August 2 – Florida Field Trip

It was time for the long-planned research trip to Florida with my two collaborators.  I drove to Cincinnati to meet up with Jon.  I got there early enough that we took a motorcycle ride.  We took his two Honda VFR 800 Interceptors, with his wife Sandy riding two-up with him, to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.  This is a major hang-out for motorcyclists.  It was my first time on a sport bike, but I have to say it was really fun once I got used to it.  The route to Rabbit Hash had lots of twisting, turning roads, which is probably why motorcyclists like it.  We also went past Big Bone Lick State Park

Rabbit Hash General Store Me and the VFR

The next morning we left early in Jon’s Ford Explorer.  We went through North and South Carolinas, which I had never visited before.  It’s beautiful country.  We met Chuck at Pacetti’s Marina, Campground and Fishing Resort near Orangedale, Florida.  Interestingly, there are many semi-permanent residents there.  We stayed in Chuck’s new Airstream trailer, which was very comfortable and accommodating.  We had steak the first night!

Monday morning we went out to Jill and Bill’s place, which had been a productive site for cicada killers in the past.  We saw several burrows in the stables and a few out in the sheds.  There were some males hanging around the stables, but only a couple of females at the sheds.  We marked one female.  We waited a long time just to see what might be there.  I walked around the horse pasture, photographing various things.  The horses provided some entertainment.

Anole lizards are common there, but I like them.   The Great Blue Skimmer was one of the most abundant dragonflies

Wild turkeys were all over this neighborhood. Eastern bluebird juveniles ate bugs in the pasture every morning.

This horse liked to roll around. Then she shook off the debris.

This is Lola, the miniature horse.  She’s curious. She was kind of like a big, herbivorous dog. I grew to like her.

Unknown digger wasp with volcano burrow. Carolina chickadee
Dragonfly eats wasp. Another anole giving me the eye.

Tuesday we excavated a couple of burrows.  It was neat because sometimes the wasp provisioned with 7 small cicadas, other times with two large ones.  We got the data we could, then packed up and left.  We moved to  Paynes Prairie State Park, near Gainesville.  It’s a beautiful place with lots of wildlife.

These huge orb weavers were everywhere. Four-spotted pennant.

Wednesday we went to a site in Newberry that has also produced well in the past.  We found one lawn that must have had a hundred burrows.    Most of them were all done, but a few showed signs of recent activity.  We hung out there for awhile, just to be sure we had an accurate assessment of the situation.  We found one female digging; I needed about 20 to do the experiment I wanted.  We bugged out after awhile. 

Our one digging female. Sandhill cranes.

Our research plans shelved, we decided to hang out at the park for a day.  I went on one hike that afternoon.  It was so hot I ended up taking the shortest route back to camp.  It was 95 F, humid, and the heat was reflecting off the sandy road.  Whew, did I sweat!

Bugs making sexy time. Grasshoppers are good food.

Palamedes swallowtails. Nice single specimen.

I had been hoping to shoot a lot of new butterflies that don’t occur back home, but this was the only one I got.  At least it’s a good one.

Tree frog beating the heat. Anole extending dewlap.

9-banded Armadillo rooting in the leaves. Running away from me.

Jon and I went on a run Thursday morning.  I hadn’t run in at least a month.  I did OK for about a mile, then side stitch kicked in.  The last mile was tough, and I had to take some walking breaks.  It was another sweat fest.  We took some hikes around the park, checking out the visitor’s center and big lookout tower.  We saw the wild horses and some sandhill cranes in the distance.  When we got down we hiked to where the cranes were and I got some closer pics (above).  I should mention that we twice ate at a local barbecue place that was outstanding.  Twice I went back to the little boardwalk where all the wildlife seemed to be hanging out.  That’s where I got most of the good images.  As usual, click through to see larger versions of the pics, plus a few more I haven’t posted here.

Jon and I drove back to Cincinnati on Friday, while Chuck headed back for Pennsylvania.  We got in at a reasonable time, and decided to go to a nightclub to see a blues band with Jon’s wife and daughter.  I hadn’t heard live music in awhile, and it wasn’t a bad band.  We left at the first break because we’re old and have early bed times.

Saturday Jon and I went on a long motorcycle ride.  It was a blast.  The weather was perfect, overcast and 70s to 80s.  We got a few drops of rain but not enough to matter.  The roads were interesting, very curvy and winding through lovely countryside with lots of horse farms.  The bikes were awesome.  I learned to lean it into the turns better, and I found that when passing, it had a tremendous amount of acceleration, even at high speed.  Sport bikes are very aerodynamic, so they’re very smooth at speed (unlike my bike).    We ended up at Rabbit Hash at lunch time, so I had a hot dog and an ice cream.  My nutritious meal.  We stopped at the Kentucky Speedway, where a few cars were being tested.  Dang they’re loud.  It had just been announced that day that they had landed a Sprint Cup race.  We went up into Indiana to meet Jon’s wife and daughter at a winery.  I had a small sample of Concord that was really good, or at least much better than the stuff I make!  We went through Oldenburg, which is where the order of Franciscan Sisters that founded Marian College is located.  It has some great old buildings, including the church and school.  We also stopped briefly at the Whitewater Canal, a historic structure from Indiana’s past.

At the whitewater canal.

In the background you can see Jon and behind him the old locks, which appear to have been hand operated.  We covered 260 miles that day, and probably spent more time in the saddle than I ever have before.  It was a nice, little mini-vacation. 

Sunday I drove home, stopping in Crawfordsville, Indiana to assess the needs of Stacey’s Mom’s house.  We’ll be heading there later in the week. 

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