Saturday, November 21, 2009

Groundsel Tree

Today the park was very quiet.  All morning, there were only 3 divers who were all gone before noon.  They were the only people in the park until after 2:00 when 2 more divers arrived.  It was also pretty chilly out today.  I don't think that we ever got to the upper 70's.  It was not my favorite kind of day at the park.  I did have time to enjoy a long walk this morning though, so its not all bad.  I took a lot of photos, but I had to pare it down a little to just nine that I will show you today and at least six that I will save for another day.  The photos that I selected for today are all of one type of plant and the myriad of critters that I found who really valued that one type of plant.
The plant is a Groundsel Tree.  It is more reminiscent of a bush, but it is a very fast growing plant.  Its a rather plain, unassuming looking plant with round and slightly jagged leaves.  Most of the year, you probably wouldn't notice it.  Right now, its a big, white, fluffy cloud.
As I photographed the fluffy tufts of white, I began to notice a few insects.  There were several Leaffooted Bugs.  They were all over all of the Groundsel Trees around, likely feeding on the leaves and other soft parts of the plants.  The bugs are appropriately named.  Their back feet are flat and... leafy.
I was looking over all of the plants to try to find more bugs in better positions for photographing when I kept finding more and more different kinds of insects and things.  The next thing that I found was a gall.  A gall looks like a wart or a big ugly growth on a tree.  A gall is formed when certain insects lay eggs on or in a growing part of a tree, like a branch.  The tree then tries to isolate this foreign body by growing a dense shell around it.  The insect egg is protected from the outside world and the tree is not harmed by the insect.  I found several galls on the Groundsel Trees and they all had tiny holes in them.  I don't know if that was from something that could feed on the galls or if they were holes that larvae had escaped from.  A quick internet search gave me no answers as to what kind of insect utilizes the Groundsel Tree.
I found two different types of moth caterpillars pupating.  The first doesn't look like anything more than some folded leaves, but they are cocoons.  The Leafrollers could be one of several types of moth caterpillars who have rolled themselves up in a leaf instead of spinning a whole cocoon.  There is some silk holding the leaves closed.  A leaf makes a pretty good sleeping bag!  The second is one that I have showed you before (and the one pictured in the link has Groundsel Tree leaves on it!).  Its a caterpillar from a Bagworm Moth.  It appears to be completely sealed and pupating so it must be a male.  The females remain caterpillars for their whole life.
Last, but not least, I found a spider egg sac.  I guess the Groundsel Tree was supporting insects and spiders at all stages of development.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Night Hike

Today was day off number two.  I went to Gainesville today to see the doctor again about my arm.  I am now free of all slings, splints and casts.  I don't even need any physical therapy.  I am done having a broken arm!!  I have been released to ride horses again and I only go back to the doctor for a final checkup in January.  What a relief!  It is much easier and faster to type with two hands!
I spent the majority of the day in Gainesville running errands after my appointment.  When I got home I still had nothing to blog and only another 45 minutes with any sunlight.  I headed out with my camera for a short walk around the yard.  I had to check in on my porch residents.
The rest of the photos are a little dark.  The sun was setting so the light was not ideal.  The flash washed out the colors too much though and I liked the effect of the darker colors in this series of photos.  I went without the flash and made the most out of the light that I had.
The leaves do change colors in Fall in Florida, you just have to look closely to see it happening.  It isn't a vibrant, sweeping color change like it is up north.  I enjoy the subtlety.
The mint that I found last month has dried out.  It looks different, but its still very pretty.
Do you remember the Showy Rattlebox?  It is drying out and rattling now, thanks to the hard pod and the dry little seeds.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leftover Views

Today is a day off. I did some relaxing and some grocery shopping. My pantry is stocked and ready for a Thanksgiving feast! Enjoy some leftovers a little early. Here are photos taken this week but not yet blogged.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turkeys and Urinals

