Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Piney Island

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Palmy Island would be a more appropriate name.  Maybe there were pines there once, but now the island is mostly saltmarsh with a few areas high enough to support trees.  The largest of these spots does have a small piney forest... otherwise,  it's marsh with spits of sand covered in grass and lined with cabbage palms and a few cedars. 

 Bob Thompson and I ventured out as the tide was rising to circumnavigate Piney Island, land and explore it where we could... to see what the island had to offer..  Bob had heard that there is a plaque at a point called Seven Palms which describes the acquisition of this 1000+ acre island by St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  The photo above was made at Seven Palms.

"A minefield" is how I would describe the oyster bars around the island.  The bars are numerous, come up randomly and suddenly from deep water, and are super shallow, even at full high tide.  With Bob's eagle-eye watching from the bow and going at idle speed, we avoided many groundings, but still hit three oyster bars - CRUNCH!

Along the way, we detoured to a long line of trees along the mainland near the mouth of Purify Creek.  We didn't have time to stop, but above is a shot from the boat.

There were moments when we wondered if we'd get back to our put-in by dark, but made it just in time for sunset along Bottom's Road.  Here are a couple pelicans in the marsh and a panorama of the saltmarsh looking east towared Piney Island.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Memories at Work

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Travelling as much as I did over the past month made for a pileup of work at my office.  For several days, I’ve been working on catching up with photo orders… six big canvases for a conference room at Georgetown University, two prints of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in its habitat in central Florida, a foggy morning on the Sopchoppy River for a man in NY who had good times on the river as a boy, scallop eyes for a college-level biology textbook, and one of my favorite artsy bird photos, a ruffled young white ibis on a shrimp boat in Miami.  Just sitting at my desk I get to take a meandering trip through recollections of good times in the making of these images.




Thursday, February 10, 2011


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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary run by Audubon is a special place in SW Florida.  Crystal and I visited there a couple weeks ago and delighted in the many songbirds (what I used to refer to as LBJs... "little brown jobs"... for to my untrained naked eye, that's all they looked like.)  The Sanctuary boardwalks took us through cypress swamps, with alligators and wading birds, owls and hawks; through pine flatwoods, with the smaller birds. and a grassy marsh in between.  Pretty amazing place.  Meanwhile, here are a few of the LBJs we saw (not so brown afterall) -  the male and female Painted Buntings, and a Gray Catbird, plus a little blue heron from the swamp.

Monday, February 07, 2011

On the Road Again.

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I'm trying to become more diligent about posting notes here, but get foiled whenever I'm travelling... which seems like a lot.  Often travel means camping, working early to late (shooting photos), or otherwise having no access to the internet.

Right now I'm in a motel in Lake Placid, FL on a shooting trip for FWC (Office of Recreation Services)... catching up on several days of emails, I got one from my boss saying that our office is being eliminated in our new governor's proposed budget... hmmm, I may be out of a job soon. (Not that I will stop my conservation photography).

Meanwhile, here's a photo from a trail I walked today at Tenorac Fish Management Area.  This female pileated woodpecker was so focused on her foraging that she ignored my approaching and photographing her.  After I had made my shots, I just watched her, not 20 feet away, for the longest time.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Fisheating Creek Revisited

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Fisheating Creek is one of those mysteriously magnetic places for me in Floirda.  I have paddled there since my childhood.  It is the only remaining creek that flows freely into Lake Okeechobee without crossing a weir or dam.  The creek banks are largely undeveloped so wild things can grow and live unfettered by human interference.  And the water levels in the creek are often too low for easy passage of even a canoe. I wrote another story about a Fisheating Creek adventure back in 2006 which you can read here if you'd like.

I had the good fortune of paddling a  section of the creek in November 2010 with my friend John Moran, and then again last month.  My wife Crystal had never been on Fisheating Creek, and after hearing my stories, really wanted to see it.... so we did.  The water level was at 1.52 ft at the gauge - just barely enough (1.5 is cutoff) to paddle from Burnt Bridge to the campground/outpost at Hwy 27. We still had to get out and drag our boats at least 20 times.  It's a spectacularly beautful place.  Go see it some time.  Meanwhile, here are a few recent photos from Fisheating Creek.


And here's the walking catfish whose story is told here.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Walking Catfish Walking

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So we have probably all heard of invasive walking catfish... but who has ever seen one walking?  ... or even seen one in real life? ... or seen a photo of one walking?

Well, my wife Crystal spotted this fish on the bank of Fisheating Creek from her kayak.  She couldn't quite believe her eyes so caught up with me and we paddled back to investigate.  I have seen a lot of strange things, but here was a fish that walked out of the creek in broad daylight to sit in the sun and enjoy a bit of fresh air.

This was a remote part of the creek, not one visited by fishermen, and rarely by paddlers for at least the past 6 months. There it was standing on its pectoral fins with sailfin raised high. It stood still until we touched it, and then it took a deep breath, fanned out it's tail and looked at us.

Fish biologist, Chad Hanson helped me identify it as a vermiculated sailfin catfish, one of a number of exotic sucker catfish, and this one can stay out of water for hours.  Who'd a ever thunk?!