Lovely day for a walk in the Refuge
Following the Friends Board meeting I walked the River Trail again. It is a beautiful walk - .96 mile from the parking all the way around. Even though I didn't see much in the way of wildlife, it is a gift to feel a part of it all while in the beauty and quiet of the Refuge. John Thalacker and his crew have done a wonderful job designing and maintaining this trail and it is very accessible for most people.
Barbara Woodmansee will lead her 4th annual butterfly count in the Lower Suwannee NWR on Saturday, April 4 (weather permitting). Barbara has spent many hours in the refuge observing butterflies and is developing a butterfly map to show where specific butterflies have been seen in the Refuge. She has also compiled an ongoing list of butterflies (last count 85 species!) that have been spotted along the Nature Drive over the past 5 or 6 years. I am not exaggerating when I say she is an expert on butterflies in the Refuge! If you are interested in attending the day long count, meet her at the Southern entrance of the Nature Drive at 9:30 am for a full day of exciting spring butterfly fun in the refuge.
Directions from Gainesville: Take SR 24, or Archer Road, to CR 347 (just before you reach Cedar Key) - it's exactly 50 miles west from the Target store in G'ville.
Turn right on CR 347, and go 10 miles until you see the large brown sign at the south entrance to the LSNWR Nature Drive.
Directions from Chiefland: Stay on Hwy 19/98 south until you reach the tiny town of Otter Creek. Turn right on SR 24, and follow it for 18 miles until you reach CR 347. Turn right on CR 347, and go 10 miles until you see the large brown sign at the south entrance to the LSNWR Nature Drive.
Directions from Cedar Key: After leaving the island, turn left onto CR 347 toward the refuge. Travel about 10 miles until you see the sign for the Nature Drive on the right. Entrance to the drive is on the left, just after a sharp corner.
Meet Barbara at the south entrance at 9:30. From there, they will work their way driving and brief walking through the Nature Drive, spending a lot of time on two of the side roads (Cabin Road & Barnett Creek Road) to look for butterflies along the roadside. This is not a difficult walking trip unless you choose to go hiking on your own
Sandfleas (no-see-ems) can be bad JUST at the entrance, but they mostly go away as we progress further into the refuge. Ticks and chiggers are also likely, so DEET or other bug spray of your choice is a good idea, with long pants tucked into socks if you walk off-road.
There are no bathrooms or drinking water in the refuge, so bring plenty to drink with a lunch/snacks, sunscreen, a hat and binoculars and/or cameras if you choose. If you have a butterfly ID book, bring it too. Barbara will bring her refuge butterfly checklists for anyone who wants to keep track of what butterflies are seen. This is an all day walk/ride but feel free to leave whenever you wish.
Jason, our stalwart air-boat captain and guide, provided a memorable sendoff for Charlie and Carolyn yesterday. Charlie and Carolyn are extraordinary litter gatherers, having accumulated 185 bags from the woods and waters on the Dixie side of the refuge in the few months they have been here so it seemed fitting to do one last cleanup.
Five of us headed off in perfect weather, there was just enough breeze to keep the sand gnats away- most of the time. The target islands were Big Pine and Little Pine near Shired Island. These two sandy islands get lots of stopovers and camping so I expected more trash than we found.
In about 3 hours we gathered 90 lbs. The picture of the trash pile in the parking lot is only from Little Pine where we found 2 mattresses in addition to many rolls of plastic air cells. Maybe next time the campers will pack it out?
Jay Bushnell's Presentation
Last evening, Dr. Jay Bushnell gave a standing-room only audience a very interesting overview of the plantation/sugar mill life in early NE Florida. First, he dared the audience to guess how many original British colonies there were at the time. One or more of the people did know that the number was actually 15, not the 13 that many of us thought. He went on to talk about the grant that was obtained by the local community college, faculty and students to preserve the remaining structures and artifacts after many had been lost to less than careful development. One photo demonstrated this clearly as Dr. Bushnell again challenged the audience. He showed a picture of a wall of a very old sugar mill that had a big hole in it. What caused it? Well, turns out it was created by a transect line being shot through the wall!!
Anne Miller, Sally Beveridge, Joyce DeHaan, Maggi Funchion and Nita Cox joined me, Donna Thalacker, for a spring nature walk in the refuge. It is so beautiful in the refuge now that it was difficult to decide on which trail to walk, but we decided on the 3 mile long Turkey Foot Trail, just off Pond 4 Road. It was a good decision! Within minutes of getting out of the car, we were faced with the tough decision of looking up at the birds or down at the butterflies! We saw hundreds of butterflies, including the large and colorful Palamedes Swallowtails, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails, plenty of crescents and satyrs and the odd Common Buckeye. All of us saw lots but Sally would win the prize for spotting (and thankfully not stepping on) a 4 foot long cottonmouth snake and three Swallowtail Kites. In addition to the Kites, we saw or heard White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Ruby-crowned kinglet, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Northern Parula, a Coot, a Blue-winged Teal and a Red-bellied Woodpecker going in and out of it’s nest hole in a snag. What a lovely day for a walk in the woods!
The next walk in the Refuge will be next week and I will be blogging on when and where in the next day or two. Hope you can join us!
Saturday, March 21
Cedar Key Community Center
Dr. Ken Sassaman will talk about astounding findings at Shell Mound and elsewhere in the region.
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The official government websites of the Refuges
"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida