ספטמבר 16, 2020

Okefenokee Brown Watersnake

In the early 1990s, when I should have been sitting in my college classes, I was usually out in the rural areas and swamps of Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas flipping pieces of tin and digging through piles of debris hoping to find snakes. Reptiles became a lasting interest, and much of what drew me to the Okefenokee Swamp in first place. Twenty years later I’m back in the Okefenokee with my daughter. Thankfully she shares her dad’s love of snakes and is always hopeful for a reptile find as well!

Brown Watersnake in Okefenokee Swamp
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 29977854

On our 2015 trip, we weren’t disappointed as we quickly came across a Brown Watersnake along the swamp boardwalk in the Stephen C Foster State Park. I’m not sure how we spotted this perfectly camouflaged dark, black and brown snake laying in the dark water choked with brown leaf litter. There are several species of Nerodia found in the Okefenokee. I usually recognize N. taxispilota by the squarish blotches that run in equal spacing down its back, cady-corner with the patches that run alternatingly down each side.

~~ Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography blog. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in the project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

פורסם ב ספטמבר 16, 2020 10:21 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 10, 2020

Okefenokee Journal 3/10/15 - Green Heron Surprise

Okefenokee Journal from Tuesday, March 10, 2015; 4:13 PM - After pitching camp in the Stephen C Foster State Park campground, the game with my daughter was to see who would spot our first alligator. So we headed down the Trembling Earth Nature Trail and onto the boardwalk that heads into the swamp. On our way, two woodpeckers chased each other, spiraling around and through the trees; a doe and fawn casually fed on the grass near the cabins, and a Green Anole darted across our path.

Green Heron Okefenokee Swamp
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observaton: 29932812

Near the back of the trail loop, a spur of the boardwalk heads 2,000 feet out into the standing water of the swamp. Underneath lies 2 to 3 feet of dark tinted water, but very clear to the bottom, revealing submerged debris, logs, grasses and vegetation. As we neared the mid-point of the boardwalk, a Green Heron burst aloft between the bushes on my left and stopped on a limb to check out the intruders. An agitated rooster-like crown covered his head but then smoothed back as he settled on a perch; beautiful, shimmering, iridescent shades of blue, green, and tan. To my daughter’s dismay (she was ready to see what lie up ahead), I stayed with the heron for at least ten minutes, following him from perch to perch, waiting for the opportune “Kodak moment.”

~ Want to explore the great Okefenokee Swamp? Join the Okefenokee Photography Project here on iNaturalist! and follow the Okefenokee Photography Blog at https://okefenokee.photography/. Thanks! William

פורסם ב ספטמבר 10, 2020 10:04 לפנה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

אוגוסט 29, 2020

Paddling "The Narrows" of the Okefenokee Swamp

Kayak Canoe trail direction sign for River Narrows and Suwannee Sill in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia USA
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Between the open skies of Billy’s Lake and the prairie landscape of Mixon’s Hammock lies a twisting, constricted canoe trail called The Narrows. The sky overhead is darkened by Black Gum, Cypress, Bay, Red Maple and Dahoon Holly. The eye-level view left and right is overcrowded by Titi, Hurrah Bush and other shrubs. Unless the refuge cutter boats have recently passed through, sharp sticks and twigs stab toward the narrow channel hoping to impale the unskilled kayaker.

The current flows westward from Billy’s Lake toward the Sill. This seems like an advantage to the westbound paddler, but don’t be deceived. The current can carry you along so quickly that steering becomes difficult and pushes you into the scratchy shrubs lining the narrow channel. Many of these protruding limbs are tipped with spiders, and even snakes, to jump aboard the canoe. Even though the current is against you heading back to Billy’s Lake, I have found it a much more enjoyable journey with time as the steering is much more manageable.

