Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rain On My Parade

The weather forecast for today continued to get worse and worse. We were hoping that the rain would let up in the afternoon. We still went to the barn. We had our nicest uniforms ready to go, the trailers were loaded with the horses Christmas 'uniforms' and everything we needed. We held out until the last possible minute to make the final call, but we decided that wet horses and wet pavement would not make a pleasant Christmas Parade. We were all disappointed. Even the horses seemed sad, or at least confused when they were let out of their stalls to head to the pasture. We are still going to get the horses or at least one of them dressed up in their Christmas gear for a photo opportunity on a day when the weather is nicer.
When I got back to the park, I went over to the office for a few minutes. The volunteer who was covering the park for me this morning told me that some divers had reported diminished visibility in the spring. That means that the tannic water is making its way all the way into the spring from the river. I wish that the water would stop rising, but all of the rain we are experiencing now is stronger and heavier north of us. That means it will all come here and raise the river even more. I will consult with my manager and make the decision tomorrow whether to close the spring for swimming and diving for the time being. The dark water is a safety concern and if it looks like it will get any worse, we will have to close it. The park will remain open, but no one will be permitted to get in the water.
I ventured out with the umbrella to get a few photos of the water to share. The wind was blowing so hard that you almost can't see the droplets on the water.

I had to get another shot of the cool tree across the river. I was surprised to see so many more needles missing today compared to the photo I posted on Thursday.  The photo was taken a week ago, but it is still a dramatic difference.  The needles look more red too, but I wonder if that is just from the wetness and gray sky.  I think its interesting how the needles dropped from top to bottom.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Horsin Around

Today was day off number two and I spent the morning at the barn with the Cracker Horses and my fellow riders.  We were getting ready for a local Christmas parade that we will be participating in tomorrow, weather permitting.  We went for a quick ride to get the horses out and moving on their usual exercise day.  When we got back, we added decorations to the horses' breast collars and made sure that the horse trailers were stocked with everything that we will need tomorrow.
Keep your fingers crossed that the weather will be warmer than today and that the forcasted rain decides to stay away.  Here are some sneak peaks of the festive horsiness that you will see tomorrow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Oddments

Today was my first day off of the week.  It was peaceful, mostly.  I did have a couple of calls from work and I decided to drive over to Adams Tract to make sure that everything is in order while there is no volunteer there.  Our new volunteers will be arriving on Sunday, I checked in with them today as well.  I took my camera along with me to Adams Tract and started to take photos of some interesting fungus when I realized that I did not take the memory card out of the computer before I took my camera.  I snapped some photos with my cell phone camera, but they were sub par at best.  I didn't go and see the river today, but I checked the levels from the USGS Real-Time Data online from home.  It looks like the river stayed still today, maybe it will drop again next week. 
Here are some pretty images that have not yet been viewed from this past week.  The first is everyone's favorite tree.  Its directly across the Suwannee River from Troy and it looks like it might start walking towards us any minute.  I have shown you this tree a few times before.

This bright fungus seemed to be an extension of the wavy grain of the wood.  It also sort of reminds me of ruffled potato chips.

Have I mentioned that I love the fog on top of the spring?

I found this interesting little plant on the river bank.  I still haven't found an identity for it.  It was a very spindly little plant with just a few damaged leaves and several of these balloon pods.  Each pod had one little pea sized seed inside.

Here is another seed pod that I know all too well.  This plant flowered all over the park and its seeds are hitchhikers.  They grab onto my clothing and follow me home each day... which is why it is ALL OVER the park!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Thanksmas!

Today was our annual holiday celebration followed by a personnel meeting at the the main park which oversees Troy, Ichetucknee Springs.  I had a great time with a really fun group of people.  We enjoyed some extremely tasty food and a lively gift exchange which involved a lot of gift stealing and laughing.  Its nice that my park family feels so much like my own family at gatherings like these.
Our feast and gift exchange and personnel meeting took up most of the afternoon.  My morning was spent preparing for new volunteers at Adams Tract, doing regular paperwork, and taking photos of the river.  It is not rising as quickly, I hope that the rise is almost over.  I also spoke to a group of people from the Florida Geological Survey who were going to do some work at the spring.  They were measuring the flow of the water.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Paulette Bunyan

It was a pretty quiet and uneventful day at the park.  There were only two park visitors all day.  We did accomplish a fair amount around the park though, and we kept ourselves busy.  After opening the park and tackling my normal morning paperwork, I wandered around to check on the water level.  I got the same two shots from yesterday, the cabin porch and the river dock views so that you can see how much the water has come up.  It did rise another couple of inches, but the change wasn't too drastic from yesterday.  The tannic water is covering the Madison in the spring run, but it hasn't crept in much further.  There are still a lot of Gar both inside and outside of the buoy line, and there were plenty of turtles as well.

