Saturday, October 17, 2009

Skipped Day

If you follow the blog everyday, I apologize for missing a day. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day off filled with friends, good food, and a nice warm campfire. That is why I didn't make it to the computer to blog. I am going to make it up to you though, I did spend some time at work as well. Here is the recap of that part of the day.
I had taken the weekend off and my co-worker was covering the park for me. He wasn't able to make it to the park until later in the morning on Saturday though, so I went in and opened the park and helped visitors until he arrived. It was a COLD morning. Temperatures were probably in the low 50's. I was glad to find that my winter work coat had sleeves that would fit over my cast. I took a walk around the park when I got there and the light from the rising sun was surrounding every tree in a shiny golden glow. I had foolishly left my camera at home thinking that I wouldn't be at the park long and probably wouldn't want it. I stopped by the house to pick it up when I drove out to the entrance to add honor envelopes. As soon as I got back to the park, the sun had risen above the clouds and the magnificent lighting was gone... lesson learned. The sky was still beautiful and the cold, whipping wind was making unusual streaks on the surface of the water.
On the walkway to the spring, I saw a few insects, but none of them were moving. They were all too cold. This bee looked like the cold hit him by surprise, I'm sure he was anxious for the sun to warm him. The big caterpillar was motionless as well.
The squirrels were not frozen, they were hurrying about and very busy gathering and eating. When the wind would stop, the only noise was the repetitive chewing of the squirrels in almost every tree. Around the base of the Hickory trees, there were opened nutshells everywhere.
At the river, the water level is still creeping down, bit by bit. When I was done with my walk, I checked in some divers, finished up the paperwork, and then spent the rest of the morning with in coming visitors until I was set free by other staff. I went home to start preparing food for our get together, and was halfway through when I had to go back to work. The volunteers at Adams Tract had some dogs bothering visitors at the camp. The dogs had already been taken back to their owner twice when they returned again. I picked up the dogs and returned them once more. The rest of the day was work-free and wonderful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Parade Day

Today was my day off, but it was parade day for the Cracker Horses that I work with at another park. I was supposed to be riding in this parade, but my broken arm kept that from happening. Fortunately, they were able to find another rider to fill in for me and all four of the ponies got to go. I still went to the parade to see them in action and to lend a hand (just one though).
The parade was the Homecoming Parade at the University of Florida. The ponies were all decked out in their Gator gear, from head to tail. They had special saddle blankets that my park manager made, orange and blue bridles, orange and blue ribbons on their tails, and they even had nicely polished hoofs. It was suggested that airbrushed Gators on the hooves would be cool, but maybe a little over the top.
I was really impressed with the Cracker Ponies. There was occasional evidence of their silly skittishness, but they were really in their element in the parade. They dealt with kids on roller blades zipping between them, balloons, cameras, marching bands, police sirens, music, and people trying to pet them from every direction with ease. They were so tolerant of everything.
I took photos throughout the morning and was there to hold a horse when needed. I'm glad that I was still involved with the process so I know more for the next event that the horses will attend. I walked with them from the unloading area to the staging area and saw them off once they joined the main part of the parade. I think they did very well and they were definitely a big hit with the people watching the parade.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Love The Night Life...

Today was day #1 of my four day weekend. I got some yard work done during the day and some relaxing done in the evening. I realized that I hadn't taken any photos for my blog so I decided to do a little night photography. I didn't have to go any further than my doorstep. I found two Green Tree Frogs and one Mediterranean Gecko. They were happy when I turned the porch light on to attract some tasty bugs. They were not as pleased with my flash, but I think I made up with it with the bounty of bugs that I attracted with the light. I tried taking a few pictures of the garden, but I just wasn't as inspired. Frogs and lizards are much more interesting than flowers in the dark. What lives on your front porch at night?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OH Paperwork!

Today was a rather uneventful day spent almost entirely in my office. I had two other people working with me this morning and there were only three visitors in the park. The other workers got to go out and do all the fun stuff like mowing, leaf blowing, trimming, and restroom light repair while I was stuck in the box. I had to do three reports for two purchases that I made yesterday and the septic repair at Adams Tract on Monday. I prepared the three reports, two copies of each, and faxed them to two different offices. I also did some research into our Operations Manual and Directives to handle another issue. I did some e-mailing, I returned some phone calls, I got some new phone calls, and I tried to wrap everything up. I will have my regularly scheduled days off on Thursday and Friday, but I have also taken the weekend off. I am really looking forward to my long weekend!
Even though I was in the office all day, I still took some time to walk around and see the park. At that point, there were just two fishermen in the park so I decided to go down by the river to see how they were doing. The fish were biting. They were ravenous and really stirring the surface of the water.
I also found one last, solitary Morning Glory still struggling to hold its bloom.
The Bushy Aster is still in bloom here and there. The Kaydid nymph was happy about that.
I found some tiny tiny purple flowers that were so small that the trimmed grass seemed to tower above them.
I loved the way that this Net-winged Beetle matched the leaf that it was sitting on. I wonder if it chose this spot to rest because of the camouflage or if it was a coicidence.
Back at the top of the hill, I found some great things growing out of a couple of decaying logs.
Stay tuned. I don't know yet what my long weekend will hold.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still On The Go

It felt like Monday all over again. I spent my morning trying to get as much done as I could before I had to leave the park and drive all over the place. In the afternoon, I went to Adams Tract and collected water samples, then took the samples to Lake City. The day went by quickly, but its all sort of a blur of hurrying about.
After opening the park and doing my morning drive, I found that my co-worker had come in to fish on his day off. You know you have a good job when you go to work for fun. I chatted with him for a minute and then left him to enjoy the peaceful river while I continued my walk around the park. I went over to the restrooms and took a look at one of the light fixtures. The light had not been working and I had someone replace the bulbs. The problem seemed to be with the ballast instead. For some reason, its more expensive to replace the ballast in these light fixtures than it is to buy a whole new fixture. I took a photo of the fixture to make sure that I got the right one when I picked up supplies later. I know it isn't a very exciting photo, but I find snapping a quick photo before going to the hardware store is a help quite often.
I spotted a moth on one of the restroom windows when I finished with the light. I have seen this type of moth more than once, but I don't have an ID for it yet.
After I left the restroom area, I drove out to the entrance station to add more envelopes and brochures. The Forked Bluecurl and yellow Slender Scratchdaisey that I found nearby were so gorgeous together, they were like little bushy bouquets that had been carefully arranged. I had to spend a few minutes with the flowers. The Bluecurl is a new find for me this year and I have been seeing a lot of it. I am not sure if there is more of it this year, or if I just never noticed it before.
While I was taking pictures. The one and only car of visitors that I saw today entered the park. I drove back around to the main area of the park and greeted them. They were divers and I renewed their pass after checking them in. The woman that I sold the pass to asked if I got any good photos, and asked what I was taking pictures of. She told me that the Bluecurl has been very hardy on her property this year, so it must be a good year for the beautiful plant. She also told me that she keeps notes about the wildflowers that she sees on her property and where she found them. It provides a great resource year after year, and its interesting to note the changes. I am enjoying creating a similar reference with my blog. The blog is ending up being helpful in more ways than I ever anticipated.
Once I finished up with paperwork and all my other responsibilities at Troy, I headed to Adams Tract. I talked to the volunteers and made my way around the camp to collect the water samples from various faucets. I realize now that I should have taken some photos of the process, but I guess I was juggling too many things to add a camera to the mix. I put the water samples on ice and began my 25+ mile drive to Lake City where I dropped the samples off at the Environmental Health Department. They will test my water samples for bacteria to ensure that we stay in compliance with public drinking water standards. I do this every quarter, so if you would like to know more about the process click here for last time or stayed tuned until next quarter. While I was in town, I stopped at the hardware store for a new light fixture for Troy and some supplies for Adams Tract. On my drive back to the park, I stopped for gas and found a moth to photograph. This is really becoming a tradition.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Motable Monday

My Monday started off the usual way. I opened the park, did my drive through, and ended at the office to do the end-of-the-week paperwork. I also checked e-mail and made a To-Do list for the other worker in the park today. While I worked, I got a call from our septic system repair place. The part that we needed at Adams Tract had come in and they were letting me know that they would be out to make the repair at some point today. I gave them my cell phone number because I knew that I would be gone most of the day. I left as soon as I could to make sure that I would be around when they came to repair the septic system blower. I did get one photo before I left, the water level is going down, down, down!
I ran my Monday errands and dropped off my paperwork at Ichetucknee. I chatted with my Park Manager for a few minutes and then headed back home for lunch. When I returned to the office, I was a little surprised that I hadn't heard from the septic guys yet. I didn't want to get too involved in any projects in case they called so I did a little e-mailing and checked in with the few visitors that we had. When one couple came in, they told me that they had never been to Troy before and that they were interested in kayaking. I showed them the park and gave them some brochures about the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. While I was in mid-conversation with them, the septic guys called. They were still going to be another 45 minutes so I had time to finish my discussion with the visitors before heading over to Adams Tract.
I arrived at the gate to the river camp right before the septic guys, perfect timing! I talked to them while they fixed the blower and I simultaneously fed every single fire ant within a 2 foot radius of me. I hate ants. I also chatted with one of the volunteers and answered some questions for her. After the septic guys were done, I wrapped things up with the volunteer and headed towards home. I realized that I had only taken one photo today and decided to look for something on the way out of Adams Tract. Most of the wildflowers had already faded away, but I did find a few.
I love the way that the dead fern looked behind the vibrant Black-eyed Susan. It was the reason that I stopped where I did. I found some nice views afterward there too.
I finally have a name for this flower that I see often. I don't know why Bushy Aster was so hard to find.
This is Blue Mistflower. I have shown it once before when it wasn't open all the way.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mosquito Food

