Good News...Sort Of

Found my camera, but it is miffed at me. I was able to download the photos I had taken, but when I try to take new pictures it tells me to turn the camera off and then on again. Perhaps it is angry because it fell off my truck and I neglected to notice it. Or maybe it did not appreciate spending the night alone in the swamp with the bears.

Think if I brought it flowers...?


Woe is Me

I am a trifle put-out at the moment. Seems I left my camera at work. Wouldn't be a problem for most people, you say? True, but most people don't work in a 14,344 acre swamp.

Actually, maybe it's not all that bad. I can narrow the possible places it could be down to about 15 miles of road - or at least what we call road :) It could be worse, I could have lost it in the mile and a half of dense undergrowth I cut my way through today. But I know I didn't lose it there, I had it when I got back to the truck. Probably set it on the toolbox or siderail of the truck. Bummer.

Oh well, I'll see if I can find it tomorrow morning -- if it doesn't rain. Like I said, woe is me.


Who's Poo Are You?

This photo was taken in my "work" swamp, so if you read my other blog then you can probably figure this one out pretty easily. It was actually more purple in color than the photo shows and I found it in the middle of the road.
So, if scat could talk, what would this one tell you?


Walking on Sunday

Sunday mornings mean water-testing followed by wandering. This morning we opted to wander along a section of trail we seldom visit. Why would two people who work in the woods all week choose to spend their time off wandering in the woods? Because it's what we love to do, particularly together, on our own time. While we both enjoy introducing nature to those who spend most of their time insulated from it, sometimes it's nice just to walk along and share the wonder with each other. We find everything interesting and that sometimes annoys others :-)

Below are three of the 105 pictures I took this morning - it was a slow day image-wise.

Pine Warbler, Dendroica pinus, in an oak tree

Female Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens

Crab spider, most likely Misumena vatia, but I'm not at all certain...


For those of you who need a break from spiders, horseflies, and stinging caterpillars, I offer a Southern Pearly-eye (Enodia portlandia).

Now, is that better Mr. B?


One of many, many, many spiders I ran into today. One source tells us that in the early fall there are over 2 million spiders per acre of meadow. Isn't that awesome?

It's the first day of autumn, cut loose! (seeds of Common Milkweed)


Horsefly, Waiting

Sorta makes you want to stay inside the truck...especially when it starts rubbing its not so little legs together in anticipation :)


A True Touch-Me-Not

If you are ever out wandering around and you happen upon a furry looking...uh, thing, that appears to be munching out on the leaves of a hardwood tree or shrub, do yourself a favor and DO NOT TOUCH IT.

Sure, it's cute. Sure, it looks soft and furry. But remember what I said: DO NOT TOUCH IT!

What you don't see beneath that furry little exterior are the sharp, hollow spines attached to little poison glands in the body. Break one of those hidden spines and you'll know it - instantly. It will burn and hurt. In some very sensitive individuals it can cause severe reactions. And it doesn't take much to break one of the spines. Years ago one of these critters fell out of a tree and brushed against Mr. Swamp's arm. He described the sensation as like having acid sprayed on him.

So what is this little marvel? It is one of the stinging caterpillars (also called urticating caterpillars).

Fuzzy wuzzy with a punch. Do NOT touch!!

Megalopyge operularis - Puss Caterpillar, the larval form of the Southern Flannel Moth.


A Matter of Mood

This morning the creek was in a reflective, yet realistic mood.

A week ago today she felt a bit more impressionistic.


Tis the Season for Baby Reptiles

When I'm out walking in the late summer and early fall I try to pay particular attention to where I step. Baby snakes, baby turtles, and baby lizards seem to be just about everywhere. I would be heartbroken if my big ole workboot caused the untimely demise of any one of them. Baby reptiles have a hard enough time making it to adulthood -- they are tasty little morsels for a variety of other animals.