Yep, turkeys and urinals, oh and another spider. That's what I have to show for my day today. I'm so glad that its Wednesday and my week is over. I am looking forward to some days off.
This morning, I did my normal drive around the park and saw that my co-worker had already arrived and taken care of the gate and the flags. On my drive down the service road, I slowed for a group of turkeys who were milling about. I proceeded to the office and took care of the paperwork. The last two estimates that I was waiting on for the new buoys had come in and I e-mailed them to my manager. Now I just have to wait for all of the official permissions to be granted, then we can order new buoys! I still had not received a call to tell me that a water test kit has arrived, but my list of stuff to buy in Lake City was growing and growing. The park was in great shape and there wasn't much to do aside from projects that were waiting on supplies. I decided to go ahead with my trip to town even if I couldn't pick up the water test while I was there.
I asked the workers at the park today to take the leaky urinal off of the wall in the men's room to find out why it was leaking. I wanted to know what parts and supplies we would need for that project. They found a gasket in very sorry shape. I put the soggy, stinky mess into a baggy to take with me for comparison. I also snapped a quick photo in case I needed a visual reference.
In Lake City, I had a long list of errands. I had accumulated a list of supplies needed for both Adams Tract and Troy because for two weeks I have known that a trip to Lake City was coming... eventually. I was able to take care of most of the items at Lowes. I also made a quick stop at Wal-Mart for the strangest thing that I have ever bought for the park, pantyhose. The dryer at Adams Tract needed something to catch the lint. I am not a fan of pantyhose and did not have any on hand so I spent a whopping 33 cents for a pair. I had to go to a specialty plumbing store to find the gasket for the urinal, another *high* priced item at 50 cents. I was very surprised that neither Lowe's nor Home Depot had supplies for urinals. My last stop was Tractor Supply for blades for the finishing mower. I will be returning them on my next trip to Lake City though, they were not exactly right. I called the park to make sure that my long awaited water test call had not come and found out that the tractor part I dropped off yesterday for repair was ready for pick up. I headed back to the park and picked up the part on the way.
When I got back to the park and got my new purchases put away, I handed off the gasket and caulk to the workers in the park. GRRRR for plumbing projects, one trip to the store is NEVER enough! They installed the gasket and went to reinstall the urinal only to find another leak that had been "repaired" years before with duct tape. Now I have to start searching for another urinal part. I know where I will start my search this time.
I walked over to the restrooms to see the issues in person. While I was there, I saw a beautiful, black and white jumping spider. Its fangs looked green! When it realized that I was looking at it, it tried to hide above the fire hydrant box on the front of the restrooms, but I still got a photo. You can see a little bit of iridescence on the sides of its fangs, but I wish you could have seen it as I did initially.
The rest of the day was spent doing paperwork for the purchases that I had made. I had four receipts and eight piles of paperwork at the end of it all. I also gave the fax machine a good workout before I headed home to gladly start my weekend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Today I felt like I was climbing uphill in sand. I was working hard all day, but didn't feel that I accomplished as much. I did make some progress, but I did an awful lot of backsliding in the mean time. None of the work that I did today was physically demanding in any way, but I am mentally exhausted. My only photos today came from the best part of the day, the morning.
When I put up the flags, I looked for my friends. There was only one Tree Frog left. I wonder if the others will return.
I went to the office and took care of paperwork next. I chatted with our volunteer for a bit and we made a plan for the day. When my paperwork was done, I went for a walk. I opened up the cabin and then headed down to the river. From the dock, I could see a lot of Mullet. Most of them are pretty small. It looks as though the majority of the mature adult Mullet have left to spawn in the Gulf. The mature adults will spend the fall and winter in the gulf spawning before they return to fresh water. The young will spend some time in the gulf before working their way into freshwater rivers to start the cycle over again.
When I headed back up the hill towards the picnic area, I was struck by this view. I love the color of the dying grass in the morning sun. The pale squiggle in the middle of the shot is a piece of Spanish Moss. It looked like it was dancing there in mid-air.
I made my way to the picnic area and saw that there were people at the spring dock and another vehicle was just pulling in. I talked to the new arrivals first. They were divers so I checked them in and answered their questions before I headed down to the dock. The couple that I met were retirees who wandered around the US, enjoying their free time and discovering new places. They had lots of questions for me and I had a great time talking to them. They told me that they were from Chicago and I shared with them that I grew up two hours away in South Bend, IN. We talked for a long time and I walked with them to the cabin and then let them explore the river area on their own. Later when I was in the cabin again, I saw that they had signed the guest book. I saw that they were from Joliet, IL which is a suburb of Chicago. I have family in Joliet and I was amazed at the connection.
Next I made my weekly stop at Adams Tract. I picked up some bags of garbage and talked with the volunteers for a while. They impressed me, as always with the cleaning that they have done, above and beyond normal maintenance. They had also completely disassembled, cleaned, and fully repaired an old washer and dryer that I had assumed would never work.
The day went down hill from there. I returned to my office to spend the rest of the day waiting for phone calls. I have been waiting for a call about a water test kit that I ordered last week for a yearly water test that I have to do at Adams Tract. I called today to see if it had come in because I thought it would have arrived by now. I was scolded that if I had not gotten a call, then it was not there. I was frustrated because I have several errands to run in Lake City including picking up the water test when it comes in. I would like to get it all done, but I'm waiting on that phone call. I was also still waiting for an estimate on buoys that I requested yesterday by e-mail. I decided to call and speak to someone but I was told that everyone was busy and I would have to wait for a call back within the hour. I sat at the computer for that whole hour trying to research buoy vendors that are registered vendors with the state of Florida. I got absolutely no where in that whole hour. I didn't even get the call back. I needed to get away from my desk for a little while before I pulled my hair out. I left the information for the estimate with another worker at the park and left with our volunteer to run some errands in town. We dropped off a hydraulic arm from the tractor to be repaired and bought some lumber for a project at Adams Tract.
While we were gone, the call that I had been waiting on had finally been received and we had a promise of an estimate by fax or e-mail. I went ahead and requested one more estimate from another company so that we would have three to choose from. I left the office a little late and a little frustrated that I still had no more estimates in hand than I did this morning. All the work will be justified when we have our new, safe, effective, durable buoy line in place.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Spiders in the Mist

