Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lets Go Birding In The Rain

I was excited for my first day back at work now that it has warmed up.  At last, I would be able to walk around outside without freezing.  I wouldn't need to bundle up each time I left the office.  I could greet park visitors as they came in and interpret park resources without getting too cold to hold a conversation.  I could get outside projects done comfortably... It rained... all day... no park visitors.  So far, 2010 has been the year that Florida was NOT the Sunshine State.
It was nice to not need a hat, scarf, and mittens every time I walked outside today.  I still needed a coat because it was cool and rainy, but I really don't mind the rain much.  It just would have been better with sunshine.  When I opened the park, it was just a light rain.  I found a little Ladybug on the US flag.  More appropriately, it was a Lady Beetle as it is in the beetle family, not the true bug family.  Whatever you want to call it though, I'm sure that it was wishing that I had left the flags in the box this morning.

After I got to the office and turned on the computer, the rain let up for a little while.  There was drizzle, but I was still able to get my camera out long enough to take a picture without it being too wet.  I went for a walk and I was not the only one enjoying the break in the weather.  There were so many birds out and they didn't let me bother their activity.  I was amazed that I was able to get so close to them today before they flew away.  I still didn't manage to get many good shots of birds today, but more on that later.  I headed down to the river area after opening up the cabin.  I can really see a difference in the water level.  I'm so glad that its going down quickly.  I noticed that we had a visitor at some point.  A tree near the spring had chew marks from a Beaver.  I have seen a Beaver in the spring once or twice before, but always during a flood and they never stayed long.  This is the first time that I have found chew marks here at Troy.  It was probably just feeding on the inner bark of this tree rather than trying to cut it down.

I enjoyed the view of the river for a moment before I headed over to the spring.  As I made my way down the walkway, I was able to inch up on a couple of birds to catch their picture.  The first was a very striking male Cardinal who had been opening his mouth wide and trying to devour as many seeds from the nearby plants as possible until I came along.

He stared at me for a few moments and when he realized that he would not have any privacy for his meal, he flew off.  When I followed his flight with my eyes, I spotted another bird at the end of the path.  It was a Phoebe.  I inched a little closer, but it had far less patience with me than the Cardinal did.

When I made it to the spring dock I could see a couple of steps down to the water and the rocks in front of the dock were almost out of the water.  When the rocks are out of the water again, I will start taking Secchi Disk readings again to see when we can re-open the spring!

On my way back up the walkway, I spotted a couple of Morning Earthstar.  I have seen so many of them this year.  I have never noticed them before.  I wonder if there are more this year for some reason or if I am just noticing more things because of my photos for the blog.  If only I had been doing this for the last three years...

As I headed back to the office to do the paperwork, I followed a few more birds and was finally able to get a shot of one of the many Pine Warblers scampering around the ground in the picnic area.

When I got back to the office, I spent the rest of the morning on paperwork and e-mails.  I also transferred some of my photo files from the past couple of months to the park computer for future records.  After lunch, I headed over to Adams Tract to deliver some mail, pick up some garbage, and add more chlorine to the water treatment system.  The constant dripping of the faucets over the last freezing weeks has used up more chlorine than usual.  It was raining harder than it had been in the morning so my camera stayed in the truck.  Sorry, no photos.  After visiting with the volunteers for a little while, I headed back to Troy and checked in with my evening relief before heading home for the day.

******Special Bonus Feature******

I usually only post photos that document my job or are visually pleasing.  I am only human though.  For every nice photo that you see, there are at least three more that I would rather that no one ever saw.  Today, there were so many birds and so many bad photos.  I wanted to share all of the birds with you, but some of them just would not cooperate.  Today, I will share with you Rangervision Outtakes:
These two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were not in the right light.  Can you even find the second one?

This is a Black-and-white Warbler....'s rear end.
"I can't see you, you can't see me.  Just stay very still, she'll go away."
A dark and blurry Downy Woodpecker.
Last but not least, a smudge of a Pine Warbler.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Frozen Leftovers

I won't bore you with the details of day off number two.  Here are some yet unseen images from last week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Disc Day

Today was the first day of my weekend and it was warm enough to enjoy being outside.  We decided to try out a disc golf course that we just heard about in Ocala.  We made a full day of it by stopping to look for a geocache along the way.  If you are not familiar with geocaching, check out the geocaching webpage.  In a nutshell, geocaching is a treasure hunt with a GPS device.  I visited the geocaching webpage and found caches that were hidden along our planned route.  I uploaded some of those locations to my GPS device and when we got close, we parked and looked for the cache.  It took us to a beautiful spot that we drive by often, but have never stopped to enjoy.