פורסם ב אוגוסט 29, 2020 05:15 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

אוגוסט 04, 2020

Struggle Through Mixon's Hammock, Okefenokee Swamp

A toil through Mixon’s Hammock from my March 5, 2017 Okefenokee journal:
American Alligator, Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Alligator on Mixon's Hammock ©William Wise | iNat Observation: 34153914
Sunday, 3:45 PM - The journey along the wide canal known as The Sill was quite easy, especially with an electric trolling motor aiding our progress. But as we turned east back up the brown trail, our trouble began. That wonderful downstream current we enjoyed this morning through Mixon’s Hammock was now a forceful torrent impeding our way back to camp. Small but forceful streams of water were pouring off the prairie adding to the current. Amanda kept the trolling motor on the highest setting and it barely held us in one spot. I lunged with all the strength of my shoulders and biceps to press us forward, but progress was slow and laborious. It was also getting late.

The thoughts of not making it back to Billy’s Lake before dark were becoming an ominous presence in my mind. When we were passed by some barefoot fishermen in a gas powered john boat, I desired to ask for a tow. “You’re going to have a tough go against this current”, was all the help they could muster. Such toil, and we still had the passage through the dreaded Narrows ahead.

I got quite a workout as I pulled and pulled the paddle against the current. Needless to say, I have no photos along this stretch of our journey, for anytime I quit paddling even to catch my breath, we immediately were pulled backward. And only an occasional alligator watched as we labored past. But we finally made it through the prairie into the Narrows, and things actually improved. The narrowing and twisting of the channel slowed the current and the trolling motor carried us along without paddling.

~ Want to explore the great Okefenokee Swamp? Join the Okefenokee Photography Project here on iNaturalist or follow the Okefenokee Photography Blog at https://okefenokee.photography/. Thanks! William

פורסם ב אוגוסט 04, 2020 08:14 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

יולי 30, 2020

El Legarto

Internet rumor has it that the alligator received its name from the Spanish explorers that claimed Florida in the 1500’s. If true, I’m sure that "el legarto" didn’t simply mean a lizard, but THE Lizard! For the impressive alligator is no mere squamate, but on the order of a greater magnitude: Crocodilia!

Close up alligator laying on a log
Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 2020
©Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 46517992

The order Crocodilia are large, predatory reptiles. They are primarily carnivorous and feast upon fish, crustaceans, birds, mammals and even other reptiles. While they are quite imposing in appearance, and some crocodilians have attacked humans (the largest number of attacks comes from the Nile crocodile), the American Alligator is rarely a threat to people. According to a Georgia Department of Natural Resources publication, “the opportunity for humans to experience any of the alligator’s weapons first hand will come only to those who attempt to capture one. Under natural conditions, alligators are usually shy, retiring creatures that generally mind their own business, which does not include promoting encounters with humans.”

Still, el legarto is no mere lizard!

~ Want to explore the great Okefenokee Swamp? Join the Okefenokee Photography Project here on iNaturalist! and follow the Okefenokee Photography Blog at https://okefenokee.photography/. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in the project. Thanks! William

פורסם ב יולי 30, 2020 12:07 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

יולי 24, 2020

Chase Prairie

Prior to being set aside as a National Wildlife Refuge, White-tailed Deer were commonly hunted on the open prairies of the Okefenokee Swamp. In an excerpt from the 1926 book History of the Okefenokee Swamp, A. S. McQueen and Hamp Mizell describe why "Chase Prairie" received its name:
White-tailed Deer hiding on Billy`s Island in the Okefenokee Swamp behind Spanish Moss, Georgia
Okefenokee White-tailed Deer © Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 49829159

"Chase Prairie derives its name from the fact that it was a favorite place to chase down deer that would come out on the space to feed upon the grass and water plants. A number of hunters would gather with dogs around this large Prairie and some would chase the deer from the islands into the Prairie, while others would have boats convenient, and they were so expert with the little narrow boats used in the Swamp that they could propel these boats so swiftly over the water-covered Prairie that a deer would be overtaken before he could cross it."

Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography blog. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in the project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

פורסם ב יולי 24, 2020 01:40 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

יולי 23, 2020

Sophie's Suitor

Any visitor to the Stephen C Foster Georgia State Park campground in the heart of the Okefenokee Swamp has met “Sophie”. She is the resident gator that lives, patrols and fills the boat launch area with babies every year. Sophie can often be seen laying in the grass near the canoes, or occasionally up on the boat ramp. On most of my visits, Sophie has been the only gator in the boat ramp area. But on this March 2020 trip, her suitor, “Tank” was hanging around, undoubtedly awaiting the beginning of breeding season!

