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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Long Island in Winter

Little Peconic River, Cranberry Bog Preserve
We are sixteen days from the Vernal Equinox (March 20th) and since this winter has been the snowiest in recent memory, Polar Vortex inspired beauty abounded. I don't let the weather stop me from rambling..and there are many beautiful refuges and seashores to explore. So  here is a potpourri of photos taken on Long Island winter rambles.

Little Peconic River, looking the other way from the bridge..
Cranberry Bog Preserve is a 165 acre refuge in Riverhead, New York. There is a mile long loop trail around Swezey Pond, which was made by damming the Little Peconic River to produce a bog for Cranberry growing venture. In the warm moths Lady Slippers and  other native plants, including rare bog plants,  can be found. On this day, all was white and still except for the whistle of a Kingfisher.

The Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge is a 187 acre penninsula on Noyack and Little Peconic Bays. It is best known for it's stunning waterfront and for friendly birds. Unfortunately the refuge is being over run by invasive plants..most notably mile-a-minute vine Despite new signs everywhere, saying "don't feed the wildlife" folks still  come to feed the birds and they are tame.  

House Finch

Tirmouse, the birds posed..I take no credit!

Hello! Eastern Towhee.

I feel friendly!

Song Sparrow

Stocking up!

White Throated Sparrow

As I've said, the birds are friendly..

Snow etched trees in recently designated park land,
 right down the street from me!

Winter Wonderland at Quoque Wildlife Refuge.
Rescued animals are tended at this refuge

Pond at Quogue Wildlife Refuge

Calverton Ponds Preserve is  350-acre oak-pine forest containing coastal plain ponds, one of the rarest wetland types in North America. Coastal plain ponds are fed by ground water, rather than streams. After the turn of the 20th century, Calverton Ponds were altered to create commercial cranberry bogs, which were in operation for over 50 years. Now they are home to fragile ecosystems and rare plants and animals

Reflections on Block Pond
Sandy Pond on a windy day

Cold Ducks on Forge River

Forge River is a mecca for ducks in the winter

But I had better luck having ducks pose for me, near the Smithpoint Bridge, over Bellport Bay. Smithpoint is the gateway to the Fire Island National seashore.

Red Breasted Merganser.

Pair of Western Grebes

A baffle of Buffle heads ;-)

Sunset that night, Over Bellport Bay

Deer hoping for food in Smith Point parking lot.
Of course it is forbidden to feed them. Of course it is done.

Ducks are not the only wildlife to overwinter on Long Island..Seal cruises offered by the Riverhead Foundation, leave from the Freeport Town dock in Nassau County, to explore Hempstead Bay. On the day I went out we found a group of 45 Harbor Seals. Harbor Seals can also be seen on foot, at Cupsogue Beach in Suffolk County.

Time to leave Winter..

Bye, bye..

Another fine Sunset over Bellport Bay..

If winter comes..can spring be far behind?  ~ Shelley