I woke up to the kind of day that I love!! It was foggy! The mist was so thick in the air that when I took a breath, the air felt heavy in my lungs. I made sure to get to work early so that I could beat everybody else and wander the misty park with my camera for a while. I did a quick loop around the park, but I didn't spend time opening the gate because I knew another worker would be in soon. When I got to the office, I didn't even go in. I headed straight to the cabin, unlocked it and quickly installed the fish tank filter cartridges that I had made at home. I checked out the view of the spring and then hurried down to the river. I have captured some of the same picturesque views during the fog over and over, so I focused on finding new things. I was drawn to the spider webs. I am always impressed by the way that each fine thread of the web is coated in tiny droplets of water. Its as though every spider web that is usually invisible is suddenly coated in sparkling diamonds... and they're everywhere! The first four photos are of various Orb Weaver Spiders and or their webs.
I couldn't resist photographing this view. It is one that I have taken pictures of many times before, but the rising sun was so cool to see through the dense fog. It was a unique version of the same view.
Here is a picture of the buoy line back in place, as I promised yesterday. Today I started working on getting quotes for completely new buoys that will be better all around. They will be cylindrical so that you can't walk on them or play on them. They won't be big, tempting lilly pads that kids and even some adults love to try to hop across. The old buoys are fun, but they are dangerous because of their ability to flip and the metal bars underneath with jagged edges. The new buoys will also require less maintenance because the cable will be out of the water and it won't have the stress of people trying to balance on it. The metal under the old buoys sawed away at the cable when people played on them.
When I finished up taking pictures by the river, I tried to talk myself into going to the office to get to work. When I turned around, I saw that our volunteer was on his way down the path. I stayed to admire the fog all over again with him before I finally did head to the office. I talked to both of the workers that would be in the park today and we made a plan for the day. Then I started into the daily and end of the week paperwork. I finished up pretty quickly and made a call to another park to serve as a reference for volunteers that I have worked with. I chatted with the other ranger and answered her questions. Once everything in the office was all wrapped up, I left to run my Monday errands.
At Ichetucknee, I dropped off my paperwork and sat down to talk with my Park Manager for a little while. We discussed several projects at the park and the steps necessary to complete those projects. Then I headed back to Troy around lunch time. At Troy, I checked in on the fish tank again to see if the filters I made were working. The water looked clear! The Catfish was hiding under the piece of wood instead of under the rock, where it usually hides. I wonder if he was afraid I would stick the gravel vacuum in there again. I dropped some food into the tank for it though, and I think it forgave me.
While I was there, and had my camera out, I took a picture of the display that I remade on Saturday. I talked about it on Saturday, but I never did take a photo. It was a quick display, but I think its better than what was there before. I used both sides of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail brochure to show the full length of the river. I also printed some photos of structures at Adams Tract to show off the beautiful facility. I reused a little bit of signage that I had made for old displays.
The rest of my day was spent getting estimates on buoys, talking with employees, keeping an eye on a bird that was stunned for a long time after hitting a window at the cabin, and taking a photo of this cool spider, a Huntsman.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


