Saturday, September 26, 2009

Scouts at Troy!

This morning was another beautiful, foggy morning. I got to the park a little early and found it to be in spectacular shape after my days off. My crew worked hard this week! Everything was mowed, blown off, trimmed and looking great. Shortly after I got to the office this morning, the phone rang and I got some good news. The boy scout troop that had planned to come install interpretive signs on the nature trail over Labor Day Weekend was on their way. Their plans fell through for the Labor Day Weekend, but they made it today! I had an hour before they were due to arrive so I got my paperwork done and took a walk around the park.
When the scouts arrived, we loaded the sign posts onto a wagon along with other supplies and headed out to the trail. I worked with them while they got started and then left them to work while I kept up with the visitors in the park.
With each hole that was dug, the boys sifted through the soil that was in the hole to check for the presence of any artifacts. That is a requirement within the state park system when any soil disturbing activities occur.
We didn't turn up any archaeological treasures, but we did find a neat spider. This bright yellow triangle is a Triangle Orbweaver. It is very appropriately named! The picture didn't turn out well, but it was too cool to just skip over.
After all of the posts were set on the nature trail, the scouts went back to attach the interpretive panels. I am so pleased with how they turned out and absolutely thrilled to have this project completed. A lot of time and patience and planning went into this project, both here at the park and with the scouts. It is just awesome to say now that Troy Springs State Park has an interpretive trail, not just a nature trail. Thanks again, Troop 406!!
The rest of the park had a small crowd today. There were about equal numbers of divers and fishermen and even a couple of families just swimming. One of the first groups into the park this morning walked down the walkway to the spring and then came right back. I started talking to them and realized that they had not yet seen the spring. A snake was sitting on the walkway and they came back up to try to find a different way to the spring. I walked down the walkway and they followed cautiously behind me. I guessed that it was probably an Oak Snake or a Black Racer. Both are harmless and frequent the walkway. It was something a little different though, a Red-bellied Watersnake. The snake slithered away from me down the walkway, so we just continued to follow it. When it got to the last corner before the spring dock, it decided that it didn't want to run anymore. It coiled up in the corner and tried its best defenses. I stood in front of the snake so that the people felt comfortable walking by and after a photo, I encouraged the snake the rest of the way down the walkway with a stick. I like the Red-bellied Watersnakes because they are good actors. They are not venomous, but they will make you think that they are. They have a thicker body, like a cottonmouth, and they will puff out their cheeks to make their head look more triangular. Its fun to watch them once they relax and their head returns to its normal shape.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Look Up

It was day off #2 today. I was running errands and doing generally boring things. The only photo I took today was of the beautiful sky on the drive home. That became the theme for the day. I looked through my files and found some other pretty skies of days past.
Fort White, FL
Anchorage, AK
Bear, DE
Naples, FL
Naples, FL
Branford, FL
Chiefland, FL

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Today was my day off. I didn't do much, but I will still try to entertain you. By request, here is a photo of my big dumb cast. Also enjoy some older photos from another state park that I like, Homosassa Springs. Homosassa is like a zoo for broken animals. Native Florida wildlife that is injured or for some reason can't be released into its natural environment can live here and help to educate park goers. One exception to the "native Florida wildlife" is a very spirited Hippo named Lu. Lu was at Homosassa when it was a privately owned animal attraction park. When the state began managing the park, non-native animals were relocated. The public outcry to keep Lu was so great that the governor of Florida declared Lu to be an honorary Florida citizen so that he could remain in the park. Lu will be celebrating his 50th birthday in January.
May 2007 007
Misc 229
Misc 241
Misc 250
Misc 224

