Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Flies

I guess that time flies when you are having fun.  A lot of time has passed since I last blogged and that is regrettable.  I am a person who functions well with deadlines and if there is no deadline... well, there is little blogging.  I have still been taking photos.  I don't take pictures daily and I am really seeing a difference in what I end up with.  I am still catching some nice views every now and again though.  I have quite a few photos to share with you today and quite a few more, that I have to pass up and share another day.  I don't know that I can accurately catch you up on all that I have done in the past months, but here's my attempt.
I hit the 5 year mark with the Florida Park Service.  My park manager presented me with a certificate and my 5 year pin at our last personnel meeting.  Its hard to believe that it has been such a long time.  I am really looking forward to seeing what the next 5 bring.

I have been getting more comfortable in my new job.  I have passed the 6 month mark though, so I guess it isn't that new anymore.  I have had my first review with my park manager and have to start giving all the rangers their reviews... a big task!  I have participated in several prescribed fires since I blogged last and have done lots of paperwork.  Local schools are back in session and we have passed Labor Day so things are really slowing down at the park.  It was amazing how quickly that change happened, it was like someone flipped a switch and all of a sudden, we don't have overcrowding in the park on weekends anymore.  I am helping to coordinate more special events now that things are slowing down and the weather is thinking about cooling off a little.  We have adventure races and orienteering events in the park often.  They have excellent organizers and my responsibility is just to make sure that the facility is available, their paperwork is in order, and that there are no conflicts with other user groups.  There is also a fundraising horseback ride coming up that I will be helping to coordinate.
One event that I thoroughly enjoyed happened last weekend.  We celebrate Literacy Month every September in the Florida State Parks by offering special programs and free admission when you show your library card or donate a book.  The books fill our camper library so that campers in the campground can borrow a book while they are with us.  This year we also had a big event at Wekiwa.  It was put together by the Florida Literacy Coalition and included several other partners to make it a great event.  There were several stations that children and families could rotate through in the picnic area.  There were some terrific story tellers who highlighted enjoying nature and science through reading.  There was face painting and fitness, literacy programs, and even free books!!  Every child who participated left with at least one book that was new to them and theirs to keep.  I was impressed by one event sponsor/participant.  A group called Just 1 Book was there.  Their organization was started by a 10-year-old in Orlando.  She started the program in her school when she learned of the poverty in a neighbouring town.  She realized that if every child in her school donated "just 1 book," they could supply 763 books to other children who could really use the help.  Within months, thousands of books were donated and the program is continuing to grow.  Just 1 Book brought hundreds of books to the park and every child was permitted to choose one to take home.

I had my own station at the Literacy Event.  It was Reading With A Ranger.  It was nice to be an interpretive ranger again.  I read a book about a ladybug who was searching for a good home.  When we finished the book, we went on a little nature hike to see if we could find some bugs who had made their home in the park.  I was impressed with the kids and how long I could keep them interested in finding bugs.  I expected to only be able to keep them focused on the walk from the picnic area to the spring area.  It ended up that I took them on a half mile hike and we found spiders, ants, a beetle, some damselflies, dragonflies, and more.
Another great program was the Moon Rope.  Two wonderful storytellers read the book in Spanish and English and then, with the help of the kids and some excellent props, they acted out the story.  Each child (and even a park ranger) got to be a different animal.  They carried the colorful cut-out of the animal that they were representing.  They made it to the "moon" and found gummy worms inside!

Aside from special events, I am still just plugging away with the day to day responsibilities.  As I am more comfortable in my position, I am finding that I am taking more time to enjoy my surroundings.  Here are some of the great things that I have seen.  Rock Springs Run is a northern part of the park that I usually visit once a week.  I never know what I might see there.  Sometimes its Sandhill Cranes and sometimes a new flower will be in bloom.  The giant, pink blossom below is in the Hibiscus family.  These beautiful flowers were towering above my head and I had to walk through some thorny shrubs to get to them... well worth it, I think.  Once I was through the thorns, and photographed the Hibiscus, I started chasing a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly and followed it to a Buttonbush.

The main part of the park has shown a lot of wildlife and floral activity as well.  There have been quite a few spotted fawns that I have watched grow. 