My day started out a lot like it did yesterday. It was cold outside and there was no one waiting at the gate to come in to the park. No one came to the park for another hour or two. I started with paperwork and wished for a warming sun to rise quickly. When I finally ventured out again, I still needed a coat. I went to the cabin first and opened up. I realized that I had not posted any water level photos in a while, so below is the view from the cabin porch. Compare it to the same view a couple of weeks ago.
I walked down to the river next. The sun was shining through the bushy grasses and brightened every color in the otherwise brown mess. I am really impressed by the staying power of these late blooming, purple Asters. I don't remember them from previous years, but I also wasn't photographing every thing I saw then.
At the river's edge, I saw that there had been several critters here before me. The larger, three-toed print was probably a heron or an egret, a large shore bird. Above it, are tracks from a Raccoon. The bird was likely watching for minnows in the shallow water as it moved at a slow and steady pace along the shore. The Raccoon's tracks were not as steady, it wandered back and forth and made several trips to the water. The second photo looks a lot like the heron or egret print, but they were much smaller. They were also all in one area. The smaller shore bird probably flew to that spot, pecked around a little, and then flew off to another area.
I found a few pieces of garbage, but not much. I picked up all of it and stacked it together so that it was easy to hold. I saw part of a glass bottle poking out of the sand and water at the river's edge. I pulled it out and though it was a neat bottle. I didn't really recognize it, but the possibility of Barbecue Sauce popped into my head. Later, a volunteer saw it and guessed the same thing before we talked about it. A quick search online could not confirm or deny that idea. It was unique though.
I was ready to get warm and the sun was shining on the other side of the spring. I decided to get a start on the buoy project. I took the cable, a couple of cable clamps, and a socket wrench out to the buoy line. I was ready to take my coat off before I even got to my work area. The sun was really beating down on that side of the spring, it felt great! I even saw a Monarch Butterfly who was likely making a quick stop on its migration. I quickly tried to put everything down that I was carrying and pulled out my camera just in time to watch it fly away. It never came back, but I watched for it all day. I made a few trips between this project and the parking lot as a couple of dive groups finally arrived. I managed to get a good start on the project though. I attached one end of the cable, arranged the buoys for quick installation, and started feeding the cable through the bars under the buoys. Some of them were clogged with sand.
The divers did not require a lot of attention today. I only saw three groups all day. I decided to return to the fish tank maintenance that I started yesterday. I used a gravel vacuum and sucked up a lot of gross pieces of algae mats. Unfortunately, my fish tank is afflicted with the same nasty algae that grows in the spring. I wish I could gravel vac the spring. Some algae is vital, but some really voracious algae flourish with the raising nitrate levels that we are experiencing. It will be easier to keep under control with the aquarium than it is in the spring. Once the gravel was clean, I scrubbed the glass with a magnetic scrubber and cleaned out the filter. My poor little Catfish was not very happy with me. I made him move from his favorite hiding spot to vacuum underneath his rock. I think he will be happy once everything settles though. I will take a photo once I get new cotton sleeves in the filter and the water is clear.
I pretty much filled my day with my projects and talking with the few visitors that I saw. By the end of the day, it was warm and sunny. You couldn't ask for a better fall day. I talked my boyfriend into serving some volunteer time at the park to help me with the buoy line. Together, we strung the rest of the buoys onto the cable and stretched them across the spring run. We attached the other side and the project was complete. I didn't take my camera down by the water though, so I will have to get a photo tomorrow. We were already wet, and we were warm from the work, so we went for a quick swim. It felt great to be in the water again. I don't usually get into the cold water until its over 90 degrees outside. It was a nice change of pace... then it was nice to go straight home to warm, dry clothes and a blanket!