Another One!

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Different porch, same species of frog. I found a lone spring peeper on the back porch at work today. Initially, I mistook it for a curled, dried leaf ;p
Pseudacris crucifer crucifer

On a completely different note, Treebeard has taught our cat Friday how to play catch.
It is hilarious to watch -- she is crazy for her "crack" mouse and nuts over her little superball. He will throw one of them and off she'll go to get it, bring it back and drop it so he can throw it again.
That's my kitty!


First Frog!!

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Oh yeah!
They've been calling regularly for a while now but I hadn't seen one until tonight. While I was sitting and reading I kept catching a fleeting glimpse of something, just a suggestion of movement, at the window. Each time I turned my head to look, nothing. Then, quite by accident, I saw it.
A spring peeper on the porch!
Woohoo :) I'm happy.

Rainy Day Blahs

While it is true that I got a lot of work done today, it was not necessarily work of my liking. I do so hate to be inside all day. But, as it was raining, dreary and gray out, I guess if I had to be in all day this was a good day for it.

Since I'm sure you aren't interested in seeing or hearing about the paperwork, phone calls, emails, and minor repairs that filled my day, I'll share this photo with you instead.

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The sycamore, Plantanus occidentalis, has always been a favorite of mine. I wrote a poem about it when I was 8, as a matter of fact. The leaves are beautiful, the seeds are fun, and the bark is compelling, even when wet ;)


Little Surprises

One last note from Friday's paddle...

Along the shore line, nestled in cypress needles, was the empty shell of a musk turtle. Bones have a quiet beauty all their own. Whenever I find a bit of some creature's skeleton I often pause to ponder how it came to be there. Did the creature die a natural death or did a predator help it along its way? Is this the spot it died or did some other animal carry the bones to this spot? And in the case of turtle shells, is there anything still inside?

This time I got a little surprise - a shell within a shell.

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Bee Tree

Bee tree from a distance.

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Zooming in to the front door.

While following the run up through the swamp, we happened upon a bee tree. (It's that tupelo gum just right of center - the one with the hole at the top.)
Honeybees have had a hard time for the last several years so it is always encouraging to find a wild hive working. Years ago it was a common sight to see swarms up in the swamp, now it is a rarity. We wish these bees good health and good luck.



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More pictures from Friday...
This long, thin fellow was out enjoying the mild temps, too. Treebeard and I pulled over to the shoreline to stretch our legs, check on some long leaf pines that were planted in the early nineties and scope out the eagles' nest nearby. We had only been out of the canoe for a second when Treebeard saw this northern black racer, Coluber constrictor constrictor.
He was pretty calm for a racer so after I snapped a few pictures I leaned down to put the camera on the ground next to him for an eye to eye perspective.
Apparently he was not impressed.
Before I could press the button to take the picture, the snake wheeled around and shot off toward our canoe and disappeared from view.
Such an aptly named snake -- even in February.

Friday, On The Pond

Friday dawned clear, bright and breezy. The weatherman informed us that the day would be mild, the last such day for while. Since I had the day off, Treebeard and I decided it would be a good day to head to the Millpond and do a little paddling.
We were right :)

Loads of turtles were out basking. Most were very skittish so I had to zoom in to get a shot.

Red maples grow on old cypress and tupelo stumps out in the pond. The flowers create a nice contrast with the gray of the Spanish moss.

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This beaver lodge has been in more or less constant use for at least the past 30 years.
Every once in a while it will be empty for a year or two, but then some enterprising couple will move in and fix it up again. It, like all the other lodges on the pond, is a great place to find basking snakes in the warmer months.


Species list from Friday:

Insects: Honeybee, Apis mellifera; and others that we didn't take the time to ID

Amphibians: Spring peeper, Pseudacris crucifer crucifer; Brimely's chorus frog, Pseudacris brimleyi; Southern leopard frog, Rana sphenocephala utricularia

Reptiles: American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis; Northern black racer, Coluber constrictor constrictor; Yellow-bellied slider, Trachemys scripta scripta; Eastern painted turtle, Chrysemys picta picta; assorted Cooters, Pseudemys sp.

Mammals: Eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis; Nutria, Myocastor coypus

Birds: (Order in which they were first observed)
Tree swallow
Canada goose
fish crow
red-shouldered hawk
red-tailed hawk
eastern phoebe
Carolina wren
winter wren
yellow-rumped warbler
wood duck
American black duck
American wigeon
turkey vulture (143 at once!!)
black vulture
bald eagle
ring-necked duck
ring-billed gull
purple finch
green-winged teal
ruby-crowned kinglet
downy woodpecker
red-bellied woodpecker
white-breasted nuthatch
eastern bluebird
hooded merganser
hairy woodpecker
great blue heron
pileated woodpecker
American robin
Carolina chickadee
common grackle
barred owl
sharp-shinned hawk
northern flicker
golden-crowned kinglet
pied-billed grebe
belted kingfisher
redwing blackbird
pine warbler


A Toothsome Smile?

