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Midsummer Smorgasboard

August 9, 2010

The air is heavy and hot but cooler at the water’s edge and full of food, both flora and fauna. Before I head out on my walk, I rub my arms and neck with the leaves of the beauty berry, a prolific native shrub that grows here in the pine uplands. This treatment keeps most of the buzzing insects at bay.
As I approach the pond cypress swamp here in Bonita Springs, I can see that the pond apple trees are actually bending with the weight of their fruit. Swollen plant ovaries are encapsulating fertilized seeds everywhere I look and animals are beginning to take notice of the bounty. Elderberry shrubs are trampled and their fruit stripped from the branches. At the water’s edge the fleabane and the mist flower are still blooming and offer up nectar for the peacock butterflies that are hovering close by. Many wildflowers have set their seed but still some are continuing to bloom. Even the butterfly orchids are setting their seed pods. The yellow cannas imitate bird heads with their pods stretched out ready to burst and the swamp lilies bend down on purpose next to the water to release their seeds.
The water is full of aquatic life, including fish, frogs, snakes and an assortment of invertebrates including shrimp and snails. I inadvertently scare up a southern leopard frog that lets out a scream while jumping into the water. Further out I detect the frog’s round mass of eggs about the size of a softball. Dragonflies hover above and mosquitoes hatch out from below. The beauty berry that I applied earlier is doing its part to keep me out of this food web.
With the high water and availability of food the wading birds have been hard to locate. But today I am happy to report that the old feathered gang is back. Together with snowy egrets, a flock of ibis, an immature blue heron, and a great egret, a small flock of four roseate spoonbills came in to feast at the edge of the cypress pond. I smile and walk back knowing that all is right with this world.

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