Okefenokee Swamp Park

April 29, 2010

We visited Okefenokee Swamp Park on our way to Florida.  It was interesting, and I hope we get to go to another area of Okefenokee Swamp some day soon!

I’m going to start with a few pictures from the zoo-like area of the Okefenokee Swamp Park, and in the order we saw stuff.  As for the actual swamp,  I’ll do pictures of our boat ride through it in another post!

Of course, you can’t go to a southern swamp and not see gators! 

alligator head

Grinning Gator

They had several alligators in an enclosure near the park entrance.

We walked around on a board walk to see the alligator pen, and they also had one lone otter. 

Jumping otter?

"What's on the other side?"

He (or she) kept jumping up in the air, like they were trying to see something on the other side of the fence.

It didn’t take us long to get around to more alligators. . .

"What's for lunch?"

They were all kind lethargic while we were there, just being still and sunning themselves.

Now, in case you didn’t know this, Okefenokee Swamp Park is in Waycross, Georgia.  That also happened to be the home of Walt Kelly, the creator of the cartoon strip, Pogo.

Walt Kelly

"What should Pogo do today?"

One building in the park had a section dedicated to his work.

Close by was another building with a few critter exhibits – some live, and some having been to a taxidermist.  It will probably come as no surprise they had some . . .

"We may be small now, but just you wait!"

. . .BABY GATORS!

In another big enclosure, they had black bears.  It’s kind of neat because they have a big glassed in room at one end where you can sit there and watch the bears.  We could see two bears.  One was asleep in the grass, and the other one was sitting up. . .

"I'm big and I'm bad!"

Maybe he was watching us!

After walking around the “tamer” part of the park, we were ready to take a walk on the wild side (or in this case, a boat ride).  We headed over to the water front, and there was a gator swimming free!

Don't put your toes in the water!

I guess when we saw alligators on the loose, we could have been like this squirrel and made tracks out of there. . .

"I've been railroaded!"

But instead, we decided to be brave and take a boat ride through the Okefenokee Swamp!

Autumn Azalea And Wooly Bears

November 9, 2009

This weekend I noticed that not only is the camellia bush hanging in there and blooming, but the Autumn Azalea bushes in the same flower bed have decided to have a last hurrah and throw out a few blooms.  I guess they decided to live up to their name, since they are from the Encore® Azalea Collection.

This first one is an Autumn Debutante Azalea.

 Autumn Debutante Azaela

It’s a light pink, whereas the other one, Autumn Sangria Azalea, is a hot pink.

Autumn Sangria Azaela

Having checked those out, Toby and I decided to go for a walk in the woods.  We passed The Farmer in the bottom pasture.

The Farmer burning sacks and boxes.

He was busy burning old feed sacks and boxes.  I don’t know how we seem to accumulate so many boxes, but there always seem to be a bunch around here.

There was a nice bright yellow leaf caught in the weeds.

Yellow Leaf

Some day I need to figure out what kind of tree has that leaf.  We have a lot of them around here, whatever they are.

Right beside the path going into the woods there is an old tree that’s been stuck by lightning.  At the base of the tree some fungus balls were growing.

Balls Of Fungus

I haven’t seen any quite like them before.  There’s nothing in the picture to give you a perspective, but they’re all about 1 inch across or less.

Of course we can’t go back in the woods without taking a stroll along the creek.  It’s got lot of leaves floating on it.

Creek covered with leaves.

They especially collect along the sides, or around obstacles like this fallen tree.

I don’t know about other American Working Farmcollies, but our Toby LOVES water.  The highlight of a run in the woods is to splash across the creek and back at least once.

Toby, American Working Farmcollie, crossing creek.

Given the opportunity, it’s more like 2 or 3 or … more times.

On our way back to the house, I stopped and turned over one of the salt bins.  This is the same one I found a black widow spider under earlier this summer.  Thankfully, this time it was a more innocuous discovery.

Wooly worm, Wooly Bear, or Banded Woolly Bear, your pick!

Whether you call it a wooly bear, wooly worm, or more properly, the banded woolly bear, we find a lot of them around here.  They hatch late in the summer or fall, and overwinter in this caterpillar form.  What’s cool is that the little wooly worms survive freezing by producing a cryoprotectant in their body.  How about that, this cool little woolly bear produces its own antifreeze!

Next spring, the little wooly worm will eat and eat, snarfing down all the grass and weeds it can.  Then it pupates, and the fuzzy little wooly bear turns into the Isabella tiger moth:

Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Of course, while it’s still a fuzzy little wooly bear, you’re supposed to be able to use the banded woolly bear to predict what kind of winter is on the way.  Supposedly, the thinner the brownish red bands, the harsher the winter will be.  So if the wooly worm is mostly brownish red in the middle, winter will be mild.

Considering how wide the brownish red band was on the wooly bear I found, looks like if the folklore is correct, we ought to have a mild winter!

Visiting Panama City Beach And Pier

October 1, 2009

Panama City Beach – Day 2!

 


We were still getting rain our second full day at the beach, but the sky cleared off some that afternoon.

Gulf Of Mexico as seen from Panama City Beach, Florida.

We decided to get out while the getting was good and walk along the beach.  We really stretched ourselves and walked clear down to the pier.  I rested under the pier while The Farmer walked on up to the gatehouse and asked how much it cost to go out on the pier.  Neither one of us had any money on us, so we decided we’d go back later in the afternoon.