Our volunteer is working on a new storage box for our gas cans, and he spent much of the day working on that project.  I did some work in the office this morning so that I was nearby to lend a hand when another one was needed.  When I had finished all of my office work, I headed out on the nature trail with the pole saw and trimmed back all of the vines that were wrapped around the tree that fell yesterday.  I got it all cleaned up so that it would be easier to deal with.

Around lunchtime, I went for a walk.  I headed down to the spring area to get some photos.  I wanted to get over to the far side of the spring before the water was covering the path over there.  On the way down the walkway, I saw countless cautious lizards poking out, hoping for some warm sun beams.  These lounging lizards had several other friends who were a bit camera shy.

The lizards weren't the only ones hoping to catch a few rays.  The turtles were struggling to cover all of the rocks on the side of the spring... that is, until I came along and scared them all into the water.

I enjoyed the peacefulness of the far side of the spring for a little while.  I watched all of the turtles who were watching me and hoping I would go away.  I also saw a few birds.  A Spotted Sandpiper was probing his way along the spring bank, too far away for a clear photo.  Also a Kingfisher tormented me, like they always do.  They are a very noisy and conspicuous bird.  They are absolutely beautiful, blue birds with a bright white collar and a tall blue mo-hawk.  I always know when they are around, but they have a real talent for moving as soon as I get my camera focused on them.  I got one blurry image of one today that only looks like a Kingfisher because I have willed it to be so.
On the way back up, I met with my evening relief.  She and I played a game of pick-up-sticks in the picnic area and then moseyed back to the office.  On the way we found a big mess left behind by a park visitor on a picnic table.  A squirrel was apparently feasting on a mushroom until it got scared or full and ran away without clearing its place.

When our volunteer returned from lunch, we got to work on the tree project to finish it up.  We loaded a chainsaw and a long chain into the bucket of the tractor and drove it over to the trail.  I brought the pole saw and headed over there.  The volunteer lifted me up in the bucket of the tractor so that I could reach a branch sticking out of the limb we were pulling down.  I cut the branch so that it wouldn't catch on anything else as it fell.  Then I wrapped the chain around the limb and was lowered back to the ground.  We fastened the other end of the chain to the bucket of the tractor and pulled.  The limb dropped in slow motion, breaking lots of small branches on its roll to the ground.  It fell perfectly.  We cut it into three long sections and placed it on the side of the trail.  Mission accomplished!

While the tractor was out, we also filled in a few holes in our service road.  We came close to finishing up the gas box.  We got to a good stopping point though, because it was getting late and put all the tools away.  Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Multilocation Monday

It was a usual Monday morning.  I had all of the usual paperwork and had to run the usual errands.  I decided to add a few other errands in today to attempt to have one weekday this week where I stay at the park all day.  Last week was just too much driving to bear.   I wish I could just be everywhere at once, send out Amy clones who can run all of my errands......... what?  no, I wasn't day dreaming.  When I got to the office, I got to work on paperwork right away.  Soon, my coworkers arrived and we made a plan for the day.  When my paperwork was done, I went to check on the status of the water level.  The view from the cabin porch showed that the rocks in the middle were completely submerged.

At the spring run overlook, I was first disappointed to see all of the dark, tannic, river water flowing back into the spring run.  Then I noticed all of the black lines... the Gar!  More have arrived since I spotted the first one.  They are easier to see now that the tannic water is in the spring run.  The Gar and the Mullet both like to stay where the tannic and clear water mix.  I think that they feel protected in the darker water, but can see food or enemies approaching from the clear water.  Although, I don't know many predators of Gar.  They have intimidating mouths and very strong scales.
This view shows another vantage point where its easy to see the change in the water level.  Scroll down to see the same view from the past two days.  Its always amazing to me how fast the water rises, but it takes months to make this much progress when the water is going down.

With my To Do list in hand, along with my paperwork, etc.  I headed out of the park.  My first stop was Adams Tract.  There I picked up some things from the volunteers, said goodbye to them as their stay is over, and collected the pesky water sample that I have been trying to get to for a month.  I packed the water sample on ice in a cooler, and went on my way.  My next stop was the bank in Branford before a quick visit to the gas station and on to Ichetucknee.  I dropped off my paperwork at Ichetucknee, made some photocopies of paperwork and brochures, picked up more park passes to sell and an envelope from my box, chatted with the Biologist, the Administrative Assistant, and the Assistant Park Manager and headed back to the truck.  I made one last stop to pick up some lumber that my Manager picked up for me on her last trip to the hardware store.  I left Ichetucknee and made my way  to Lake City.  The drive is just a little quicker from Ichetucknee than from Troy, so it was a nice change of pace.  In Lake City, I stopped by one store to pick up mower blades for the finishing mower on the tractor that I ordered before Thanksgiving.  I made another stop at the Environmental Health Department to drop off the water sample that I collected.  Next, I headed to Lowes for a few, quick items, to Office Max for printer ink, and CVS for some poison ivy cream.  I noticed this morning that I have a spot of poison ivy reaction on my wrist.  I don't know how or when I got it, but I can't say that I'm surprised.  I have mentioned before that ticks seek me out, so does poison ivy.
With my Lake City errands complete, I had checked everything off of my To Do list!  That's always a great feeling.  I headed back to Troy and checked in with my coworkers.  Everything was clear of leaves, a project had made some progress, there were very few visitors, and they told me about a tree dilemma that we have.  Once my new purchases were put away and my desk was clear again, I headed out on the trail with our volunteer to see the tree.  It is a dilemma.  A tree broke in half during the stormy weather and the top half landed in an inconvenient way, right on the nature trail.  The top half is standing in a way that maneuvering it or cutting anything that its leaning on, will create a dangerous situation.  Not willing to drive to the hospital today, I opted to let the tree sit until tomorrow.  I am hoping that a good strong wind will appear sometime after dark and knock the tree to the ground.  If that doesn't happen, we will try some ideas that we have, very carefully, tomorrow.

