Sunday, May 11, 2008

Early Bird Gets...

Although not always planned, there are some benefits that go along with being early. Yesterday, we arrived at work early for several reasons. First, of course, we love this place and pinch ourselves each time we receive a paycheck from the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. Second, we woke 15 minutes before the alarm clock sounded. Third, we only had $10 for $20-worth of strawberries from Dantzler Farms, so we needed to drop off a check before work. Finally, we are still trying to learn the new camera!

We arrived under clear skies with what appeared to be a 100% chance of sun! However, as soon as we hit the boardwalk, a low deck of gray clouds moved in. The swamp is dimly lit even at midday, so the diminishing light made shooting photographs nearly impossible without a tripod. We weren't going back for a tripod, since this was truly a training session. With a few overeager raindrops attempting to shut down the photo shoot, we were able to digitally capture but a few of the secretative denizens of the swamp.

A pair of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) gave their best impression of themselves in the headlights.

The super-secret Swainson's Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii) made a brief singing appearance.

A female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) fluttered weakly from the boardwalk to a nearby tree, her wings and body having yet to stiffen after emerging from the aquatic exoskeleton she wore for many years.

An Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) hauled out onto a log awaiting the sun that would warm its body and encourage the leech (moving from the left rear of the carapace [upper shell]) to disembark.

As the rain picked up and we headed for the center, we caught sight of a female River Otter (Lutra canadensis) moving along the swamp's edge with her two pups. The wary mom also caught sight of us and quickly led the family into a hollow Bald Cypress tree via an underwater entrance. As can be seen with human children, the young do not always listen to mom. The pups came out to wrestle before one heeded mom's call to come back into the tree. The second pup became confused because it could hear the others in the hollow tree, but appeared to have forgotten the location of the entrance. After some time, the mom came out and gave us a stern look. Between the look and the rain, we decided to pack up and leave the swamp's early morning crew to go about their routine.

Images by Mark Musselman

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