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back In Business

Today was a productive day. I had two other people at work with me today so after opening procedures, leaf blowing, and paperwork were done we went to Adams Tract. We loaded up the lawnmower on the trailer and headed over. One person was on the Troy mower, one person was on the Adams Tract mower and I did everything that I could do to be productive with one arm. I was pleased with all that I accomplished. I cleaned three restrooms which involved scrubbing the walls, toilets, showers and sinks as well as sweeping the floor. I also used a hand held leaf blower to blow off all of the walkways and pavilions. I was able to collect the garbage with a little help and I coordinated the lawnmower ballet throughout the tract. While its still frustrating to be one-handed, having the cast is a big relief. I can move around with very little pain now that my arm is stabilized. I had time to snap a few pictures while we were there.
I'm not exactly sure what this little guy is. It resembles a dragonfly, but I'm not sure that it is.
The down river view from Adams Tract.
A Spinybacked Orbweaver.
A mowed and beautiful Adams Tract.
We were finished by lunchtime and even stopped to fill the gas cans before returning to Troy for lunch. We got all of the tools put away and the gas cans stored. We checked in with the few visitors that were around and I typed up some information for the official web page for Troy and Ichetucknee. Then I headed home to start my weekend. My day wasn't really over though. Shortly after I got home, my brother came over to help me with yard work around my house. He mowed while I waved a stick around to try to remove all of the spiderwebs around the yard before he found them with his face. When he was done, we tackled some branch trimming and removed a lot of brush from around some trees in the yard. I should have taken before-and-after pictures, but I did get some garden pics!
Lots of Daddylonglegs legs! Did you know that Daddylonglegs are not spiders, but are more closely related to mites. Have you heard the urban legend that Daddylonglegs are extremely venomous but they cannot bite? It isn't true. They have no venom glands.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Iguana Arm

I wasn't at work today. I went to see another doctor who put a great big cast on my arm. It is a lovely shade of green and runs from my first knuckles, up my arm, around my elbow and stops just short of my armpit. I don't know yet if my uniform shirt will fit over my arm. The cast is very soft and cozy inside and my arm is feeling a lot better now that it is more stable, but I am really not excited about the next 6 weeks!
Here are some photos from my garden today for you to enjoy and we will return to the regularly scheduled blog tomorrow. The first two photos are an American Lady butterfly, the next two are an unidentified small green fly, and the last is a Long-tailed Skipper.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Melalgia Monday

It was not exactly a typical Monday for me. I spent so much longer on paperwork than I usually do because writing is such a challenge. Fortunately, I had another person working with me who could use the leaf blower and clear the parking lot of the ever-increasing leaf cover. I made it through the paperwork, but I had a small intermission when I had to battle an unruly printer ribbon on the cash register. It was not printing and when I tried to adjust the ribbon, I found that part of the plastic cartridge was cracked and it was sending the ribbon off track. I opened the cartridge to find an amazing pile of printer-ribbon-spaghetti and two plastic gears resting in a delicate balance on top of a spring which kept the gears in place. Of course, the ribbon was twisted in the gears and I had to upset the balance which made printer-ribbon-spaghetti begin to unravel on my desk. Somehow, armed with tweezers and some scotch tape, I managed to put the mess back together just long enough to print the register reports that I needed. The ribbon broke when I was done.
I went for a walk around the park to reward myself for surviving the paperwork. I found a symphony of bees near the spring. There were so many that the buzzing was really pretty loud. As I listened, I realized that there were different sounds. The little honey bees had a higher pitch and the great big Carpenter Bees had a much lower buzz. It was hard to catch photos of them because they moved quickly from flower to flower, but I got a few shots. I couldn't catch any of the larger bees today. I did find a pretty little flower that was just beginning to open though, and it didn't fly away from me when I tried to take its picture.
After my walk, I headed out to do my Monday errands. Everyone at the bank wanted to know what happened to my arm (I should have used some of the hilarious comments left yesterday). My Ichetucknee stop was quick and I picked up a new ribbon for my register printer while I was there. Before I headed back to Troy, I stopped in to check on Adams Tract. I checked the water and very slowly, with one hand, swept the only restroom that needed it. I also started working on a plan of attack for Adams Tract grounds maintenance on Wednesday when I have two able bodies to help me.
As I drove back into Troy, I stopped at the barn to see if the little deer was around and to try to photograph more Fritillaries. There were no signs of the little fawn. I did get in touch with someone from FWC though, who I can call if we see it again. He told me that there is a certified wildlife rehabilitator near the park who could care for the deer. I hope that it is doing OK on its own. There weren't as many butterflies today as there were yesterday, but I did find these two who were mating.
Next I started looking for eggs. They were everywhere! The little yellow specks on the leaves are individual Gulf Fritillary eggs. Most of them were probably laid by the butterflies I saw yesterday.
When each egg hatches, a tiny, spiky caterpillar will emerge who will begin feasting on the plant that the egg was deposited on. This type of plant, the Purple Passion Flower is a host plant for Gulf Fritillaries, but not for all types of butterflies. The caterpillar will grow as it eats and shed its skin several times to continue to grow. The last time it sheds, it will climb to a higher, safe place where it will shed to expose its chrysalis. The butterflies that emerges from the crysalis will head a little further south to avoid the winter frost. They will overwinter as adults before returning to start the cycle over again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Trials and Tribulations