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Not hardly! Click on the picture to enlarge it and check out those nasty nutria incisors. We saw nine of these invasive mammals out on the millpond today - ick.


Patience, Grasshopper

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Treebeard tells me that this very young grasshopper that we saw while walking in the yard this afternoon is a Mischievous Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca damnifica.
I'll go with that.
Critters have been very active the past couple of days. Bald eagles have flown over the house, a mink was scurrying along the weeds in the yard, spring peepers are singing their little throat sacs out over in the swamp across the road, bluebirds are checking out the boxes Treebeard put up...I hate to tell 'em that the cold weather isn't done with us yet. Despite a few days in the 70s F, the forecasters are calling for seasonable temperatures for the weekend. Of course they are, I'm off this weekend ;)


Can't Let Go

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Down by the pond a little tree drama unfolds...
Treebeard remembers when the baldcypress was alive, leaning against the laurel oak. That was years ago. Now a remnant of the cypress is held fast by a sleeve of oak.
Guess it's just hard to let go sometimes...

Work Swamp Monday

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Today was a crazy, busy Monday. Lots of odd-ball things took place.
For example, I wasn't expecting to, but I ended up spending part of the day with a two-man crew as they surveyed a new piece of property at the park. I will have to mark that boundary, so I wanted to know exactly where it is. The guys were a lot of fun and I learned a little about surveying, too. The little blue speck in the center of the photo is the lead surveyor. I was amazed at how straight a line he was able to maintain through all that vegetation. Those guys work hard!
Other events today included two staff members experiencing family emergencies and having to leave early. I'm beginning to think the moon has something to do with events...


Millpond Ramble

Baldcypress, mirrored in the dark water.

A little accidental chickweed garden, 20 feet up. Just exactly how did chickweed find its way
into the fork of a beech tree? Inquiring minds want to know...

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A favorite spot out on the pond. The scrappy little tupelo gum in the front is sporting some mistletoe.

Red cedar bonsai - this tree's been the same size for the last 30 years. I've always considered it the millpond Christmas tree.

Red-backed salamanders were under nearly every log we rolled today. Tough little amphibians. This one is a youngster still.

Three very different trees stand together by the water's edge -- a beech, a swamp black gum, and a baldcypress. See the red shirt that Treebeard's wearing? I gave it to him in 1978 :)

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Last, but definitely not least, another favorite tree. There is something about the base of this tree that always draws my eye.

We thoroughly enjoyed our walk this afternoon. The temperatures climbed into the mid-60s and the wind was gentle. I have been gone all week and haven't had a chance yet to catch up on comments, but I will. I also need to check Google Reader and see how many posts I need to read...



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The pictures aren't the best, but my excuse is that they were taken from a vehicle. That said, the top photo shows the silvery wing tips of the black vulture and the bottom photo shows the silvery bar of the turkey vulture.

The vultures were enjoying a freshly manured field. Not sure if they were actually eating anything. Perhaps the lovely aroma drew in the turkey vultures and the sight of all the turkey vultures drew in the black vultures. Treebeard says maybe they were just happy that it was a nice day ;)



Treebeard and I went for a wonder in the woods this morning. You know about wondering in the woods -- "Wonder how come that tree grew that way...Wonder what critter dug that hole...Wonder how we're gonna get across that mucky spot..."

Below are a few of our wonders.

An American holly growing in a baldcypress "planter"

A shelf fungus that grew around a briar cane.

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Squeeze play -- two American beeches putting the squeeze on a sourwood

A little higher up, the trees aren't so tight.

An old beech just not ready to call it quits. Note the sproutings from the stump.

A crayfish looking for a little stability in life...

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He built his chimney between two cypress knees

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Back at the house, looks like we've got squatters! Bet it's a vulture or two using the chimney top for a roosting site. Wonder if they make diapers for vultures ;)

This first day of February is beautiful here in the swamp.
The weather predictions for the rest of the week don't sound so promising.
I'm off to refresher training first thing tomorrow and won't return until Thursday night. Keep your fingers crossed for me that it doesn't snow on us while we are requalifying with our firearms. I really hate shooting prone in the snow ;)