Saturday, February 27, 2010


For some reason, looking forward to my new job also has me looking back.  It has been 4 1/2 years since I started with Florida State Parks at Ichetucknee Springs.  I have really seen, done, and learned a lot.  I wish I had started this blog sooner, it has become such a nice record of events.  My Great Dane, Dozer, has really enjoyed growing up in a State Park.  The squirrels and rabbits tease him through the windows of the house, but he is still happy because there is always a stick to chew on.
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I have had some great experiences so far at Ichetucknee Springs and Troy Springs.  I am looking forward to seeing what is next for me at Wekiwa Springs.  I have had some great conversations.  I have seen some light bulbs go on.  I have watched kids have the times of their lives, and some adults too.  I have seen cuts and bruises, and the messiest of restrooms.  I have seen Manatees, Eagles, Gopher Tortoises, Deer, Lizards, Hawks, Limpkin, Sturgeon, Black Widow Spiders, Snakes, Butterflies, and Gar and had time to watch and appreciate them.  (I can't wait to add Black Bear to that list when I get to Wekiwa.)  I have made some interpretive nature trails and given many interpretive programs.  I have participated in somewhere around 10 prescribed burns and killed countless exotic plants.  I have gone to lots of trainings and submitted hundreds of daily reports.  I have answered the same questions thousands of times.  I have chainsawed and mowed and painted and swept.  I have had a great time!  I know that my new position as an Assistant Park Manager will hold all of this and more.
So do you have any questions?  What do you want to know about the new park?  I'll be honest, I may not be able to answer all of your questions about the new park, but I will keep them in mind as I get to know Wekiwa.  Do you have any questions about the job changing process or about Troy Springs?  What's on your mind?  Let me know in the comments section.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Calm Before The Storm

My life is about to go through some drastic changes in the coming two weeks.  I am a little nervous about everything coming together in a short amount of time with a house move and a big job move.  I hope it all happens gracefully and easily, but I know that is wishful thinking.  I was off today and only had a couple of work calls and one congratulatory work call.  I ran some errands and even fit in some disc golf.  I am taking a relaxing, peaceful, fun weekend to myself before the great upheaval.  I am staying up late tonight to welcome in some friends and together, we will head to St. Petersburg to see one of our favorite musician perform.  I am looking forward to not thinking about work for the next 24 hours and then diving head first into packing, leaving information for my coworkers and my replacement, and getting to know my new park.
Here are some photos of the course that we played today.  It is a little, privately owned 9-hole course.  A business in town paid for the construction and maintains the course.  I assume that it was put there for employees, but they welcome anyone on the course.  It is a nice, small, quick course.  It was the perfect break between errands today.  We were there as the sun was beginning to set and it was beautiful.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big News!

It is finally official.  I am the newest Assistant Park Manager at Wekiwa Springs State Park.  You may remember in January, I went to another park and went to an interview.  They liked me!  I am looking forward to the change and the new things that I will learn.  This is a much larger park.  Troy has 80 acres and Wekiwa has 42,000.  The park has camping and a youth camp area as well as extensive hiking trails and river access for canoeing and kayaking.  There is a beautiful spring and some amazing natural areas.  Florida Black Bears inhabit the park as well as many other unique Florida creatures.  There will be so many more opportunities for me at this new park.  I am grateful for the experiences that I have had at Ichetucknee and Troy.  I have learned so much at these two parks, but I am ready to learn more.
My first day will be March 15.  I have to move into my new residence and get to know my new park.  I also have to leave information for the person who takes my place.  There is so much to know.  It is a little bit intimidating to have so many things changing at once, but it is also exciting.  Don't worry about the blog.  I have 115 days left in my intended year and I will bring you all along to my next position.
Here are some more of the photos that I took on the day of my interview at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Off the List

Today was my last work day for the week, so it was a day for finishing projects.  I headed straight to the office this morning after my drive around the park.  I talked to my coworkers and got them started on some projects and I settled in for office work.  I got the daily paperwork done and then sent several e-mails in continuation of several e-mails sent yesterday to get all of the information compiled for a historic form regarding the cabin to be submitted to the Division of Historical Resources.  I finished up that project and then headed out to take photos of the Log Cabin Visitor Center to add to the report.  I took photos of each side of the building, a few shots inside, and one of the crawlspace.  Some of them turned out nicely, here are the good ones.