The cache was well hidden, there were several obviously good hiding spots that we checked, but they were distracting us from the real spot.  I finally spotted the container just as we were discussing giving up.  We didn't have any prizes to leave in the container, so we didn't take the prizes that were there.  We did sign our names on the visitor's log and returned the container to its hiding spot.

We also stopped in Gainesville, along the way, to look at a few sporting goods stores that sell discs.  We each picked out a couple of new discs to add to our collection.

Once we got close to where the disc golf course was supposed to be, we had to use every bit of extra navigational power we had to find the course.  The directions that I had copied down last night from information online was night quite good enough.  Between the GPS and the internet and navigational capabilities on our phones, we did end up finding the course.  It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  The park ranger needed every piece of technology in her possession to find a park.  Oh well, we enjoyed it.  The course was different and more challenging.  There were hills and changes in elevation, things that we missed from disc golf courses up north.  It really was a beautiful course.  I can't wait to see it in other seasons.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Quick 'Friday'

Today was 'Friday' for me.  Wednesday is the end of my work week as I have Thursday and Friday off.  I am looking forward to Thursday, not just because its my day off, but also because its supposed to start warming up again!  I am anxious to thaw out, turn off the dripping faucets, and have visitors coming to the park again.  My day flew by today because I had several things to do.  I didn't want to stay late on 'Friday,' so I kept up a steady pace to get done on time.  I didn't even take the time to take my morning walk.  I did have some leftover photos from yesterday morning that I can share though.  I don't want you all to miss out on frost photos, hopefully this will be the end of Frosty Florida.

While I did the paperwork this morning, I talked to my coworkers about a plan for the day.  They checked over the park and reattached some boards on the spring dock that were loosened by the flood water.  I headed over to Ichetucknee to get water fountain parts to repair the issue that I found yesterday.  When I returned with the parts, my coworkers helped while I replaced them.  Aside from one hose that had to be reattached twice, all went smoothly and the water fountains are back in operation.  Our next task was to head over to Adams Tract with the chainsaw to get the last few big pieces of the three dead trees cut up and split.  Our awesome volunteers had talked nicely to the grumpy old log splitter and gotten through all of the pieces that were small enough to split.  On our way there, we saw a couple of birds that caught our attention.  One was close enough to try to photograph so I got a couple of pictures of it.  They were Killdeer.  Killdeer are really funny birds, they nest on the ground and have an unusual way of defending their nests.  They will walk away from their nest and pretend to be hurt with their wings bent as though they are broken.  This makes them look like easy prey so they can lead a predator away from their nest.

While we were at Adams Tract, we adjusted the idle on the log splitter to make it not quite as grumpy.  We were able to get another truckload of split wood added to the stack.  Nothing is left of the three trees aside from one big stump piece that eluded us once again.  Our chainsaw decided to quit before we were ready.  We also had planned to take the log splitter back to the park that it belongs to, but the hitch on my truck had been switched out without my knowledge, so we were not able to do that.  It worked out best that way though because just as we were ready to leave Adams Tract, I found out that someone from our district office was on his way to Troy to go through our property inventory.  We got back in time to eat lunch before his arrival.  It didn't take long to walk around the park and verify property numbers on our tractors, mowers, large equipment, and buildings.  Everything was as it should be.  When he left, I joined my coworkers near the river to take in the scenery a bit before I headed home.  The turtles were again enjoying the sun.  This pile up reminds me of Yertle The Turtle.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scenery, Sprayers, and Stingers

Today was pretty much a mirror image of yesterday.  It was cold and foggy.  I performed the usual morning rituals and headed out for a walk.  I opened the cabin and walked towards the river.  Its nice to see this view in the winter.  The vegetation is not as dense as it is in the summer, and you can see so much of the frosty flood plain and the foggy river.  The trail is hard to see, but it is still holding up nicely.  Not a single wood chip has strayed from the path.

I enjoyed the mist over the water from every angle.

The birds were active this morning.  I caught this Red-shouldered Hawk trying to get warm in the rising sun.  Its feathers are so ruffled and fluffed up to keep a thick layer of warm air near its body.  The next photo was a Red-bellied Woodpecker who flew right over my head.  I watched it land on the tree above me and zoomed my camera in.  It was only there for a brief moment.  It pecked the tree a couple of times and then found what it was looking for.  If you look closely, you can see its prize, a grub or something in its beak.

When I got back to the office, I had some new things to add to my desk.  My mom sent me some fun new accessories.  I love my frog stapler!  The little bird holds paperclips and scolds anyone who tries to take them.  It cheeps when it is bumped.  I put them to use right away as I took care of the daily paperwork.  I also had to process paperwork for a package that I received yesterday.  I had ordered supplies for the water testing at Adams Tract.

