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What to see at 7 mph

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I woke up to heavy fog once again this morning with the prospect of overcast skies all day.  Oh joy.  The morning weather really didn’t matter since I was working the VC inside, but my expectations were low for my afternoon of roving.  Mother Nature ignored the weather and provided me with some great discoveries.

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After lunch at the rig, I got in a refuge car to rove the Swamp Island Drive.  I kept my foot off of the gas pedal, and whizzed along the route at about 7 mph with the windows down and the windshield wipers on low.  There was an intermittent mist dripping from the skies.  Along the way, I went down one of the back roads to the ‘secret’ pond near the Chesser Homestead.  I usually find something of interest to look at, and today the resident alligator was out of the pond along the edge. 

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Since alligators are all over the Okefenokee swamp, I tried to get some slightly different views today.  The gator cooperated so I could get a good look at its ridged and bumpy skin. 

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On the trail out from the pond, I noticed this interesting fungus pattern on one of the pine trees.  Can’t say that I’ve seen any moss down here on the north side of the trees, so maybe fungus grows instead?

IMG_1205Wild flowers getting ready to bloom in December?  That was a surprise. IMG_1207

I memorized the location of these buds so I can find them again in a few days when they open up.  When I went back to the VC, Kathy and I investigated their identity, and decided they were Soapwort Gentians.  It’s nice to have a friend with great internet skills!  When she investigated one of the sites for identification, this plant was listed as endangered!  I’ll be checking with Mr. Forbs, the staff botany guy on the refuge, to see if this is true.  (So funny that a guy named forbs is the flower and grasses guru Rolling on the floor laughing)

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Back to puttering along the drive, I noticed some more fungi along the roadside.  I pulled over to get out of the car to take some pictures.  This car is a real pain to get out of in my present condition, but my ears immediately perked up as I struggled to my feet.  Was that the sound of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that I was hearing?  “Be still my beating heart…”

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Sure enough!  A family group of four or five peckers were working the longleaf pine trees surrounding the mushrooms.  Crappy weather today, but what a treat to be in the midst of these boisterous little ‘knock on wooders’.  The one in the left hand pic was checking out one of the nesting sites.  See all that dried sticky sap it’s on?  They peck holes around their nest cavity so the sap flows around the opening.  It helps to keep snakes away from getting to their eggs or young.

A dull and dreary weather day today, but it just might be that I observed two endangered species.  Can’t hardly beat that in my book!  Slow and steady (7 mph) wins the race??

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                                                                             THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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