Category Archives: Uncategorized

You Don’t Have to Create Your Own Blog to Build a Gallery of Wild Things!

We don’t do Facebook, but we travel (all over US and Canada) with access to the world-wide net.   We have i-phones, but a point and shoot is what we use when paddling, hiking, stopping to enjoy the continent’s wild places and we use our laptops to post.

You don’t have to start a blog:  there’s a much wider audience with administration and management done by someone else.   All free.

Check out https://inaturalist.org

If you are going to Milton, forinstance, where Blackwater River State Forest is located, you may want a preview of all the natural wild things (flora and fauna) which have been posted by some of over 416,000 observers worldwide who post on inaturalist.org.  You may want to know which is considered endangered, threatened or exotic.  Of those exotics, you may wish to know which are considered invasives and learn why.

Or if you took photos while visiting Blackwater River State Forest and want to be able to identify a flower, or a mushroom, or a bird or salamander, just sign on to the site and post your own photo.   Once you get your photo loaded as an observation, click on the first box below which identifies the plant:  through photo recognition, a list of suggested species will be offered.  If you click on the right side of each suggestion you will be led to a display of other photos, a map of where that species has been found, and additional information on that suggested plant.  Comparing that with your photo, you can select from the suggestions.

Ahhh…but it doesn’t end there.  So, you’re not sure,  eventually and hopefully within 24 hours (in some locales and some species you may have to wait longer), you will get someone (remember there are not quite half a million users) who will either verify your ID or say, they disgree and suggest another species name.  Or they may know what the genus is, but not exact species,  but they know for certainty it’s not the species you have named.  Well,  that’s a whole lot more certainty than when you initially posted.  Eventually, if your photo(s) of that wild thing is clear and has good taxonomic detail, you’ll get a full scientific identification (genus and species) for the item you have photographed.

What you post has to be wild.  It can’t be continuous photos of your cat or your constant companion dog.  They’re family — you can’t post family.   Unless it’s a chimpanzee.

You can post sounds also, but I haven’t tried that.  Like the sound of a hoot-owl which you can’t see.  Or a frantic hawk if you’re too near their nest, which you can’t see.  inaturalist.org can be a sound translator.  Raucous sounds from the campsite next to you after curfew don’t count; they have to be wild non-humans and non-domesticated animals.  I’m not sure whether a cow could be posted; try it and see if you get a comment.  I did get one once from someone who said I had posted the identical photo twice.  I marveled that anyone had the time to review over 2,500 observations I have made.  Who would want to?

A few pointers:  don’t use generic terms on the ID. You’ll wait and wait and wait and no one may respond to you.  To get the quickest response, get at least to the genus level (see taxonomy for each suggestion offered when you post); better yet, make a wild guess and put the whole uncertain scientific name in.  Someone will disagree with you and this is a great situation to be in, for you will get a proper ID faster by starting out wrong.  People seem to have a trigger instinct to correct rather than affirm.  Lucky for you.

The posting will ask for date and location.   If you have a camera with a built in GPS it’s great (smart-phones do) because if you don’t the site will ask for the location of each posting.   If you have a camera with a built in date recorder, you don’t have to enter the date of the observation, either.  Yes, this site is made for contemporary electronics, but you’ll see the value of those little bells and whistles in your camera soon enough.

You, too, can be an identifier — to turn the tables around and identify a post from someone who wants to know if the name they have selected for the item posted is correct.

You may say, “Me? I don’t know one daisy from another!”  Yes, but if you know deer, or know a Florida anhole from a common house gecko, you can identify that.  Or if your instincts say, “It’s not that.” But be ready with a correct ID if you disagree.  Don’t worry, if you’re wrong somebody will correct you (remember there are nearly half a million users).  You’ll find enough that you won’t just get PhD’s (not indicated) biologists verifying your posts — anyone can verify who feels confident to identify a particular species.  And some of the best identifiers are those who have lived with these plants and animals all their lives.