Once I had warmed up and accomplished all that I had to do in the office, I decided to get to work on the remaining items that the well inspector had pointed out.  I headed over there with the tools that I expected to need and then had to return to the shop for the tools that I really needed.  I returned by walking in front of the restrooms and I found a new problem that needed attention first.  The water fountains were leaking water all over the place.  I turned off the water supply and continued on my way to the shop for even more tools.  I returned with a coworker who was there for moral support.  She cheered me on while I was grumpy towards the water fountains.  After removing the front covers, I didn't see any major problems.  It was very wet, but nothing had gaping holes or anything.  I was also glad to see that most of the internal workings were well insulated.  We turned the water back on and I found the leaks.  A thick but intricate PVC piece had split at its seems sending fine sprays of water in every direction.

I removed the piece and headed to the office.  With the help of the manual and the internet, I was able to isolate that I needed a valve-solenoid and even found its part numbers.  I called a plumbing supplier who went to great lengths to locate the part for me, but while we were doing that, I remembered that I could get the parts from another set of fountains that were not being used at another park.  I thanked her profusely and saved the park $88.  I will retrieve the parts tomorrow.  With that task handled, I went back to my issue at the well.  I tightened the bolts on the well cap, as requested.

Once my projects were cleaned up and tools put away, I started my evening relief on a filing project and headed home.  My day outside wasn't over yet though.  My boyfriend and I went out to throw our discs around a little bit.  We stumbled upon something neat at the end of the driveway, just into the woods.  Likely a  raccoon, had dug up a Yellow Jacket nest.  It would have removed each layer of the nest and scooped out the Yellow Jackets to eat them.  It either got full or was scared off because there were still a few frozen and defenseless Yellow Jackets at the bottom of the hole.  I am glad that we discovered this nest in the winter and not with a stray disc in the summer time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Muddy Monday

It was, yet another cold morning here in north central Florida!   It was a beautiful morning though.  The sun was shining and making all of the frost sparkle.  It was also very foggy, which I love.  I made my drive around the park and opened the gate.  I drove through the barn area and saw that the faucets were still flowing.  When I arrived at the office, I didn't even unlock the door.  It was still early and foggy so I headed over to the cabin and then down to the river.  The rising sun paints so many colors onto the spring.  The usual cabin porch view was nice this morning.  I was surprised to see how much the river had dropped again.

Down at the river, there were more frosty and foggy views.

After I took care of paperwork and my coworkers helped me to unload some chairs from my truck and return them to the cabin.  We took a look at the spring dock from the cabin window and it looked like it was out of the water or at least close.  We walked down to the dock together and saw that the water really was off of the dock.  It was JUST below the top surface of the deck.  It had left a thick layer of muddy silt remaining on the surface, but it was still damp so it would be easier to clean.

I snapped a couple more photos of the remaining fog too.

I ran my usual Monday errands and talked to my coworkers at Ichetucknee.  When I returned, my coworkers at Troy had finished cleaning off the spring dock.  It looked great. 

It really feels like a clear spring is not too far away.  Warmer weather is right around the corner as well.  We are supposed to see gradually higher temperatures starting on Thursday.  I am looking forward to it and I think the turtles are too.  They were grateful for a little sunshine this afternoon.  They worked hard to climb up on the steep bank to catch some warming sun rays.  I'm sure they are ready for warm weather and their usual perches to be out of the water.  The turtles and I want the same things.
How many turtles do you see in this photo?  (Remember that you can click the photo and enlarge it in flicker.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I didn't think it could get any colder.  I am in Florida after all.  It did.  Even with the faucets dripping, the waterline at the barn froze.  When I made my drive around the park this morning, I saw that none of the barn faucets were dripping anymore.  There was no damage done, when I went back to check in the afternoon, the drip flow had resumed.  I turned them all up to more of a steady flow than a drip.  I spent another day inside, busying myself with paperwork and printing sunset/sunrise time calendars and any other little inside task I could find.  I am really looking forward to Thursday when we are supposed to thaw out again for a day or two.  It would also be really nice if one of the parks that I am associated with would do a prescribed burn.  I would really enjoy a nice big fire to warm me up.  It was another very quiet day at the park and I left as soon as my relief arrived.  I don't have much to tell you today, but here are the icy photos that I took this morning.  I love the way my new macro lens made the ice crystals look like sugar.

The water has crept back a little more.  I also noticed that the water still on the dock is clear.  That's good news, the spring is trying to push out the tannic water.