Saturday, October 10, 2009

Through The Fog

The fog was thick this morning. Everywhere I looked, it was just stunning. I had to put my blinders on and just put my head down to do what I needed to do to get the park open. I never know on a weekend day whether the crowds will be waiting at the gate to come in all at once or if people will slowly drift in throughout the day, but I try to always be ready for the former. I opened the park, took a drive through the entrance road, and headed to the office. I powered up my computer and headed out for my morning walk. I started at the river and was glad to see that the fog was still thick. There were some fisherman who had arrived by boat already at the shore fishing. I snapped a few photos of my favorite morning view down river and headed back up the hill.
I opened up the cabin and headed over to the spring walkway. As soon as I was on the walkway, I noticed this very large spider. She was almost as big as my hand! She had a few passengers too, her babies were piled high, just hanging onto tiny hairs on her back. She can defend them and keep them safe this way until they are large enough to head out on their own. Before now, she carried them in their egg sac which she held underneath her until they were ready to emerge. This is a Huntsman Spider, and just like Wolf Spiders, they do not make webs. They will catch their prey with camouflage and quick movements. These spiders are not venomous and will not harm humans, but like anything with a mouth, they can bite and will if they need to.
When I made it to the dock, I was able to snap a few more photos of the beautiful fog. The three little rocks are poking even further out of the water. I wish more visitors got to see these spectacular early morning moments. I think its the best part of the day.
My day soon got busier, but not by much. I had maybe a dozen divers come in groups of two or three throughout the morning. I had a few more fishermen, and a boyscout group. It was the same scout group that installed the signs on the nature trail a couple weeks ago. This weekend, they were camping and having fun, but they helped me out a little bit too. They moved some picnic tables around, tidied up the nature trail, and scrubbed some algae off of the dock steps. They are a great group to have around. It was a nice day, the kind of day when there is always someone to talk to or help, but never any stress or hurrying. I chatted with a man who was waiting for his friend to arrive. They were about to start a week long paddling trip on the Suwannee. I answered his questions and gave him some good maps of the river. I talked to a man on the phone who is planning to have a family reunion at the park next weekend. I returned some lost & found items to one of our regular dive instructors and talked to another regular instructor about the change in park fees that happened in July. I talked to a very sweet couple who wanted to camp at Troy. They called me from the entrance station and told me that they realized that we did not have camping but wanted to just look at the spring. They didn't want to pay the entrance fee to just take a quick look and they were trying to turn around. I encouraged them to just come in and have a look, I told them they didn't have to pay for that. I met them in the parking lot and showed them the spring. They were so grateful and I'm sure that they will be back. Everyone at the park today was a joy to be around.
At one point in the afternoon, I was standing on the spring dock talking to a few people. There were several of us on the dock and a handful of divers at the steps, some getting in and some getting out. One of the scouts noticed a snake who had poked its head out of the big rock between the spring and the dock. Everyone tensed up and looked to see where the snake was. I quickly tried to assure everyone that they were not in any danger. The snake is non-venomous and not in the water, it will not bother you! Once everyone's fears were at least settled down, they all wanted to see it. It was the normal progression of "SNAKE!", "are you sure its not a moccasin?", "Lemme see it", "I saw a snake once and....." Its always fun for me to see these scared little reptiles, who are trying to avoid people, and the reaction of the scared people trying to avoid the snake. This snake is a Red-bellied Water Snake. Maybe it is the same one that I saw on the walkway the last time the scouts were here... hmmm, interesting coincidence.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Garden View

While I enjoy day off number two, sit back and enjoy my garden view.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Second Chance Thursday

Its my regularly scheduled day off, so here are some regularly scheduled leftovers. They were all taken this past work week, but for one reason or another they have not yet been blogged.
This is a view that you see often. The water is really dropping and the clear water from the spring is pushing way out into the river.
This is the same Green Tree Frog that was pictured on Tuesday. I really liked this frog and I was impressed by its cool and calm attitude towards me. I took several photos that I liked of this one.
I wasn't able to find an ID for this pretty little member of the Pea family. I enjoyed the balance of this flower with such a showy bloom and such a slender, simple stalk.
This lonely little Buckeye Butterfly must have been a late bloomer, I haven't seem many around in the last few weeks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Misty Morning

