My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Okefenokee Early and Late

Okefenokee is at its best when most people aren't here to see it. While visitors are allowed in at dawn, most don't come until much later.  And while visitors would love to linger to see the sunset from the tower, they have to leave by 5:30 P.M.  Fortunately, there is a way to get to see Okefenokee ..... volunteer. Volunteers are allowed to visit the public areas after hours.  And of course  I especially like to go to the boardwalk early in the morning as that is when I can find the most birds and other animals active. 

And evening times are very peaceful.  Animals are finding their last meal, birds are heading across the sky in long lines, or small tight groups to their roosts, and  the sun is painting beautiful pictures whose colors shift from the yellows to the blues as the sun disappears behind the horizon. 

I loved the range of colors in the sky one early morning

A lucky morning view of the lake in front of the tower

These hooded mergansers were on a small pond but I needed the early morning sun to light them properly

And birds seem to be more likely to be grooming  at the start of the day. 

This American bittern started his hunting about 3:30 P.M. but was still hunting when visitors had to leave

Anoles are more likely to be out mid-day but are seldom noticed by visitors 

This guy got much more interesting after visitors left, when he decided to head home from sumbathing under the tower
Visitors usually have to leave before the sun paints the clouds

Then gets even bolder

Before giving way to night - this from the auto tour road

This is from my only stop at Kingfisher entrance late in the day

I had to make a detour to the boat house while walking home one evening for this view
The gems I collect when spending some off hours visiting the refuges are among the top reasons to volunteer. And while I was at National Bison Range, I finagled getting the job of closing the nineteen mile auto tour a couple of times a week, which gave me the closest looks at bears and other large mammals as well as fantastic sunsets.

Last Sunday, I decided to start just after sunrise and look for birds.  I'm keeping a Patch record for the east side, and wanted more birds for my patch.  We are also taking part in the Big Backyard Bird Count this Saturday, and I hoped to find out where some more species of sparrows were hiding. I did get to where I can now find Eastern Towhees by ear.  They are just starting  their "Wheep!" calls.  And I located some common ground doves. 

But the sweetest bird was my first long view of a Marsh Wren.  I was at the end of the Cane Pole Trail where it opens into a wet meadow. As I stood quietly, looking and listening, I noticed the leaves moving on a little shrub near the ground. Then a tiny, short-tailed wren with a reddish topknot and an eye-stripe came out and sat in the open only about ten feet away.  It proceeded to groom itself, stopping twice to catch some bug too tiny to see. Of course, I hadn't taken my camera. In the west, I've been around them a lot.  At Sacramento NWR, they seemed to be singing about every fifty feet along the auto tour.  But this was the first time I've gotten to watch one groom itself. 

Just another of the kind of gifts we volunteers receive each day.