Shelby Farms Park encompasses 4,500 acres of Memphis real estate, so there are a lot of different places to visit within its bounds. At various times over the summer and fall, I flitted between the areas with bodies of water to see what kind of wildlife I could find. First up: Patriot Lake.
My first visit was on a Sunday morning in July when the temperature was already pushing 90 degrees. The wandering gliders were making their herky-jerky circuits around the lake, and the ducks and other birds mostly kept to themselves. However, the geese at Patriot Lake are not fans of people at all. Several times I’d be sneaking up on a damselfly or a killdeer (the tiny shorebird in the photo below right) and they’d chase me away, honking and menacing me. I don’t mess around with geese.
The ducks found a shady spot to escape the heat.
I only saw one dragonfly at Patriot Lake during my visits, and that was a common green darner. Those aren’t so easy to photograph, so I have no evidence of it. However, there are plenty of damselflies for the watching. These are some pretty Rambur’s forktails trying to conceal themselves among the foliage.
The most dominant damselfly, though, is the familiar bluet. It’s hard to miss them given how colorfully they stand out from their surroundings.
While I was photographing a butterfly, I heard a very loud buzzing behind me, and then a rustling of some leaves. It was creepy in the way that I knew if I turned around, I was likely going to see something unsavory. My curiosity got the better of me, so I peered into the shrubbery and caught a very quick glimpse of the food chain in action. I’m not sure specifically what these are, but it looks like a wasp dragging a katydid back to its burrow. (My apologies to the katydid for capturing its last moments.) On the right is some wild-growing tickseed, which I’m going to have to start checking beneath next summer. I don’t know if the spindly things emerging from its underside are part of the plant or the antennae of a hiding bug, but I’ve noticed this in more than one photograph of tickseed.
Here are a few moments in the lives of some skippers. I’m almost positive the top photo is a mating situation; the bottom left is a (possibly sachem?) skipper rolling up his proboscis; and the bottom right is a silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus).
These two are both from the easy-to-mix-up category. I think the left is a viceroy rather than a monarch, but as usual I’m not going to guess which kind of sulphur the one on the right is. I need to attend Sulphurs 101 or something.
I do know that these are common buckeyes (Junonia coenia), which are probably the most abundant type of butterfly at the park.
I would love to share with you the name of this beautiful wildflower–and I was pretty sure it was blue vervain flopped over in a late-season surrender–but I can’t verify that. None of the 672 pages of my wildflower book appear to contain it, either. So for now, just enjoy its pretty silhouette as it sways in the breeze.
Next up: the lotus pond!