This is a half a million people collaborative to build an inventory of all the wild creatures and plants and everything in between.   Love mushrooms?  Post the lichen and mushrooms you see; there are variations of seaweed, too.   Start with your backyard (ignore your dog).  You can learn the names of everything which inhabits your private ecosystem!

The purists among you will say of a system that  considers a valid species name if two people agree to it, preposterous!  No credentials needed, just two people.  It could be your child, who is at an age when everything you say is right, or your mother, who does the same.   Neither of which knows a lily from an iris.  OK…it’s going on strictly collaborative, faith in the statistics of well meaning and honestly-seeking-the-right-name-people to affirm an identification.  But think about it — if you had to wait for the few real experts you’ll never get a large data base with over 14 million observations affirmed.  There is always a margin of error in any statistical set of data anyway — let the researchers worry about the methodologies; just post.

And…if you are absolutely sure you have the right ID and you’re getting the “I disagree…it is this species.” There is a comment box which you can use to bring the naysayers to the right ID.  This is particularly true if posted an endemic species, one that has only been observed in a particular area and through the scientific filtering is found to be a different species.  Any area has some endemic species:  we have the cowcreek spider lily which is found only in Wakulla and Franklin counties.  There is a endemic species of mussel, Ochlockonee Moccasin Shell mussel, which can be found below the dam on Lake Talquin and just recently at the mouth of the Upper Ochlockonee where it empties into Lake Talquin.  This is where this posting gets fun.  Stand your ground!!!!

I post because I want my observations to mean something, not just an ephermal look-see on a blog site, but adding to hundreds of others who are creating a huge data base.   One University of Florida researcher, tasked with the job of determining which native flowers are visited by which butterflies, found inaturalist.org postings a gold mine of information.   He didn’t have to hire a gaggle of undergraduates to go looking for them –and they wouldn’t have gone into the wilds of Tate’s Hell State Forest looking for them either.  Are you skeptical about whether a species is threatened or endangered?  Well, if you see one, photo it and post.

This data base allowed, in Canada, the Alberta Invasive Species Council to spot where invasive species were being photographed (remember the GPS location?).  It allows one to track endangered and threatened species. You can restrict GPS information to only the curators of the site, if you’re afraid that plant robbers will confiscate the plants or go hunting for a truly endangered mammal.  But for researchers this is important information:  other species than us also migrate and enough postings can track these migrations.

I posted a dying moth in front of a post office and the identifier noted that this was the first documented photo of the species being in this area.    That was exciting!   Many interesting encounters may await you — who thought adventures could be yours personally just from your smart phone?

Try it…you’ll get more than just perfunctory “neat”, “pretty”, “wow” comments.  You’ll get an ID or “I disagree with a suggestive ID”.   If you’re lucky, and that’ll happen as you post more and more, you’ll get an expert explain to you using vocabulary you never saw why the species is what that expert thinks it is.  You’ll have experts disagreeing whether one ID was correct or whether another may be more suitable.  And you started that whole dialogue!!!  When you see how serious and thoughtful some of the ID’ers are, you’ll appreciate that your efforts are seriously being noted.  You are part of the group of citizen-scientists whose efforts will form essential data bases for understanding the world around us — not human, and not your dogs and cats.

And if your spouse or other or parent or children consider your penchant to photograph wild things, just tell them you’re practicing your civic responsibility by documenting what is around you:  that’s what citizen scientist means.  It’s not a gratuitous phrase.  Not if you share it on a site which is gathering data for future scientists to use.

And you know: for those who are still looking for a compatible companion, you may find one on this site, although this is not the intent.  Go on web fungi seeking adventures together and who knows where that’ll take you.

 

 

Yellow-crowned night heron – Womack Creek 4-24-2018

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After perching long enough for several shots, this yellow-crowned night heron flew upstream as we paddled upstream.  Much like kingfishers like to do, it stayed within visual distance, perching on a tree branch then flying away as we got too close.

New River on St. Valentine’s Day – 2018

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Rock Landing road crosses SR 67.  On the west, it’s a straight drive to East River drive, which intersects to the south and then jogs to continue about 100 yards further west down Rock Landing road.