It was definitely another challenging day with one arm in a sling. Somethings were easier today because I had figured them out yesterday, however there were new trials awaiting me today. I could not stand to have the walkway covered in leaves for another day. I got out the little hand held leaf blower first thing this morning and tried to find a way to start it. I tried kneeling on it which is something that I have to do to start it normally. It didn't work out that way because I was pulling with a different hand. I tried repositioning in different ways, still couldn't do it. The pull cord got stuck too. I put the blower into the back of the Gator to try to fix the pull cord and I realized that I could pull with the blower wedged in the corner of the Gator bed. Just as I was about to give up, it started! I was able to clear the whole walkway to the spring, but I had to set down the blower to rest my arm from time to time. It was definitely NOT made for a lefty. If I tried to rest the blower on my leg, it would burn me because I was on its hot side. I gave in and left the parking lot covered in leaves. I have someone coming in tomorrow that will be able to use the good blower to clear everything.
People started coming into the park shortly after I was done leaf blowing. I was leading some visitors over to the cabin when another visitor headed my way. The little deer that I blogged about on Wednesday was following closely at his heels. He told me that the deer had startled him because it jumped out of the woods towards him when he got out of his car. I had gotten a call yesterday evening that some visitors had been feeding the deer and it was trying to suckle on people's fingers. I instructed the volunteer that called me to scare the deer off. I was hoping that we would be able to discourage it from trusting humans. Today, it was obvious to me that its just too late for that. As more visitors came in, the deer went from person to person, licking toes and sucking on fingers. I tried to get everyone to refrain from touching it, but at the same time, I didn't want to keep this experience from anyone. After one group of people tried to pick it up for a photo op, I knew that I had to act. I called the FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but they didn't have any biologists on duty and they told me that they would try to reach someone and call me back. After an hour of trying to check in divers while trying to keep my new little sidekick safe, I realized that I had to get the deer away from the main park area because I wasn't going to get a call anytime soon. I led the deer (who I learned loves to eat Morning Glories!) out to the barn area about 1/2 mile from the main park. I tried to put it in a stall to keep it there until FWC could pick it up. It drank some of the water that I gave it and then jumped right out of the stall. Those spindly little legs must have springs in them! At a loss, I decided to have my boyfriend drive over and pick me up in the car so that I could drive away without the little one following me. While I waited the minute or two it took for him to arrive, I found an area next to the barn that was covered in Fritillaries. I assumed that they were laying eggs because they were all over a Passion Flower plant that was already done blooming. I looked down and found a very cool caterpillar who I guessed and later confirmed was a Fritillary also. I will try to get back out there this week to see if I can photograph the eggs.
I had a very busy day of divers and visitors. We had two large dive classes and some larger independent groups as well. I answered the "what did you do to your arm?!" question so many times. If you have any suggestions for an exciting story to tell people when the truth gets boring, please post a comment. The day flew by and I was really glad. Every time I went to the office to try to get my paperwork done quickly and get back out to the park, I just got frustrated. I can't do anything quickly right now. I left the bulk of the paperwork for tomorrow when I can take my time. Fortunately, the little deer never showed up at the main part of the park again. Someone from FWC showed up late in the afternoon, but we couldn't find the baby. The saga may continue.