Into the Swamp

I cannot believe it has taken a solid week to get the rest of the photos from our paddle posted. Our internet connection has been quite sketchy and unpredictable this past week, leading to some massive frustrations. It seems to be cooperating a little better this morning...

Beyond the upper end of the millpond lies the swamp. It is one of our favorite places to paddle, water levels permitting. I always like to have a full day to explore -- I hate to feel rushed when I enter the swamp.

As we entered, blue pickerel weed and bright red cardinal flower greeted us. It is past peak bloom time for these flowers, so it was a treat to see them.

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At the base of a beaver lodge we spied a shed snake skin. It still had the tail section attached, enabling us to determine that it was from a venomous snake. Venomous snakes have an undivided anal plate (the scute that covers the opening to the cloaca) and undivided subcaudals (tail scutes). In non-venomous snakes, the anal plate and tail scutes are paired.
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A view of the channel that runs through the swamp. You have to be careful that you follow the main channel -- there are plenty of false ones to trip you up.
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There is something everywhere you look in the swamp. From birds in the trees to insects and spiders in the herbaceous vegetation. We found one spot that was full of fishing spiders, some guarding egg cases.

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In other spots they were just hanging out on trees or cypress knees. Pretty cool.
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We spent as much time in the swamp as we could, but eventually we had to turn around and head back out onto the pond. Not long after we re-entered the upper pond we were greeted by our second gator of the day. It was stretched out amidst some lily pads, soaking in the last sunrays of the day. It seemed quite unconcerned as we glided past. It was busy thinking gator thoughts, I guess.

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That's it for now. Hopefully I'll make it out to some interesting places during my vacation in October. Speaking of vacation, our son left on his early this morning. He is headed to Beijing for nine days. And yes, I do mean China...

More Pond Pictures

Sorry, no time to chat this morning. Just a few more pictures from last weekend's paddle...

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On The Pond Again -- Finally!

It has been a long summer and not once during June, July, or August did I dip a paddle in the water. Oh, the horror of it!! Knowing that I needed desperately to get a little canoe time in, Treebeard loaded up the Tripper and we headed for the pond. The trip takes all of three minutes ;)

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Here's a shot of the new, butt-ugly boat ramp that has been put in. Needless to say, you won't be seeing anymore shots from this angle in my header...YUCK!

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Ah, a little soothing balm for the soul...yep, it's a green treefrog, freshly emerged. See his little stub of a tail?

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Growing at the base of the same tree was this Ludwigia. The bright and happy yellow flower was blissfully unaware that just beneath it...

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...this Banded Sphinx caterpillar was munching away on the leaves of the plant. There was another caterpillar of the same species nearby, but it was a totally different color. Unfortunately, my photographing-things-from-a-moving-canoe skills are a little rusty and the picture was too blurry to use.

We couldn't stay by the boat ramp all day, so we headed out onto the lower pond. The duckweed has been particularly heavy this year and it requires a bit of work to paddle through.

A little open water here and there was greatly appreciated. In parts of the pond the duckweed cover was pretty much solid.
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Some of the trees and bushes out in the water are starting to hint at the coming change in season. In another few weeks the tupelo will be golden, the cypress will turn russet, and the host of little hardwood trees and shrubs that colonize the stumps will be arrayed in reds and yellows.

Duckweed or no and butt-ugly boat ramps not withstanding, this pond is still one of the prettiest places I know. I'll be back later in the week to share some pictures from the mid and upper pond and the swamp. But for now, go out and flip a rock if you've got any. It's International Rock Flipping Day. Just be sure you put the rock back the way you found it!



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My minnow trap held more than minnows today. This is one of the waterscorpions, a predatory true bug that hangs out in the water. This one appears to be of the genus Ranatra, but I can't get it down to species based on the picture. There are records of at least seven species of this genus in NC. I probably could have pickled it and sent it off to NC State for an ID, but I didn't feel like killing it. Sometimes I don't have to know...
By the way, should you come across one of these, please handle carefully. They can bite!


Stink Bugs

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Yeah, I know they aren't in focus...but they're still pretty, right?
Nymphs of the Florida Predatory Stink Bug, Euthyrhynchus floridanus.

These guys are all over the place this time of year. Must remember to be careful when I'm out turning leaves over looking for caterpillars...


Just A Little Closer

Yesterday, three bald-faced hornets were working along a wound in the side of an oak tree. Even though the light was bad, I figured I might be able to get in close enough to get a decent picture. After taking several pictures that were close, but not close enough, I leaned in just a little bit more...

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This is what a running close-up looks like ;)

If you look at the bottom center of the photo, just to the left of the dark smear, you can almost make out the hornet. Sadly, none of the pictures came out well...but happily, I came out without getting stung!


Underneath It All

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A mysterious face, with eyes hidden behind glasses...

on the underside of an indignant grasshopper.

Differential Grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis

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No hoppers were harmed in the making of this post. And luckily, no rangers were bitten ;)
When one chooses to handle the large grasshoppers one takes the chance of getting gnawed on...



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Another cat post, so soon? Yep.
True confession time -- I am a regular visitor to I Can Has Cheezburger
I can't help it, the pictures make me laugh and some of the captions are hilarious.
So, in a spirit of solidarity for a purely fictitious reason, I am posting cat pictures today.
Every day is STILL Caturday.

BTW, the triplicat pictured above is Smidgeon, aka Knucklehead, aka Yoda, aka BatCat -- plus a few other names that I won't post here ;)
(He is Treebeard's favorite -- but don't tell him I told you so.)