Camp site 17, a nice site for paddlers because it has an easy take-out and put-in, and large flat camping area, is about 3 campsites north when Rock Landing road ends and East River road north takes over.

A month ago, the river was very low.  With over 2 inches of rain last week, the New River looked much more promising for paddling upriver from campsite 17.

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Bear Lake Campground – Black Water SF – 2018 Paddler’s Rendezvous

Blackwater River, shown in above photo, is one of the rivers offered for paddling at the Florida Paddler’s Rendezvous, October 24-28, 2018.   Main rendezvous headquarters will be at the Bear Lake Campground.  For information contact wfckcrendezvous2018@yahoo.com.

 

 

2018 Florida Paddler’s Rendezvous to be held at Blackwater River State Forest

Florida Paddler’s Rendezvous, an annual meet-up of paddlers in Florida (and open to all) is scheduled for Blackwater River State Forest on October 26-28, 2018.

Blackwater River State Forest has some of the most beautiful, clear waters and sandy banks in north Florida.   You will have your choice of lazy, wider creeks and rivers and a few technical and faster moving waters.

More details with contact information will be posted as they become available.

 

 

Cash Creek – Beautiful November Paddle

 

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Cash Creek on the west side of Tate’s Hell empties into the Apalachicola River.  The road to the day use area is off the east side of State Road 65, just south of the Apalachicola National Forest and on the northern edge of Tate’s Hell State Forest.  There is a covered picnic shelter with picnic tables, fishing dock and boat launch, with sand on one side for easier canoe and kayak access.   For paddlers, this creek offers your-choice-of-length paddling.  One can go left from the landing to the Apalachicola River through an estuary dominated by reeds or turn right upriver through a reedy estuary then woody swampland.  The current is more marked by tides and wind than down or up-river flow.  All of the paddling to the Apalachicola  has no shade.  Upriver, one paddles anywhere from one mile to one and one half mile, depending on which branch one takes, in estuary before reaching deciduous and slash pine shade.   Beyond that one can go as far as the water level and creek depth and blockages allow.  Normally, that would be around 9.5 miles if one took all the options.  The kiosk at the landing has a large map of the creek and forest area. 

The nearly half mile sandy road to Cash Creek Day Use Area is lined with slash pines and an occasional long leaf pine and opens into the parking area and boat launch and day use pavilion.  We had not paddled there for a year and were anticipating a good paddle with clear sky, 72F temperature and a slight breeze.  The tide was going out.

Big surprise — a new vault toilet structure had been built in our absence.  Very clean, not smelly and a tremendous improvement over the portable toilets which were never maintained by the septic service.   And in the fenced in day use area, bear proof trash containers, firmly imbedded in concrete.   Another improvement over the easy to tip over by animals and kicked over by humans garbage cans.   Thanks to Marti Miller, Talquin District Recreation Coordinator, for having these constructed and installed — the previous accommodations were gross because of negligence by the contractor.

The tide was against us and the slight breeze was from the north, north-east, against us as well.  On a Wednesday, we were the only users of that facility.  The mullet were jumping and other fish (bream?) surfaced — the fishermen would have had a field day today.  Randy, the former host at Womack Creek Campground in Tate’s Hell, assured us that one could catch mullet with a hook. Netting is the usual way they are caught.  The splash in the photo below is of a mullet landing in the water after a magnificent jump.

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There are two major branches and usually we take both.  Today we decided to try the one on the left first and were surprised that a section which was always too low or too debris-filled for us to continue was open and we paddled another .8 mile beyond where we usually were stopped.  There are two option on the left branch — we try to paddle both.  One can’t get lost, these branches dead-end and require retracing one’s way back.

The fall flowers are gone —  last aster flowers peek out from the reeds.   Leaves and red berries are what add color to the landscape.  Florida maples are turning and are the dominant red-orange combinations on the creek.   Unlike Womack Creek on the east side of Tate’s Hell, and which empties into the Ochlockonee River, the tupelo trees on Cash creek are not yet turning and if they are do not have the red-yellows of Womack’s ogechee tupelos.   A single stem of swamp lily was seen in an opening in the reeds.13-P1060298.JPG

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The ferns, also, add to color.

