Bull Creek WMA, 4/11/2017

Little Metalmark
My friend Jeff Cagle from Maryland came down to Florida for a week of vacation with his family. He's into butterflies like I'm into birds, so we embarked on some bird and butterfly adventures while he was here. I got some good recommendations of places to go, and we tried a few of them. We started out at Bull Creek WMA, which was the most highly recommended place.  Of course, most everything was new to me (other than the swallowtails), but we didn't see that many species there--about 18 butterflies (and about twice as many birds). It's been so dry here lately, that there weren't a lot of flowers around.  We saw only a few thistles, and they were mostly near the entrance. For me, the biggest highlight of the morning was a Little Metalmark.

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

My second favorite species of the morning was a Pearl Crescent. It's a simply stunning butterfly, and there were several near one of the places we parked.  One posed pretty well for me, allowing me to get photos of both sides of its wings.

Red-banded Hairstreak

Finally, we had some good views of a Red-banded Hairstreak. The birds were much less interesting. We saw most of the typical species of pine flatwoods species, including woodpeckers, nuthatches, bluebirds and warblers. We did stumble upon a cluster of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, which I'd read were breading in the park, but I had no idea where. I only saw two individuals, but the nest site looked active.  One thing I learned when searching primarily for butterflies--a 400mm lens is not the way to go. I had to back up so far from many species because the minimum focusing distance is so long. With swallowtails and other large butterflies, this isn't too much of a problem.  You can stay far away and still get a shot. But these small dudes stay low and in the grasses, so by the time you back up to get a focus, you have a cluttered composition, and more often than not, the butterfly has moved on.