I also took a photo from the porch of the spring.  The water is going down, but its going down slowly.  We finally made it below 24 feet today.  Compare the photo below to the photo from last Thursday when we were at 24.79 feet.  You can really see the difference if you look at the length of the white water gauge in the water.

I spent most of the day in the office finishing up my time sheet, the historic structure form, and several other partially finished projects that were on my to-do list.  It felt good to get it all done, but I was longing to be outside.  It helped that it was getting colder and cloudier as the day progressed, but I still wanted to be outside.  On one escape from the office, I found this cocoon on the ground.  It appears that its former owner was done with it.  I'm sure that it exited through the large hole in the top.  A Polyphemus Moth utilized this cocoon when it pupated into a moth.  It likely made its silk cocoon high in the safety of an Oak tree.  It was probably attached to a small branch and several leaves.  You can see the imprint of a leaf on the top of the cocoon.  I see these cocoons relatively often.

When my day was almost over, I headed out to the barn with an arm load of toilet paper and paper towels.  We will have scouts camping at the barn this weekend and I wanted to make sure that everything was all set for them.  My coworkers had taken some picnic tables out there earlier in the day.  I left a welcome message on the dry erase board for them and stocked the restroom.  I also dripped all the faucets before I left to make sure that they don't freeze when we hit the 20's again tonight.  I headed home but decided to get some yard work done.  When I finally went in, I found that the power was off.  The incoming storm must have caused some line damage somewhere.  Shortly after the power came back on, I got a call from a very important person.  He gave me some good news that I will likely be able to share with you tomorrow... stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Goodbye Honeysuckle

I planned to spend the majority of my day in the office today, finishing up some projects that I have been trying to get to.  I found out before I left home this morning, that someone from the District office was available to help me remove some exotic plants.  I didn't mind the change of plans.  When I left my house, my yard was already pretty lively.  There were Squirrels and birds everywhere.  There were even a few Deer.  The Deer pictured below and the Robin in the foreground just watched while I got into my truck and pulled away. 

I opened the park and got my paperwork done so that I would be ready to head out and kill plants when  the woman from the district office arrived.  When the paperwork was done, I headed out to open up the visitor center.   As I got close to the building, I was startled by a Red-shouldered Hawk that was perched right above me.  I took a couple of photos, but the lighting was terrible as it was still a little dark and cloudy early this morning.  Little did I know at the time, there would be more to see.  The Hawk in front of me started shrieking.  Then another Hawk behind me started calling.  They bellowed back and forth and then the Hawk in front of me took flight.  She picked up a claw full of Spanish Moss and landed on another branch.  I looked back at the other Hawk and saw him flying over as well.  I recognized that Hawk as one that has been around as long as I have been at Troy.  It has a distinctive notch missing from a section of his wing.  He was dubbed 'Ole V-wing' years ago.  V-wing landed on the same branch as the Hawk with Moss in her talon.  The two shared a moment together and then they parted ways, with the one still carrying the Spanish Moss.  I'm sure she left to work on a nest.  The Hawks were very noisy all day.  I don't know if they were talking to each other or defending their territory from others.

When my coworker for the day arrived, she gave me a much-needed refresher on the different herbicides that we have, their best uses, and the mixing of the different chemicals.  Our target for the day was Japanese Honeysuckle.  I have mentioned it once before on the blog when I noticed its leaves curling in the freezing weather.  The sneaky Honeysuckle vines had woven themselves densely through a large patch near the restrooms.

The herbicide that we used today is not harmful to people, fish, or wildlife, but it effectively kills leafy plants.  We mixed the herbicide with a surfactant that spreads the chemicals across and into the leaves the same way that soap helps to clean your hands.  Another additive was a blue dye that helped us see what had been sprayed and what we still had to do.  The blue color was mostly gone when the chemical dried.  While we were spraying the vines, we found a few that were very large.  They were so large that the herbicide we were using would not have been very effective.  We returned later to cut the large vines and spray the stump directly with a stronger chemical that will work into its woody stem.  Within the next month, all of the leaves that were sprayed will start to dye.  I will have to go back again in a month or two to retreat the more resistant spots or any new growth.  It will be a long time before the Honeysuckle is completely gone from the park, but with each treatment, more native plants will be able to thrive.