Birds, migratory and resident, were present.  Buzzards, crows, hawks, a single wood duck which we surprised into flight, and flocks of small birds which we have not yet identified. Kingfishers, usually seen in Tate’s Hell’s creeks and rivers, were noticeably absent.   Only a single Gulf frittilary butterfly, two sulphur butterflies and a few dragonflies were seen.  We did see flies alighting on the Silvering blossoms — the first time we have seen flies on these blooms.

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Silvering is a late fall bloomer, after the asters.  On Womack Creek they were still in bud about 2 weeks ago.   There were only a few of these plants on Cash Creek.  For those who suffer from hay fever, this is a plant you want to avoid.

The estuary creek turns narrower and narrower and increasingly tree and shrub-lined.

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Then, the trip ends:  one’s way is blocked, either by too shallow water or tree-falls or debris dams.  The trick is to be able to turn around in the narrow spaces when this usually occurs, particularly when paddling 14′ and 15′ kayaks.

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Along one branch is a beautifully gnarled cypress tree.

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Late fall, when the leaves are gone, is a good time to see bird nests.  The one below was nestled in laurel greenbrier vines, its berries gave the nest a festive look; the other was securely constructed in a small shrub.

Off Pidcock Road is a very large campsite.  This tipi looking tent with 2 chairs at the picnic table was a colorful addition to the landscape. Downriver from the campsite, a row of pilings which once supported a bridge is still in the water.  At very high water,  these pilings obscured by the tannin tinged water.  One can easily find oneself caught on one of these logs.  Today all but a few were visible, but one submerged piling held one of our kayaks in place until it was dislodged (without capsizing).

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One doesn’t see many large deciduous trees along the creek, but this is an ogeechee tupelo tree with Florida maple growing between its trunks.

One of the paddling options is a straight canal, either a former road bed or a drainage canal dug to drain water from what used to be a pine plantation before the state acquired the land for restoration and conservation.   The forests (Apalachicola and Tate’s Hell) are part of the Apalachicola river watershed.  The North Florida Water Management District has been given the task to restore Tate’s Hell’s forest back to what is used to be before it was developed for tree farming.   Roads  no longer needed are being left to return to nature and gravel has replaced culverts, creating natural drainage systems even on roads which are still used.   After heavy rains, some of these roads may not be passable. It as it should be, to allow for natural passage of water through the land, the reason for restoration of  an important river watershed.

The canal above is where we saw a mother bear and her cub (on a tree) several years ago.  When the mother bear saw us, she made a sound.  The cub climbed further up the tree; the mother bear quickly gave another sound, the cub went sliding down the tree and quickly was hidden in the shrubbery below.  I thought about that cub when the Florida Wildlife Conservation Council allowed for the first bear hunting in Florida.  The subsequent year, bear hunting was not resumed.

We rarely make it past the bridge on Pidcock Rd., but today, we were able to paddle under the bridge.  To the right the creek was blocked by a small tree which had fallen over the creek.  We could have scooted over it had we needed to, but immediately beyond that was a debris dam.  We decided to turn back, but the creek looked navigable beyond that.

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We chose not to explore the last branch and headed back to the put-in.

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Driving to the creek in the morning, we could smell and see the smoke of a managed burn in the Apalachicola National Forest to our east.

Returning to the put-in, the easterly winds had driven the smoke to the west.  In the waning light of the end of the day, the sun caught the clouds and the smoke to create a delicate palate of pastels, which unfortunately was not adequately captured in the photo below.

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Cash Creek rarely disappoints us.  This was a glorious day and the temperature only got to 76F, perfect for paddling an open estuary.   Our paddle today was 10.8 miles.

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We were told that a campground with a few sites is planned near the put-in.  This would enable paddlers to camp there and paddle several other creeks:  Whiskey George and Doyle Creek in Tate’s Hell State Forest and Graham Creek and Fort Gadsden Creek in the Apalachicola National Forest.  We look forward to having those campsites.