When I got home, I got to do something that I love!  The envelope that I picked up at Ichetucknee this morning was full of thank-you letters from the kids who attended 6th Grade Day last month.  I really enjoy reading their notes and I even got some beautiful art work this year.  Its fun to hear what the kids liked and what stood out in their minds.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


There was frost on my windshield this morning, frost!  I thought that when I moved to Florida from Indiana (by way of Delaware) five years ago, I would be done with frost and ice.  In fact, I threw away my ice scraper.  Little did I know at the time, I had not moved far enough south to avoid the occasional frost.  I'm not a big fan of frost.  Fortunately, I noticed my icy windshield through the kitchen window before I was ready to leave and was able to start up the truck so that it was warm and thawed by the time I needed to go to work.

When I arrived at the park, I checked the rain gauge and unlocked the office before I headed out for a quick walk.  I wanted to check on the water level to make sure that it hadn't risen too much.  I unlocked the cabin and got some pictures of the craft project that I put out yesterday.  They are clear, glass ornaments.  Visitors can remove the top, collect acorns, holly leaves, berries, pine needles, pebbles, or any other small treasure that they find.  I also have some supplies out like glitter glue and paint pens to decorate the ornaments.  I had enough supplies for this year leftover from last year.  This ornament was the example that I made last year.  I think it help up well.

At the river, I saw that the water had come up some more, but not drastically.  I don't mind the water level changing, but I am not looking forward to another flood.  Hopefully this is all the extra water we will see.

The river was stunning, as usual on a foggy morning.  It was cold and windy, but it made the fog even more fun to watch.  I saw a few gar break the surface of the water to gulp air, but I wasn't able to catch them in action.  I did catch some cool fog movement though.  There will be more time for gar soon when they really start to gather at the spring.

I didn't know what the day would hold, but by the look of the sky, it seemed as though the rainy  weather was over.  That meant that it was a good day to leaf blow!  It had only been a couple of days since anyone had run the leaf blower, but it looked like it had been a month. All of the rain and wind had left piles of leaves everywhere.  I started at the walkway down to the spring, with my earphones and mp3s.  When that walkway was clear, I cleaned up the sidewalks around the restroom, the dive rinse station, and blew off the parking lot as well.  I didn't see any frogs or insects on the walkway, it was too cold for anything to be out.  It was almost too cold for me to be out.  There were a few birds fluttering about, but they didn't stick around long with the leaf blower roaring.  When I finished up, I headed back to the office to warm up.  I took care of the paperwork and then I heard a car pull in.  My coworker had arrived to go fishing on his day off.  We chatted for a few minutes before he nestled in to the spot on the river bank where he would spend the rest of his day.
As he headed for the river, there were cars pulling into the parking lot.  A group of divers had arrived.  I checked in the first two divers who informed me that two more were on the way.  I walked around the park and picked up a few more sticks until they arrived.  I checked them in as well and then retreated to my warm office.  As I approached the office, I saw that one of the pipe insulators had fallen to the ground.  I picked it up and saw the darkest, coldest looking Anole that I have ever seen.  Can you find it?  Its well hidden.

In the office, I kept myself busy on the project that I started working on yesterday to list the wildlife that I have identified in the park since I have been photographing and blogging.  I can see this list coming in handy for several different reasons, such as documenting what is in the park, having an accessible database of photos for future projects or displays, and as a reference.  I have only gotten through the first few months of the blog though and I already have a very long list.  I wish that I had been doing this as I went.  At one point, I took a break to take brochures to the rack by the restroom and scrub the algae off of the fish tank in the cabin.  I walked down to the river to see how the fishing was going.  My coworker had caught several Mullet already!  The fish were small, because the majority of the breeding adults have left for the Gulf, but they were biting better than I have seen them in a while.

On my way back up, I saw some more beautiful Lichen on a fallen limb.  The reddish color caught my eye first, but when I got closer, the pale green and hairy one was my favorite!

My adventuring over, I got back to work in the office.  In the afternoon, the park was still very quiet, but I did check in one more dive group and spoke to one other visitor.  I spent all the time in front of the computer that I could stand before I headed out in the early afternoon to use up a little more comp time.