There was a heavy fog in the air this morning. It lasted for a long time too. Everything looks completely different when its foggy out, its almost like a dream. Its what every morning should be, soft light and soft colors to gently ease you into the day. These are some of the soft and serene views that I enjoyed on my morning drive through the park roads.
When I got to the office, I jumped right in to the paperwork. I had to do the daily paperwork in addition to finalizing a quarterly volunteer hour report and the document filing that is associated with those tasks. I had a few other things on my To-Do list to take care of and had a few e-mail to answer. When the office work was done, I drove with my co-worker to the local hardware store for a few bolts to fix a rattle noise on the John Deere Gator and to fill our gas cans which fuel the mowers and blowers and things. I dropped him, the gas, and the bolts back off at the park and headed out of town to pick up some supplies. I had to get water sampling bottles from the health department to take the quarterly samples of the well water at Adams Tract. I also had to purchase another sink trap to make the same repair that I did a few weeks ago in a different restroom there at Adams Tract. What are people doing to our sink drains?... Don't answer that, I'd rather not know. When I had everything that I needed, I went to Adams Tract to drop off supplies and to check on a noisy piece of equipment on the septic system.
While I chatted with the volunteers at Adams Tract, a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly would not leave them alone. It fluttered back and forth between them for several minutes. I think maybe the butterfly approves of these new camp hosts.
I of course, stopped for a few obligatory photos of the wildflowers along the service road on the way out. When I got back to Troy, I answered some e-mail and did the paperwork for the purchases that I had made and headed home, ready to start my weekend.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

It was still raining when I went in to work this morning. The rain gauge said that this storm had brought us 8/10 of an inch. That is a lot after weeks with no rain at all. I opened the cabin and headed to the office to keep myself busy while it rained. When I looked out the window and saw sunshine later in the morning, I jumped at the chance to walk around outside. The park is always exciting after a heavy rain. The park is also very messy after a rain. I picked up several fallen branches and even watched one fall right after I had picked another one up.
Down the hill, near the river, the spiderwebs that are usually delicately dotted with dew were heavily soaked in raindrops. The way that the droplets sparkled in the sun caught my eye. I'm glad the sun came to visit even if it was only for a little while.
A light fog was hovering above the spring. The water level is still dropping, three rocks were protruding from the center of the spring today. With the river water level dropping, the spring is pushing clear water further out into the river. The Mullet were very active this morning and I could see them well from the river dock.
I walked back towards the picnic area and began draining the rain barrels around the cabin. The first one that I hooked the hose to wasn't draining. I disconnected the hose and opened the faucet. The water only slightly trickled out. When I looked into the faucet, I found that a tiny spider and her big wad of web or nest material was blocking the opening. I evicted the spider and resumed my task. When I made my way down the walkway to the spring, I found frog after frog enjoying the water that was still lightly puddled on the walkway. This beautiful Leopard Frog thought was hiding from the drying sun under a branch. Unfortunately for the Leopard Frog, I picked up the branch because it was on the walkway. When I moved the branch, I also found a small Narrowmouth Toad sharing the hing place.
On the way back up the walkway, I found this Green Tree Frog. Their colors and patterns can vary, but this is my favorite appearance. The yellow spots are a beautiful contrast to the green skin elsewhere on the frog. The frog didn't seem bothered by me at all. I stayed and got quite a few nice pictures of it.
When I finished and looked up, I saw that the sun had left again and the clouds were looking like rain. I headed back to the office to get back to paperwork.
While I worked, I heard a commotion and some squeaking from the next room, a storage area. After two attempts to find the source of the noises, I finally discovered two little mice. One was staying very still, and I was able to take some photos. It was a cute, scrappy, little mouse. Mice in the buildings are a dilemma for me. They make a mess and steal candy from the jar on my desk (we have found half-eaten candy in some odd places) so I definitely don't like having them around. We can't poison them because they might, in turn, poison a predator. We could trap them in live traps, but then what? We could use kill traps, but I don't think that Park Rangers should kill things. Fortunately for me, this mouse just happened to fall over and die of apparently natural causes or possibly of sugar shock from too much candy later in the day. Maybe its friend will pass soon too.
In the afternoon, I headed to Adams Tract to train the new volunteers. We were back and forth between seeking shelter under a roof and walking around the camp between rain spurts. It was a lot of stop and go, stop and go, but we got through everything, and I think the volunteers are really liking their job so far. When I got back to Troy, I finished up paperwork for the day and talked to another worker before heading home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zoom Zoom Splash

