Brrrr!

Below Zero

Cold!

Brrr! Baby, it’s cold outside! This was at 8:15 a.m. this morning, and the inside temperature was not all that comfortable either at 62, but the stove had just been lit, so soon, it was roasty-toasty. I love that wood stove!

Frozen waterfall

Frozen waterfall

Saturday, ahead of the much-hyped winter storm Harper, I went out to the waterfall and stream to take photos of the ice before snow covered it all up. Consistent temperatures below freezing for over a week had created some beautiful ice.

Layered cascade

Layered cascade

Depending on the speed of the water and cascade, different ice formations develop. My favorite are the slow seeps that deposit layers upon layers in tabletop forms. Fast-moving cascades will freeze in frothy formations, and steady drips form long icicles. (Click to enlarge.)

Pockets in the ice where the stream shows through are interesting.

Stream ice

Stream window

We received about 8-10″ of sleety snow overnight Saturday, followed by blustery winds as the storm moved out and the temperature dropped Sunday night. Drifting snow packed into crevices and filled low spots, leaving surfaces that squeak when walked upon.

The fresh blanket of snow is pretty and lightens the landscape considerably, especially with last night’s full moon. Did everyone see the eclipse? I actually stayed up until midnight ET to enjoy it, but went to bed before it emerged from the earth’s shadow again.

Despite the cold, we’ve already been out snowshoeing. We mustn’t let a little cold weather stop us from getting our exercise!

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Cemetery Point Park

foggy pine

Foggy pine & heron

The first time I visited Cemetery Point Park in Cedar Key, FL, it was a foggy, cool morning. It looked mysterious in the gloom, with birds coming in and out of the trees and cove.

boardwalk

Boardwalk perspective

The park is essentially a boardwalk that threads its way between the cemetery and the #3 channel. Vegetation is mostly black mangrove, scrub pine and palms. A wide variety of birds forage in the shrubbery and the mudflats during low tide.

The last day I returned was a gorgeous, sunny day and the views were spectacular.

Cedar Key channel

Cedar Key channel #3

As we prepare to receive our first major snowstorm of the year, I’m grateful that I had a week of warmth and sun to get me through the months ahead.

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Lower Suwannee Nat’l Wildlife Refuge

Lower Suwannee

Lower Suwannee River

The Suwannee River originates in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Georgia and flows 265 miles southwesterly through upper Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico.

As I child I learned Stephen Foster’s American folk song, ‘Old Folks At Home’ and found myself humming it as I explored the Lower Suwannee River Wildlife Refuge. It is the official state song of Florida and has an interesting history, having been written prior to the abolition of slavery from the viewpoint of a slave, and subsequent revisions reflect less offensive lyrics.

palmetto

Swamp palmettos

While the Park Headquarters were closed due to the recent government shutdown, the park gates were open dawn to dusk to visitors, of which I saw few. I pretty much had the place to myself, which was a strange feeling. Fifty-three-thousand acres with very few humans present is not a common occurrance for me. I had never seen a swamp of this size before– literally a hardwood forest flooded year round, filled with tupelo, cypress, sweetgum and sycamore, among others.

Sweetgum - fall

Sweetgum – autumn color

From a park info board:

“The river and its floodplain provide habitat for 232 species of birds, 72 species of reptiles, 42 species of mammals, and 39 species of amphibians. The river supports a substantial population of manatee during the warmer months and is home to the last viable breeding population of Gulf sturgeon. The estuary at its mouth supports thousands of overwintering waterfowl, migrating birds and serves as an important feeding area for nesting wading birds.”

A bit unnerved by the warning signs for cottonmouth snakes and alligators, I made my way along the loop trail to get to the open river. Part of the trail was submerged from the record amounts of autumn rainfall further up river and rather than turn back, I slogged through the ankle deep puddle, figuring I’d wash my shoes later. It turned out muddier and deeper than I expected! Ah, well, I squished onward.

blue mirror

Blue mirror

The sky was mirrored in many places, making it a puzzle to figure where the trunks ended and the water reflection began. I was thrilled with the sounds of large flocks of robins, warblers and the distant calls of pileated woodpeckers. I felt a bit untrained in this type of habitat and alert for any danger – alligators at rest look like submerged logs, of which there were many broken trees in the tannin-rich water, so even if there were ‘gators, I didn’t recognize any. Luckily, most of the trail was an elevated boardwalk.

fish rising

Fish rising

The river was swiftly flowing once I got out to it, with large fish jumping and splashing in the cloud-dotted waters. It was so peaceful, despite the fact that it felt odd being so utterly alone.

flooded boardwalk

Flooded boardwalk

I set out along the return loop and encountered flooding at the end of the boardwalk that looked too deep to navigate, so I had to return the way I came, back through that mucky puddle – ugh!

En route, I saw a floating, flat log that had been colonized by ferns, moss and a round-leaved plant, like a miniature garden. Another log sported a tall flowering ragwort. (As I’m not familiar with the flora here, my IDs are fuzzy.)

There is a nature drive that wends its way throughout the refuge, basically a system of fire roads to access the bulk of the swamp, offering a close up view from the comfort of one’s car with trails forking off for hiking. Culverts are periodically placed to ensure that water could flow freely throughout and the rushing of water around these attracted wading birds, mostly herons and egrets.

I spooked a Great Blue Heron that had caught a black snake in the road and watched it slowly and methodically dip it in water and beat it against a felled tree to stun it, until it manuevered it into position to go head-first down the gullet. I wondered if, and how, birds ate poisonous snakes without being bit or harmed by ingesting venom?

Swamp mirror

Swamp mirror

What thrilled me most was seeing miles of habitat set aside exclusively for wildlife, many of which were familiar avian migrants that populate our northern forests in the summer breeding season. As more acreage every day is lost to human development, I was grateful that at least here was a place where they could live in good health and peace.

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Gulf Sunsets

Cedar Key sunsetThe Gulf of Mexico sunsets in Florida are exceptional. On a recent vacation, I was treated to some truly delightful ones. Click first image to start slideshow. Enjoy!

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2018 Favorites

This gallery contains 24 photos.

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Basking

Northern CardinalThis time of year, I sit in an east-facing window with my morning cup, absorbing as much light through my eyes into my brain as I can, to stave away symptoms of SAD. It’s my giant lightbox. 🙂

Yesterday, this male Northern Cardinal seemed to be doing the same thing, trying to warm himself in the rising sun. A chilly wind buffeted his crest, which, along with his beak, glowed in the morning light. Cardinals, often associated with Christmas, symbolize hope, love, cheer, pride, focus, creativity, energy and renewal.

I realized we weren’t all that different, he and I, dependent upon the light and warmth of the sun. Feeling a connection, I quietly enjoyed our peaceful moment together.

Wishing you and yours a warm, wonderful and peaceful holiday season.

 

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Wordless Wednesday

IMG_3857

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