, dewberries, deer flies, dragonflies, mosquitoes, bees and much more. But the explosion of life that connected with me the most was the Carolina Wren. With the exit of our warblers that pass through in late winter and early spring these wrens took center stage under the canopy of the cypress. Their loud voice, “teakettle-teakettle-teakettle” struck a chord in me that encouraged me to sing out, stand proud, feel the beauty, and be grateful for the bounty!

I will never forget the “mobbing” of a juvenile red shouldered hawk as it lighted on a branch at eye level just a few feet off the ground next to a few wrens. As the alarm calls from the wrens sounded, it seemed as if most of the small birds of the Cypress Swamp came out and surrounded this hawk. Their noise level rose to a crescendo that forced the bird to fly off and try unsuccessfully to capture a small bird from the crowd. But these hawks succeed at hunting from above with the element of surprise as their advantage. Missing his prey, he flew to a higher branch where the wren’s behavior followed him. Eventually, he cried out and flew off, hopefully learning a valuable lesson. I also observed that this was a learning opportunity for the fledgling wrens to learn about their predator and how to sound an alarm or listen to the alarm calls of others.

Besides recognizing the number of a species, a moon’s days can also be about the lessons we learn with the ups and downs of blooming and dying. So today at the start of our hurricane season, I will keep my eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul open to the possibilities that the month of June has to offer and say goodbye to the singing moon of the Carolina Wren, forever in my heart.