A worm snake hatchling, Carphophis amoenus. Apparently he hasn't learned yet that he is supposed to be "highly secretive." He was wiggling his way across the trail yesterday afternoon. I scooped him up to get a closer look and then put him back down so he could go about the business of life - which for a worm snake happens to be eating earthworms and other creepy crawlies.
This baby was about 4 inches long. Adult worm snakes range in size from about 7.5 to a whopping 12.5 inches. Most of the ones I have seen have been about 8 to 9 inches.

A baby eastern fence lizard, Sceloporus undulatus. Despite being less than 1.75 inches long, this lizard was king of his cement bumper.
We've been seeing an increase in fence lizard populations this past year. When Hurricane Isabel blew through in 2003 she knocked down thousands of trees, creating the open areas with plenty of sunlight that fence lizards find so appealing. It has been interesting to observe the shift in plant and animal species following such a major weather event -- but I do miss the mature beech forest that Isabel flattened, exactly two years ago today.


All Clear

O*p*h*e*l*i*a, that outrageously slow moving hurricane, is finally leaving our coast. We received little effect here in the swamp-- a few bouts of gusty winds, heavy clouds that wouldn't spill their rain, and oppressive humidity were our only indicators that a storm was out there.

Further south, my son experienced heavy rains and stronger winds. His roof was leaking and his power went out, but all in all, he fared well.

Some folks right along the coast suffered some flooding and wind damage -- nothing too bad, thank goodness.

I want to thank all of you for your expressions of concern and your well-wishes! We were hit hard two years ago by Hurricane Isabel and those memories are still fresh. It is reassuring to know there are people out there who care.


Waiting for Ophelia...


The chrysalis, revisited. Perhaps you recall that it was on August 28th that the caterpillar began its final molt. Looks like it won't be long before a black swallowtail emerges from the now darkened chrysalis.

Frog of a Different Color

Uh, guys, you're supposed to be green treefrogs...


More Than Meets the Eye

Take a look at this picture and tell me what you see. I'll be back later to tell you what we saw...


So, what did you see?

Did you recognize the mound as an abandoned beaver lodge?
You did? Excellent!

Did you see the snakes? Yep, snakes. Sixteen of 'em, as a matter of fact. Eight adults and eight babies. All Cottonmouths, Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus.

There were at least sixteen on top of the lodge. I suspect there may have been more inside the lodge.

Cottonmouths, also known as Water Moccasins, tend to gather together in the late summer and fall in preparation for winter hibernation. Abandoned beaver lodges make excellent winter dens.

Whenever we paddle past a lodge or dam, we look closely to see if a cottonmouth or two is present. This snake had shed recently and was looking all fresh and spiffy.

Don't they look cozy?

This one seem to prefer a tad more personal space...

While these didn't mind sharing a sunny spot.

But the prize of the day was the presence of newborn babies. Cottonmouths give live birth in late summer. Litter size varies from 3 to 14. The young are about 10 inches (~25 cm) long and have yellow-tipped tails.

Isn't he cute? This was the first time we had seen babies this young. I love the fact that no matter how often we go out on the pond we always see something new -- and considering we've been paddling this pond and swamp for over twenty-five years, that's pretty amazing.

Man! I love my 'backyard'!!

Note: Be aware that Cottonmouths are venomous snakes and each has its own personality. One may be shy and slip away, another may be seemingly indifferent and just watch you pass by, while another may shake its tail and gape its mouth in warning. But they all have one thing in common, if you push them past their comfort level they will bite. So give them their space and appreciate them from a distance.


A Penny For Your Thoughts

All lined up in a neat little row...

Pennywort, Hydrocotyle umbellata



I finally got to talk to my brother today. He is home safe in Natchez. He had been in New Orleans, but heeded the warnings to get out before the storm struck. He has opened his home to friends from New Orleans who managed to get out, but is worried about those friends that didn't leave.
I have been trying to get in touch with him for a week but each time I called I received the recorded message that the phone lines were out due to the hurricane. It was very reassuring to hear his voice today...