Horsemint and several other flowers are in bloom in the beautiful butterfly garden which is located in the center of our parking loop near the picnic area.

One of our Park Biologists also pointed out to me an orchid that was in bloom.  When I heard the name, Giant Orchid, I expected to see a very large flower.  I was surprised to see that its stalk was very tall, but the blooms were tiny!  Its also called Wild Coco, which might be a little less misleading.

I have been working with the Friends of the Wekiva River group lately as well.  They are an organization that works to protect the Wekiva.  I serve as an advisor to them and attend their monthly meetings when I can.  They have monthly outings to enjoy the Wekiva River Basin, to socialize, and to attract new members to their organization.  Some of those outings happen on park property.  Last weekend, after work, I met with two of the board members to look at an area for a planned hike.  It was a property that I haven't had the chance to explore yet.  I had a wonderful time!  We saw some ponds as well as some hilly areas.  Those are Sandhill Cranes flying over the pond.

I saw my first Burrowing Owl which was amazing!!!  I didn't get a good photo of it though, that will have to be another day.  The tiny owls utilize Gopher Tortoise burrows and have the most striking yellow eyes!  I did find a Quail that was willing to be photographed.  I think this is the best image of a Quail that I have every captured.  They are normally quick to hide in the brush.

Well, I hope that will keep you for a little while and I will try to return again sooner rather than later to share some more.


Lorena said...

Happy five years, and it was good to "hear" from you!

Linda said...

Congratulations, Amy - I'm so glad someone got your photo on this happy milestone. Thanks so much for blogging once again. A delight to see you online. Looks like Literacy Day was quite a success. Wish I could have been there!

Understanding Alice said...

Interesting and as beautiful as ever :)
I thought you might like to know I have awarded you a stylish bloggers award:

William said...

Hey Amy, great blog post :) I see that you mentioned that you are having to do a lot of paperwork sometimes. I'm currently building a park ranger career resource so I was just wondering how much paper work is involved in park ranger positions. Does every position with the NPS require you to do large amounts of paperwork?

Ranger Amy said...

William, thanks for stopping by. I hope that you find some good things to put in your park ranger career resource. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions.
To answer your question, keep in mind that I am a FL State Park employee and National Parks do things a little differently and I can't speak for that organization. In the FL State Parks, there is maybe more paperwork than you would expect. It also varies from park to park and position to position. When I was a ranger at a small state park, I did everything. I would say that 20-25% of my position was administrative work. I had paperwork relating to daily revenue and visitation, selling passes and permits, etc. More and more communication and questions from visitors are coming via e-mail now, so there are always e-mails to catch up with. Aside from daily tabulations, there were other things to track. Any time I drove a vehicle, I had to record mileage. If there was an injury or accident in the park, there was an incident report to fill out. I documented rainfall, water level, exotic plant/animal treatment or removal and wildlife sightings. I reported my work hours and what activities I did. I compiled work hours of volunteers quarterly and signed off on other employees' hours. If I purchased anything, there was a form to fill out and if it was expensive, then I had to compile multiple quotes.
Some park rangers however, only do timesheets and vehicle logs. If they work in the ranger station, they have sales related work. It all depends on the specific position.
Currently, as an assistant park manager, I do A LOT more paperwork. It is especially paperwork intensive for me because there are two assistant park managers at my park because of the work load. One of us is a field supervisor and I am the administrative supervisor. We both do paperwork, but I have the bulk of it. I handle the paperwork for new employees and for anything that has to do with current employees. I answer 15-20 e-mails a day from coworkers, district staff, park visitors, businesses that we work with, etc. I order supplies and seek out vendors for larger projects. I still have to do my timesheet and vehicle logs, but I also have lots of timesheets to approve. It goes on and on.
I feel like I am working on my resume... am I hired yet?
William, I hope this is helpful and I hope you will contact me if you would like more info.

William Anderson said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question so thoroughly! I'm thinking of creating a frequently asked question section on my site, and I would love to feature some of your answer to my question on that page. Would that be allright with you? I'll link to your blog and quote you so they can know it's coming from someone who is actually working as a ranger. And don't worry I'm trying to be a resource for both state and national park rangers, as well as related positions in the parks. I'll definitely have some more questions for you in the future, thanks again!