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  1. Life & Culture

A detailed look at Honeymoon Island’s natural wonders

Tampa Bay Times photographer Douglas Clifford takes a macro view of a familiar place.
An ant crawls across the remains of a black racer on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
An ant crawls across the remains of a black racer on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jun. 8
Updated Jun. 14

Before I began making pictures at Honeymoon Island State Park, I had fallen in love with the place. Through my East Lake High School years and after I returned from the University of Florida, the Dunedin park was my escape. Today it remains my safe place. I love that at one moment I can be standing in a salt marsh and in 20 seconds I can hike into a forest.

A Mabel’s Orchard orb weaver rests in its web on Friday, May 28, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
A Mabel’s Orchard orb weaver rests in its web on Friday, May 28, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
Sap drips from the bark of a pine tree on Friday, May 28, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. The sap transports vital mineral nutrients and sugars to all living parts of the tree.
Sap drips from the bark of a pine tree on Friday, May 28, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. The sap transports vital mineral nutrients and sugars to all living parts of the tree.

Honeymoon Island is a place where you can meditate endlessly, losing track of time. The park’s gravity evaporates my self-awareness and leaves me in awe. Making pictures there has afforded me a deeper way to express and experience healing. Each of these pictures was taken with a macro lens, about 1 inch away from the subject.

Thorns protect a vine on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. Thorns, spines and prickles are modifications of leaves, roots, stems or buds, which serve to physically deter animals from eating the plant material.
Thorns protect a vine on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. Thorns, spines and prickles are modifications of leaves, roots, stems or buds, which serve to physically deter animals from eating the plant material.
Seeds are exposed within a pod on a rosary pea plant on Friday, May 28, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. The invasive plant, which is native to India and parts of tropical Asia, has been used throughout Florida's landscapes as an ornamental plant and has since invaded undisturbed pinelands and hammocks. The red seeds are toxic and can be fatal if ingested.
Seeds are exposed within a pod on a rosary pea plant on Friday, May 28, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. The invasive plant, which is native to India and parts of tropical Asia, has been used throughout Florida's landscapes as an ornamental plant and has since invaded undisturbed pinelands and hammocks. The red seeds are toxic and can be fatal if ingested.
A pine cone lay charred on the ground in a maritime hammock habitat where cabbage palms, live oaks and slash pines tower above smaller shrubs on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
A pine cone lay charred on the ground in a maritime hammock habitat where cabbage palms, live oaks and slash pines tower above smaller shrubs on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.

The park is teeming with life and death but it fills me with hope. I’ve grown to know the flora and fauna well. When I close my eyes I can see their shapes and colors clearly. A place like this can break you of self and force you to witness the patterns of life. The microcosms are harsh and exacting, everything has its place and I am humbly reminded that mine is temporary.

Tendrils from a vine reach into the bark of a slash pine tree on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
Tendrils from a vine reach into the bark of a slash pine tree on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
Insect damage scars a seagrape leaf on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
Insect damage scars a seagrape leaf on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
A bee collects pollen from a flower on Friday, May 28, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park.
A bee collects pollen from a flower on Friday, May 28, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park.

While making pictures in the park, the mosquitoes drain me and my knuckles swell from the no-see-ums. Ants and hitchhikers tangle themselves in my socks, but I fight the distractions, pause, breathe and for a moment it feels like the bugs have forgotten about me.

I need this, so I can know what it is to be truly present.

A feather lay on the ground below an osprey’s nest on June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. Nesting colonies of osprey find safety and altitude in the slash pines and easy access to fish in the abundant water surrounding the park.
A feather lay on the ground below an osprey’s nest on June 2, 2021, on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. Nesting colonies of osprey find safety and altitude in the slash pines and easy access to fish in the abundant water surrounding the park.
Tidal water creates bubbles while rushing through a seagrass bed on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the end of the Pelican Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. The grasses are abundant in the tidal flats at the park’s shorelines, where mangroves anchor the coast.
Tidal water creates bubbles while rushing through a seagrass bed on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the end of the Pelican Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. The grasses are abundant in the tidal flats at the park’s shorelines, where mangroves anchor the coast.
Insect galls, growths that develop on various plant parts in reaction to the feeding stimulus of insects and mites, are evident on the leaf of a plant on Friday, May 28 on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park. Galls may be simple enlargements or swellings of stems or leaves, or highly complex novelties of plant anatomy, but they are always specific to the gall former.
Insect galls, growths that develop on various plant parts in reaction to the feeding stimulus of insects and mites, are evident on the leaf of a plant on Friday, May 28 on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park. Galls may be simple enlargements or swellings of stems or leaves, or highly complex novelties of plant anatomy, but they are always specific to the gall former.
Damage to a leaf, likely caused by a slug, snail, caterpillar or beetle, is evident on Friday, May 28 on a plant on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park.
Damage to a leaf, likely caused by a slug, snail, caterpillar or beetle, is evident on Friday, May 28 on a plant on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park.
A dead seagrape leaf fades to grey on Wednesday, June 2 on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park. The protected plant is native to coastal beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean, including southern Florida, the Bahamas, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and Bermuda.
A dead seagrape leaf fades to grey on Wednesday, June 2 on the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park. The protected plant is native to coastal beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean, including southern Florida, the Bahamas, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and Bermuda.