Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sad Saturday

Winter is almost upon us.  I think it is trying to make a grand entrance this year.  The temperatures last week were in the 80's.  Now we are looking at lows below freezing for the next three nights.  I need to move further south.  It has been windy too; so windy that leaves, branches, and even logs are falling continuously.  When I made my morning drive, I had to stop to clear some very large branch pieces.

Once I was at the office, I checked the water level from the computer.  I saw that it was still creeping up at the same pace.  I checked the water levels upriver and they are still rising as well, that means it will only get higher here.  I picked up the Secchi Disk and headed out towards the spring to check the water.  I could tell that my coworker had mowed to grind up the leaves while I was off, but there was already a fresh layer of leaves and sticks on the ground.  I picked up more sticks on my way to the spring.  Once I was at the dock, I climbed over the railing onto the big rock, which was getting smaller and smaller by the day as the water creeps up around it.  We have only six feet of visibility now.  The water is very muddy.

Before the water started to rise this time, there were only two steps in the water.  Now there are seven, almost eight wet steps.  The silty and tannic water is creeping up closer and closer to the dock.  It seems like I was just scrubbing those steps clean after the last flood.  I hope that this high water doesn't stick around for long.  The turtles, Gar, and Mullet are having a blast though.  The fish have full run of the spring.  They usually hide at the edge of the tannic water just outside the spring run.  Now that the dark water has crept in, so have the fish.  The Mullet keep jumping, they really must just jump because they are happy.  There are many other unproven theories, but that one makes the most sense to me.

After walking back up the spring walkway, I stopped at the office to put away the Secchi Disk and take care of the paperwork.  Next, I headed to the cabin.  I opened it up and took my usual photo from the porch.  Then, I headed down the hill for my usual river shot.  Compare the next two photos to the same ones from last weekend and you will really see a difference.

I also had to take another photo of our favorite tree because it has finally dropped all of its needles.  Its roots are shrinking too.

I was just watching the river when some motion caught my eye downriver.  I really had to watch it to see what it was.  Eventually, I figured out that there were three birds floating on the water.  They definitely weren't going to allow me to get any closer to them and they didn't look like they were planning on coming upstream.  I really couldn't tell what they were.  I decided to take my chances with zooming in on them with my camera and hoped that I got a halfway decent image.  I didn't really, but at least I was able to see what they were.  The first photo is the original image.  The three ducks are the gray blob in the middle of the photo.  Fortunately, when I enhanced the image on the computer, I was just able to make out that they were Hooded Mergansers.  This is the first time that I have ever seen them here.  They are really beautiful birds.  The fellow with the striking black and white mo-hawk is the male, and the brown and tan mo-hawk is the female.  The third one is likely a younger duck who hasn't developed all of its coloration yet.  It is probably not one of their offspring though, it would have left their care by now.

The rest of my day was spent reluctantly telling visitors, in person and over the phone, that the water was really not clear enough for an enjoyable and safe dive.  They were appreciative of the warning, but like me, disappointed that Troy was not the park for them today.  We had only one fisherman who didn't stay long at all.  It was a cold, quiet day.  I drained all of the rain barrels throughout the day and opened up their drain spouts to prepare for the freezing nights ahead.  During my pacing back and forth to move the drain hose on the barrels, I saw a really beautiful pile of fungus that was catching the tiny bit of sunlight that was breaking through.

Near the end of my shift, I was waiting for a tree trimmer to come to look at some large trees that need to be dropped at Adams Tract.  I drove out to the barn to start all of the faucets dripping to keep the pipes from bursting in the freezing temperatures.  I saw a very large bug on the outside wall of the barn!

There are twelve faucets at the barn.  There are another eight in the main part of the park that my evening relief took care of after I left.  When the tree man arrived, I took him to Adams Tract and we looked at the trees.  He wrote up an estimate for me and headed back out.  I checked in with the volunteers and went home for the day.

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