Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Carmans River

Upper Carmans in the spring.

The Carmans river is one of the four largest rivers on Long Island, and is totally groundwater generated (no lakes). It is a ten mile ribbon of peaceful nature, slipping under Sunrise Highway unnoticed by the motoring hoards and finally emptying into the Great South Bay. The first eight miles are fresh water, the final two are estuary and experience the tidal effects of the bay. 
Passing under Sunrise Highway, upper river.

The river is bifurcated by Montauk Highway, and flows through a culvert under the highway. Therefor there is no boating access between the upper and lower portions of the river. The upper Carmans River is accessed through Southhaven County Park. 

The lower Carmans Rier flows through the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, but there is no access through the refuge. Paddlers launch the lower river at a privately owned dock on Montauk Highway, which charges for parking,  rents canoes and kayaks, and gives tours.  Use is free however, for  Brookhaven Town residents. 

The lower Carmans River has its charms. There are secluded canals and byways with wildlife, but as the river heads towards the bay it becomes more and more open water, edged with Phragmites communis. Therefore, when I have time, I prefer the meandering upper river...

Lower Carmans River in the spring..

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinequefolia) along the banks.

Marsh Marigold (Calthra palustris)

Double Crested Cormorant enjoying the sunshine

Greater Yellowlegs hunting for lunch..
A family of Muskrats has recently moved in.
Side channel, heading towards the bay (iPOD).

The upper river passage requires two cars, or a willing spouse/friend to pick you up at Southhaven County Park. Stop in at the park boathouse, pay the 3$ per boat fee, and they will direct you to the launch site, a few miles up-river.

 Springtime on the Upper Carmans River...

The river is shallow, winding....

and mysterious for much of its length

Unfortunately, the pretty plant below is invasive. Had I known that at the time I would have extirpated it. It has since spread beyond a one person job...

Rorippa nasturtium aquatica, watercress.

The glory of this spring paddle, was finding the native Irises in bloom, 
pure serendipity, pure beauty!

Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor

Coastal Fetterbush, Lyonia lucida, was also blooming
Family Ericaceae.

As were swaths of True Forget Me Nots,
Myosotis scorpioides

They were still blooming in the summer.

A curious female Red Winged Blackbird

The male was upset.. I suspect a nest was nearby.

An Eastern Kingbird in the breeze..

A surprised deer

By the summer, the river has changed.The blackberries are ripening,
and Summer Sweet, Clethra alnifolia is blooming.

Swamp Milkweed,  Aesclepias incarnata

Ebony Jewel Wing Damselflies danced magically above the water.
It was mating season.

Calopteryx maculata, female 


Swamp Loosetrife has taken over the banks of the river.

Decodon verticillatus

Water Willow

Parasitic Common Dodder covers the Water willow in places..
Love Vine, Cuscuto gronovi
The banks are also lined with Water Pepper
Polygonum hydropiper
A Catbird watches me..
There is one small "rapid" beneath this bridge. Beware!

I surprise another deer..

As the river flows towards  the egress at South Haven Park, it begins to widen due to the dam and culvert which send it under Montauk Highway. There is a portage almost at the end, before the widest part is reached. Right before the portage, Mute Swans begin to be appear..

Beautiful, but considered invasive. 
Mute Swan, Cygnus olor. Originally from Europe

There was a movement to "cull" all Mute Swans on public waters on Long Island, but public outcry stopped it. Here is what the NYS Department of Conservation has to say about Mute Swans
Right before the take-out.
We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations~David Brower

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gulf Islands National Seashore

This national seashore was established by congress in 1971, to protect the natural environment as well as historical structures and archaeological sites.  Beautiful beyond belief, the sugar white sands and turquoise seas of these barrier islands stretch 160 miles from Cat Island Mississippi to Okaloosa area, east of Fort Walton Beach Florida. I visited this wonder in the Pensacola, Florida area last March, so these are early spring impressions.

The white sands were once granite
 in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Seaside..these vistas stretch for miles!

Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata)

Punctuated by shorebirds searching for a snack



Or Brown Pelicans flying by, like visions from a prehistoric past..

On the bay.

Bay side

A brief glimpse of dolphins in the bay.

In the island's interiors, marshes collect rainwater and support many plants and animals.

Springtime nesting in the marsh..Great Blue Heron.

Oops! Pardon me..

Island interior, slash pines, live oaks and snags.

A magnificent Live Oak (Quercus viginiana)

Guarding this 1942 Battery

Birds love perching on the snags..this is the "snag gallery"

Listen to the Mockingbird..

White Winged Dove

See my nicitating membrane?

Osprey in the evening..

I was lucky enough to find a Marsh Interpretive trail
..saving me hours of trying to ID plants.

Florida Rosemary (Ceritiola ericoides)

Aromatic, but not culinary.
Seeds germinate after the plant dies,
 to reduce water competition.

Conradina canescens, mint family.

Ilex vomitoria

Historically used to induce vomiting.

Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera).
The berries are food for birds,
 and provided wax for colonists candles.

Tail end of Armadillo. I saw several rooting for food..

Sawtooth Blackberry (Rubus argutus)

Or Florida Blackberry..see my sawtooth leaves?

Inkberry ( Ilex glabra)
Berries are food sources for birds and many other animals.

The flowers of Fetterbush, (Lyonia lucida) or Lantern Bush
provide nectar for birds.

Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) is really a sedge. Covering extensive areas, It provides food shelter and nesting sites.

Slash Pine (Pinus elliotti) surprisingly, not salt tolerant.
Historically, these pines were "slashed" to provide turpentine.

Sunset in the marsh.

Fort Pickens , one of three forts on these islands,
was completed in 1834, to protect Pensacola Bay.

Sunset at Fort Pickens, a favorite place for locals.
A wedding party was there that night.
The more clearly we can focus on the wonders around us, the less time we will have for destruction~Rachel Carson