Friday, April 16, 2010

Fox Squirrel Day!!

Today was a nice day.  It started out beautiful and very foggy.  We had our morning meeting at the shop and then I headed out to check on the Ranger Academy.  They were ready to start class and I got the very short list of problems.  They needed more fire wood and a light bulb.  I also looked over the youth camp area to see if there was anything that needed attention.  I straightened up around the outside of the dining hall a little and then headed down to the office.  While I was out and about in the park, I took a few photos of the fog and wished that I had time for more.  The spiderwebs were heavy with dew and EVERYWHERE!

I stopped by the ranger station on my way back to the office and learned that their copy of the operations manual was very out of date.  While I was at the office, I printed the chapters that had been updated since the existing copy had been made.  I also checked my e-mail and responded to the e-mails that needed attention.  My new fire boots that were ordered last week came in.  I decided to wear them right away to try to break them in before I have to spend 8 hours stomping around in the woods on a burn.  I'm glad that I did.  Just the walking that I did today very nearly caused blisters.  The boots are tall, leather lace-up boots.  The soles are Vibram, so they are more resistant to hot embers on the ground.  They have to be tall to make sure that no burning embers land in your socks, and the all leather sides offer more protection than most shoes.  The tall, stiff leather is hard to break in.  I can't believe that I didn't take a photo of them!  Here is a link to what I found when I Googled, looking for my boots.  I stomped around the office like I was wearing ski boots, most of the morning.
I was expecting a septic company and the county health inspector to arrive at 11:00 to pump the grease trap at the dining hall.  At 10:00, I got a call on the radio that the septic company had arrived.  I met them at the ranger station and led them to the area that needed attention and then had the chance to talk to them.  They had finished their last job early and tried to reach the health inspector to notify him that they would be early.  They weren't able to get a hold of him though, so I hung out with the septic guys for an hour.  The health inspector wanted to be present when the trap was pumped so that he could inspect it.  I answered a lot of the questions about the park that the septic guys had and we sat and watched some Fox Squirrels for a while.  It was really kind of cool.  After watching them for about 20 minutes, we decided that there were a total of four of them.  They were playful with each other and about the same size and coloration, so I am guessing that they were siblings.  They really camouflage with the trees and the Spanish Moss very well.  Do you see all three of the squirrels in the photo below?

When the health inspector finally arrived, we all watched the grease get sucked into the truck.  It was pretty gross and pretty smelly.  Now I know what the entire grease trap looks like and exactly how it operates.  I now officially know far more than I ever wanted to about grease traps.

That was pretty gross wasn't it?  Here is one more Fox Squirrel photo so that the grease trap is not the last photo that lingers with you when you are done reading the blog.

The rest of my day was much less exciting, thankfully.  I visited the campground once to check on the WiFi set up.  A visitor had reported that it wasn't working.  I turned the system on and off and removed one of the air cards and replaced it and had it up again in no time.  I also replaced some of our signage to encourage people to participate in our survey about the WiFi connection.  I also got caught up with my coworker on needs for the weekend and current events in the park.  It was unusual, but I went home on time and didn't get any calls after I was home.  It was great!

Thought of the Day #69
Sherman's Fox Squirrels are a Species of Special Concern in Florida.  Their numbers are declining because of habitat loss or degradation.  They are much picker about the places that they live than the average Grey Squirrel.  The Fox Squirrel prefers to nest very high up in pine trees.  When an area that is predominately pine is not permitted to burn on a regular cycle, hardwoods move in and become the dominate species.  When this happens, the Fox Squirrels are forced out to other areas.  In addition, Longleaf Pine, specifically is a favorite food of the Fox Squirrel.  Many natural stands of Longleaf Pines have been harvested in the past and replaced with faster growing, less desireable pines.  The fact that there are so many Fox Squirrels in the park is a great compliment to the land management in this park.  The regular cycles of prescribed fire are keeping these unique creatures happy at Wekiwa.


Anonymous said...

Ranger Amy- I know you have done a few series of photos of the Where's the critter type. Sometime could you try to link them together. I would like to use your nature photos for a vision/ scanning lesson. All my patients here about your park and this way they could get to see it as well. Im sure that this could be a fun activity for scout groups and school kids as well.

Linda said...

Good idea, Jen! Personally, I can't wait to tell my friends that I have a daughter stomping around in "Hellfire Wildland" boots. Put that in your fashion pipe and smoke it!

Ranger Amy said...

That IS a good idea, Jen. I will work on that soon. Mom, you are silly.