Pier At Panama City Beach, Florida.

On the walk back to the condo, we saw a guy flying a neat kite.

Turtle Kite

At first I thought it was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle kite, but I think it’s supposed to be a sea turtle.  Whatever kind of turtle it was, I liked it.

When we got back to the condo, we sat on the balcony and watched the scenery.  It looked like it might storm again, so there weren’t many people on the beach.  (And I think I heard The Farmer grumbling there were too many old people and not enough bikinis.)

This one couple was down under their bright umbrella, surrounded by birds.

Beach Birds

Of course, the gulls interest wasn’t so much in the people as the food the people were throwing out to them!

There were a lot of smaller birds munching on the sea oats down below our balcony.

Birds eating sea oats at Panama City Beach, Florida

The sky kept getting darker, and it started raining again.

Gulf of Mexico and pier at Panama City Beach, Florida.

When it cleared up a little, we went back to the pier and paid to walk out on it.  I could look down and see the barnacles and stuff clinging to the supports of the pier.

Pier support with barnacles.

But it was a looooong way down there, so the picture didn’t come out as well as I hoped.  The same was true of the little jellyfish we could see swimming by.

Jellyfish

And once we even saw a crab swim by!

Crab swimming in the Gulf of Mexico at Panama City Beach, Florida.

I thought that was pretty cool, because I’ve never seen one swimming before.  The only time I’d ever seen crabs were scuttling around on the beach.

There were a lot of people fishing from the pier, but I only saw one person catch anything.

fish

I have no idea what kind of fish it is, but I suspect it was going to end up as bait for catching other fish.

It started raining again, so we decided we’d seen enough, and after one last picture of a sailboat. . .

Sailboat on Gulf of Mexico in rainstorm.

. . . which looked bright and colorful out in all the grays of sky, rain and sea, we headed back to our home base.

Visiting Panama City Beach – Day 1

September 24, 2009

Our first day at Panama City Beach in Florida, we had rain for most of the day.  While waiting out the rain, I took this picture from the balcony of our little condo room.  I liked the bright splash of color the two umbrellas made amidst all that darker colors of surf and sand.

Panama City Beach - Gulf Of Mexico

There was a pier on down the beach shrouded in mist because of all the rain.

Panama City Beach And Pier

The sun finally did peep out for a couple of short periods, and we took ourselves off to the beach.  When we walked along the beach, there were lots of these little birds darting back and forth following the waves as they came in and out.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) In Winter Plumage

These little Sanderlings (Calidris alba) scurry along the surf line probing the sand with their long bills to find tiny crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms and insects.

 There were lots of gulls, too.  My favorite was this pirate version – a one legged gull:

One-Legged Gull

He hopped along in great pirate fashion, and having one leg didn’t seem to hinder the bird in any way. 

People were out enjoying the ocean almost as soon as the sun came out.  I enjoyed watching this daddy playing with his little girl, and listening to her laugh with delight when the waves splashed her legs.

Playing in the waves at Panama City Beach, Florida.

 Some of the braver souls were giving parasailing a try.  (For the record, I wasn’t one of them, ha, ha!)

Parasailing above the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s about all we did the first day. . . walk along the beach after it quit raining, and drove around a little to check out the town.  We explored further afield as the week went on however!

Looking For Love In All The Light Places

August 27, 2009

Or The Light And Times Of A Firefly

Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, summer nights wouldn’t be the same without them. Running around catching fireflies is a great evening game for kids!

Lightning bugs comes closer to being a more exact name than fireflies, however, because they’re not flies, they’re bugs. Fireflies are nocturnal members of the beetle family Lampyridae.

Of course, what makes them really special is that whole bioluminescence thing. They have specialized light-emitting organs that are usually located on the lower abdomen (kind of like a butt light, as opposed to a Bud Lite). It takes a mix of magnesium ions, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and oxygen, along with the enzyme luciferase that acts on a biological pigment called luciferin to produce the light. (Wow! Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?)

It doesn’t matter how they do it, watching fireflies little lights wink on and off while listening to the night sounds of birds and frogs and such on a sultry summer night is downright magical.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a mating ritual. With most species of North American Lightning Bugs, the males are flying flashers, flashing their butt light in hopes of attracting a girl firefly.

The girls, being more demure, are usually near the ground, perched on some vegetation. If she sees a flasher to her liking, she flashes back right after she sees the male’s last flash. (Yep, the male is looking for love in all the light places!)

They continue to send flash messages back and forth (sort of like texting with light) as the male flies closer and closer. If all goes well and they don’t get their signals crossed, they mate.

Fireflies (lightning bugs) mating.

If their signals DO get crossed, likely it was because the fireflies weren’t of the same species. Each type of Lightning Bug has a special flash pattern all its own so they can be sure to attract that special someone of their own species. There are all kinds of flash patterns, from a continuous glow, single flashes or a whole series of different length flashes.

The females deposit their eggs in the ground, under bark, and in moist swampy places. The larvae hatch out and feed on worms and slugs by injecting them with a special chemical that paralyze the prey and helps digest it.  (I think I’ll stick to thinking about the adult fireflies. . .)

The adults, meanwhile, typically feed on nectar or pollen. Some species of adults do not eat at all, but they can live several months. They don’t have to worry too much about being eaten themselves, since most fireflies taste really bad and sometimes are even poisonous.

That ensures them more time to light up the summer nights.

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