It was another cloudy day today, but the clouds meant it today. I was dodging raindrops with a garbage bag over my cast most of the afternoon. It was another very busy day today too, but not with park visitors, just stuff to do. Today started out like any other Monday. While I took care of the daily and end of the week paperwork, another worker walked the park and blew the leaves off of the walkway and parking lot. When all of the morning work was done, we headed to Adams Tract to do some maintenance and prepare for the new volunteers that I was expecting in the late afternoon. We talked about what needed to be done and then I headed out to pick up deposit slips and drop off paperwork at Ichetucknee. While I was at Ichetucknee, I picked up some supplies and made some photocopies. I also heard from the incoming volunteers who were about an hour away. I got back to Troy with just enough time to drop off supplies, pick up some things for the new volunteers, check in some divers, greet some fishermen, and then go meet the volunteers just as it started to pour rain! Fortunately, by the time we were at Adams Tract, the rain took a break so that I could show the new volunteers around and get them situated with their new surroundings. I had only taken one photo by that point and my plan was to stop along the service road at Adams Tract on the way out to photograph some more wildflowers. I got the chance to snap about six so-so frames before the sky just opened up again. I went from dry to soaked standing right next to my truck. I did my best to cover my camera and my cast while I darted into my truck. So much for picture taking. Here is what I ended up with.
I couldn't pass up this beautiful view as I left Adams Tract this morning. This farm field is just outside of the tract. I pulled over, rolled down my window, and took a quick photo.
I liked these tiny little daisies, so did a little bee (or fly? not sure).
I was admiring the droplets of rain on the False Foxglove when the rain started. I was just getting into the groove when my fun was canceled.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cloudy With A Chance Of Divers

It was a very gray morning and continued to be a gray day until later in the afternoon. The weather report said that it wouldn't rain, but the cloud cover was thick. The temperature was very comfortable and there was a light breeze. The lack of sunshine did not deter the divers. By 10:00 this morning, there were nearly 40 divers in the park. Three of the groups were classes of seven to fifteen people and because they were classes, broke into smaller groups when they actually went under water. Half stayed on the surface while the others dove. Because of the larger groups splitting up, the other groups staggering themselves, and an unusual amount of thoughtfulness and consideration for each other, it was never too crowded in the spring and the water was never silted up. Usually, newer divers are not as aware of the effect that their movements have on the very loose silt at the bottom of the spring and one sloppy fin kick will cloud the otherwise clear water. Today that was not the case. I was really impressed.
There were so many people in the park, that I really didn't do much of anything today besides talk with park visitors. I took a few photos, but the cloudy day did not present a lot of opportunities. There weren't many active insects until late in the day either. The lizards that are usually sunning themselves on the railing of the walkway were doing their best to hide from two little boys who wanted to catch them. Here are the few shots that I did get today.
The spring appeared to be boiling most of the morning. Each column of bubbles is a diver under the water. Some springs naturally have a boil, or a spot where water is bubbling to the surface from the force of the water coming from the spring vent. We don't see that at Troy because the vent is so far underwater, but sometimes people mistake a diver's bubbles for the spring boil. I answer that question often, but I wonder how many people don't ask and just take that assumption home with them.
I have posted a photo of this type of spider before. Its a Spinybacked Orbweaver. The last photo I posted was better, but I wanted to show this one because you can see the fuzzy little tufts that are placed throughout this spiders' web. They may act as a visual warning to birds or even people who might otherwise damage the web accidentally from running into it. It is the reason that I spotted this one today, I would have run right into its web, but I saw the little fluff of fuzz.
I also saw this Banana Spider, or Golden Orbweaver. This is a very common spider in Florida and I'm sure that I have blogged about it before. This spider was working on mending its web. Banana Spiders have very strong silk and usually build large webs. Rather than taking down the whole web and rebuilding it after a catch as many spiders do, this spider will just patch its web as needed. There has been a Banana Spider with her giant web right above a path between my office and the picnic area for over a week now. I see it daily and still think its funny when I see people stopping to look up at it. From a distance, the spider web is invisible so the person looks like they are just staring at nothing with a very focused look on their face. I wonder how many people have seen me doing the same thing.