It was a pretty quiet Sunday, it must have been a good football weekend. People came into the park as soon as I opened the gate, but only a few. The same 15-20 people in the park by 10:00 am were the only people I saw all day. They were all great people and I was able to spend quite a bit of time with all of them. I also spent some time working on my bird ID skills while standing in the woods, feeding mosquitoes. It was a good day, aside from the itchiness that I am suffering from now.
After opening the park and the visitor center and greeting the first divers, I took a walk around the park. On the walkway to the spring, I found a plump and squishy Persimmon that had fallen. I picked it up to toss it into the woods so that it did not get smooshed into a big mess on the walkway. I also noticed a critter hiding under the Persimmon. First things first, I photographed the Persimmon before I tossed it and then went on to inspect the critter that I had uncovered.
The critter was certainly spider-like, but not quite a spider. This is a Harvestman. I'm sure that you have encountered a Harvestman before. A Daddylonglegs is a Harvestman as well. They are Arachnids, but are more closely related to mites than spiders. Spiders have two body segments and a Harvestman has just one. This critter does not have the ability to make silk or spin a web. It is an opportunity feeder that will eat just about anything that it happens across, maybe it was even munching on the Persimmon.
When I was back at the top of the walkway, I checked in a couple more divers and took a moment to enjoy the sky. I think it looked like a watercolor painting.
Next, I headed down to the river. I walked all the way down to the water and found a few pieces of garbage to pick up. I also checked out our new signs. I asked my co-worker to hang them last week and today was the first time I had seen them. He did a great job. Overall, we try to keep the number of signs in the park to a minimum. People come to the park to see natural resources, not signs. We have so much trouble with people who want to fish in the swim area, especially when the water is high. We also have trouble with boaters who bring their dogs to swim with them. Most people are understanding and are happy to comply with the rules when I talk to them, others challenge me with "Well there ain't no siiiign." For those who do not think that a personal invitation from the Park Ranger is enough, here's your sign!
On the way back up, I passed by the iron ranger where people drop their payment envelopes if the enter from the river. A very cautious Anole was waiting for me to move along so that he could come out to soak up the sun.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the park, taking care of visitors, doing paperwork, and even a little birdwatching. One park visitor had come towards the office to ask a question. I met him halfway, answered his question, and walked with him towards the picnic area. We heard a woodpecker and he was interested in where it was coming from. We both stood there for a while, looking up and shifting ourselves around to check all sides of each tree. When we didn't find it, I showed him that you can feel the trees to find the one that the woodpecker is on. We found the tree and watched a little more. He thought that he saw something at one knot, high in the tree. We watched the spot and finally, a tiny beak became a black head with a red crown, and finally a giant Pileated Woodpecker emerged from the hole and flew away. I was watching the trees after that and spotted a few other woodpeckers. I think I need a better camera before I can be a better birder. I can't zoom far enough with my current camera to catch most birds, and I usually have a chance to identify things only when I'm looking at my photos later. I am working on my birding skills though.
The day wouldn't be complete without insects and flowers. Here is what I found while roaming the park.
This is a pretty little Skipper. I love the unique arrangement of their wings.
I don't have a name for these lovely little flowers, but they were a good find today. They were so tiny and all alone in a huge mass of green leafiness. I didn't even see the purple color inside until I got close to take the photo.
This butterfly is a Pearl Crescent. I see these tiny butterflies everyday and I have gotten photos of them a few times. They usually perch with their wings spread. I was amazed that it was holding its wings closed long enough for me to take a picture and it was only when I got home and looked at my photos that I realized it was laying its eggs!
This giant grasshopper had a beauty of its own as it glistened in the sun.