Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wilderness Golf, Florida style, and some Birds, Flowers and More along the Way

January-March 2017

Deeply inspired by Jasper Friendly Bear, of the late, great CBC radio programme Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour, I have adapted the game to the Florida wilderness!

In the following six photos, I demonstrate required equipment, a typical course and technique (the binoculars are not required, but come in handy for bird-watching during the long periods when your opponent's turn comes up).

In Central Florida, it is best to collect the necessities after a wind storm, which do occur now and then in deepest, coldest winter.  Thanks goodness, the local trees (oak, hickory, sweet gum, pine, and red maple) lose branches of the exact length necessary, preferably with a substantial club-like end for hitting the projectile.

The projectile is also derived from the sweet gum tree, as they shed their prickly round fruit during winter, which are the exact size required.  You can also use slash pine cones, but their size and shape are problematic.

The sweet gum fruit prickles do prevent rolling. This does add an interesting dimension to the game, which, I would offer, is way more interesting than the little dimpled golf eggs that the inebriated Scottish game inventors have forced upon us for the popular, but dull, standard game.

This fairway, the paved 2.5 mile trail, does not end in a traditional "hole", but rather, in a parking lot, which is a mere 5 minutes from the local watering hole. The player who gets their projectile to the parking lot in the least time, with minimal strokes (it is still a game of honour, and each player must keep track of both strokes and time) wins, whatever use that is.  The score is calculated as follows:

Time/3 x strokes - 1/4 age of player + 1/2 weight (in kilograms) of player x number of parking lots played.

Most people find that an 18 parking lot game takes too long (usually a  month). Therefore, the 9 parking lot game is more common. I will be pleased to answer any questions so you can get right out there and play,

On to other cultural features of the local Florida landscape:

For two winters, we have been told that there is a Valentine's "Heart Tree" in the forest beside the Rainbow River.  We finally found it, and the following photo is evidence.  It is essential that every visitor to the area on or about Valentine's Day visits and takes a photo of this tree.  Thankfully, Jan and I accomplished this task.

Pictured below is Bidens bipinnata, a common flower in wet areas, more commonly known as Spanish Needles. Along with the white Spanish Needles (Bidens alba), these species feed most of the butterflies and bees in Florida during the winter. This flower appears to have lost some of its petals. No I did not knock of any petals during my round of Florida Wilderness Golf. The five petals distinguish this flower from some close relatives.

Just to illustrate the point, this white Spanish Needle flower is accommodating a nectar-lapping Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides Marcellus.

Above is a very pretty small flower which looks like it should belong to the mint family, but does not.  It is a Scrophulariaceae  (Figwort) called Savannah False Pimpernel, Lindernia grandiflora, found only in Florida and Georgia.  Those lovely spots on the back of the petals are unique.
The Limpkins, Aramus guarauna, are indeed unusual birds. As you may have read in this blog last year, Limpkins hunt mostly for large Apple Snails in marshes along the rivers here. Their screeches can be heard far away. Florida is their only North American residence.
The above butterfly is indicative of the joy and heartbreak of taxonomy. Many species are very similar and are hard to tell apart. Some will interbreed, resulting in offspring with characteristics of both parent species.  This is a Crescent. There are two similar species in Florida. The Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon) has a cream-coloured row of rectangular spots in the median forewing. As you can see, some of these spots are LIGHTER, and a few are cream coloured. The Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) is mostly orange and black, with patterning, similar to the Phaon Crescent. To identify it, I needed to see the underside, which was not possible.
This winter, we visited another gem (above) along the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, the Inglis Dam & Island Recreation Area.  The trails in this area were resplendent with wildlife, varied habitats and vegetation and lots of fishing at the west end of Lake Rousseau, renowned for very BIG large-mouthed bass.
Closer to our winter residence, I photographed this stunning, and aptly-named White Peacock, Anartia jatrophae, a tropical butterfly found in Florida. Below, is our friendly Red-Shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus, named "Red", who calls around us most days.  He is currently finishing raising another brood! The Florida subspecies is the palest of the 4 subspecies.  These hawks may live over 20 years in the wild.
At the end of January, most of the world was treated to the conjunction of the Moon, Venus and Mars. Mars doesn't show in this photo. Compare my photo to another taken in Cork, Ireland:

We are fortunate to stay in a location in Florida that has no light pollution. The night skies have been a treat this winter.

Thanks to Jan for the wilderness golf photos. Much more to come.