The exotic plant treatment took up the majority of my day.  I did do some e-mailing and made a little progress on the project that I WILL finish tomorrow.  I headed home with a bit of a sinus headache from all of the tree pollen.  I'm still glad that spring is coming.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Monday

The day started out warm and pleasant.  It was a little cloudy and there was some rain in the forecast, but it looked like it could sneak by us to the north without soaking us.  There was no sneaking.  I went home at the end of the day a little drippy still.  It was OK though, most of my day was spent running errands and going from place to place as I usually do on Mondays.  I started with paperwork first thing in the morning.  I also talked to my coworkers before they left to get started on their projects for the day.
I got out to take a quick walk before I headed out of the park.  I saw another sign of spring!  The Japanese Magnolias have such big, bright flowers that are ready to burst.  These small trees are not native to Florida and normally, we try to restore the park to its native vegetation.  While these trees are exotic because they are not naturally found in Florida, they are not invasive which is the biggest worry with exotic plants.  The Japanese Magnolia is not very good at competing with other tree species in the park.  We don't have to worry about it one day spreading to cover the whole park.  These trees can also be part of a Cultural Resource in the park.  They were planted right behind the cabin and do as much to tell the story of the people who have lived here as the cabin does.  So, I have declared a truce with the two Japanese Magnolia trees by the cabin.  They can stay as long as they never decide to become invasive and I will enjoy their beautiful flowers.

I went to town and made my stop at the bank before heading to Ichetucknee.  At Ichey, I dropped off my paperwork and made some copies.  The printer at Troy is out of ink and procurement of ink has been difficult lately.  With my copies made and my errands there complete, I headed out to the other side of Ichetucknee to see the areas that we burned last week.  I never took the time to drive the full way around the burn zone before I left last Wednesday, so it was nice to see how well the fire carried through.  I was surprised to see one log still burning.  It was no where near any unburned fuel so it was not a problem to have it still burning.  It was neat to see how the lower section of the tree had burned so completely into a pile of ash.  Maybe the rest of the tree will look the same way this time next week.

I was drawn to the marks and charring on the leaves of this Redbay.  This tree is not very tolerant of fire, however the fire does help with seed germination.  The tree didn't like it much, but it made it through our fire just fine.

When I left Ichetucknee, it was my plan to head to Adams Tract next to visit with our volunteers there.  The rain started just as I was getting on the road.  In the 20 miles between Ichetucknee and Troy (on one road) I drove through pouring rain, drizzle, light rain, no rain and more rain.  I changed my mind several times as to weather I would go to Adams Tract today or another day.  I finally ended up just going.  When I had to get out of the truck to open the gate, I got soaked.  It was raining just as hard as it could be raining.  I had a good visit with the volunteers though and everything is going well there.  While the rain was light, I headed back to Troy.  I put away my paperwork and checked in with my coworkers and headed home to dry out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunny Sunday

Today was another beautiful day.  It was even warmer than it was yesterday.  I put up the flags, opened the gate, and drove through the park.  Everything still looked great.  I did notice that the entrance station was out of brochures and we were starting to get low on honor envelopes.  I went to the office and spent some time on the paperwork.  I also did some research on a project that I am working on.  When I finished up in the office, I headed out for a drive.  I took brochures and honor envelopes to the entrance, but I also spent some time walking in the woods.  I startled our regular group of deer.  They were napping in the forest.  They startled me too.  I was in that area because I had been there Thursday with our district biologist and found a yellow-flowering vine that was about to bloom.  I was hoping that it had opened, but it hasn't yet.  It is called Yellow Jessamine.  I will have to check it again in a few more days.

I drove by the barn and noticed that the lizards had begun to emerge again.  They were soaking in the warming sun rays, just like me.  This fence lizard looked so happy to be warm.

In the woods, I saw a VERY large Palmetto.  It was beginning to grow a tall stalk in the middle.  Its individual palm fronds were so big that they each folded in the middle instead of making a flat, rigid fan shape.

The best discovery while I was out was the first Wild Plum that I saw in bloom this year.  By next month, the park will be covered with the tiny white blossoms.  The bees found this early bloomer first and were really enjoying it.  The flowers have such interesting structures.  This tree will produce tiny plums later this year.  They are about the size of grapes and are so so bitter.  The first photo is with my camera's normal macro setting.  The last two are with the 10X macro lens as well.

It was another half day for me.  I have almost used up my overtime hours.