Monday, February 6, 2012

A Walk in the Woods…

….or the salt marshes, or around fresh water ponds.  Actually the St Marks NWR included all of this.  We struck out along the East River Dike Trail which separates the tidal marsh from the fresh water impoundments and heads higher into pine/palmetto stands. This day we weren’t overwhelmed by the vast numbers of critters; we had to work at it, but by mid day we had found most of “the usual suspects.”GATOR AT ST MARKS

The dikes are wide, grassy and well mowed, easy walking and high enough to peek over both fresh and salt environments.
We saw Osprey and flocks of ducks that would lift off with a great Swoosh, circle around and land again in a long cascade of splashes. Herons and Egrets appeared in ones and twos, but our search for “Chauvinistic Mega Fauna” was stymied until we found a catch pen with four yearling feral hogs.  These guys play havoc with the FOUR PIGS IN A PENwhole enviornment, sometime churning up the ground like a bottom plow. Rufuge personel remove about 75 a year, but that hardly accounts for one sow’s production.  When we reported the trap was sprung, we had a nice chat with one of the biologists about this and other threats to the refuge. 
“No, not barbeque”, he replied to our question. “They’ll be eaten by the rest of the refuge critters.”
We asked about the Whooping Crane Chicks   which usually follow  Ultra light airplanes South to St Marks in an attempt to establish an Eastern Migratory path.  We had been following their progress south until they got stuck in Northern Alabama by weather, Christmas, FAA snarl ups and more weather.  We were planning to watch the “fly over” a few miles from our home, but left them still struggling to get the chicks to fly again after the long delays.  It seems the decision has been made to let them stay in Alabama and enjoy this mild winter weather.  If all goes well, they will instinctively return to Wisconsin in the fall. There was a littleIMG_1349 disappointment in the voice of the volunteer we spoke with, but she had tales to tell about past “crane rodeos”.  More info on this fascinating subject at OPERATION MIGRATION


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