Large female American Alligator laying on boat ramp
"Sophie" | © Photographer: William Wise Photography | iNat observation: 46598920

פורסם ב יולי 23, 2020 01:07 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

יולי 08, 2020

When the Okefenokee Burns

Hot summers… extended periods of drought… plenty of exposed organic peat material… and a random but well-placed lightning strike; all these ingredients cook up to make large fires. South Georgia, and especially the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, face this imminent threat every year. Often, hundreds upon hundreds of square miles burn for several days at a time.
Burned cypress tree stump in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise
But is fire bad? In reality, wildfires actually are what keep the Okefenokee Swamp a swamp. As the fires sweep the prairies of the refuge, the shrubs and young hardwoods are killed back. The large cypress and Long-leaf pines tolerate the flames and thus the characteristic open habitats of the Okefenokee remain. According to the Georgia Wildlife Federation, “Fire is a necessary part of the swamp ecosystem. When it burns the swamp, usual plant succession is interrupted, preventing swamp prairies from filling with cypresses, black gums, and bays and becoming Woodland.” (Georgia Wildlife: The Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia Wildlife, Volume 6, Number 1, from Georgia Wildlife Press; 1997.)


Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography Blog. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in this project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

פורסם ב יולי 08, 2020 05:09 אחה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

יולי 04, 2020

These Floating Islands - William Bartram

Excerpt from William Bartram's Travels, Part II, Chapter III
Mixons Hammock panorama Okefenokee Swamp ecosystem
© Photographer: William Wise
"These floating islands present a very entertaining prospect; for although we behold an assemblage of the primary productions of nature only, yet the imagination seems to remain in suspence and doubt; as in order to enliven the delusion and form a most picturesque appearance, we see not only flowery plants, clumps of shrubs, old weather-beaten trees, hoary and barbed, with the long moss waving from their snags, but we also see them compleatly inhabited, and alive, with crocodiles, serpents, frogs, otters, crows, herons, curlews, jackdaws, &c. there seems, in short, nothing wanted but the appearance of a wigwam and a canoe to complete the scene."

  • William Bartram was a botantist, artist, and nature writer that explored the southeastern United States around the time of the American Revolution (1773-1776). He documented them in his book, Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida.
    _______________________
    Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography Wordpress blog at https://okefenokee.photography/. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in this project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

פורסם ב יולי 04, 2020 12:26 לפנה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

יוני 27, 2020

Okefenokee Swamp Spotted Sandpiper

Scanning the shore with my binoculars as my daughter piloted our canoe around Billy’s lake, I was a bit startled when I saw a small group of four plump sandpiper birds gathered on a downed cypress tree. Sandpipers in the Okefenokee? This was definitely a first for me. Since our Okefenokee excursions have always been in March, I had not spotted a Spotted Sandpiper in the swamp before! About an hour later, near the entrance of The Narrows, I saw another group of 9 standing on a log in the shade.
Spotted Sandpiper bird Okefenokee Swamp Georgia birding
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com iNat Observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/46503864

Apparently, I wasn’t the first person to be surprised at seeing them. In 1913, Albert Wright and Francis Harper explored the Okefenokee for the American Ornithological Society. In the society’s scientific journal and official publication, The Auk, they wrote of the delight in finding the Spotted Sandpiper within the great Swamp:

“The Spotted Sandpiper was a distinct surprise as a summer resident of the swamp. Not only is this several hundred miles south of its known breeding range, but one would not expect it to find a suitable haunt in the Oke-finokee. The lakes and runs are practically shoreless; they are simply open spaces in the otherwise continuous cypress swamps. However, the logs and driftwood near the edges of Billy’s Lake serve as teetering stands; half a dozen were seen here on May 11, one on June 5, and still another a few days later. Earlier in the spring one or two were reported from the canal. The species probably does not breed in this latitude.”

According to www.allaboutbirds.com, Spotted Sandpipers are “the most widespread sandpiper in North America, and they are common near most kinds of freshwater, including rivers and streams, as well as near the sea coast”… and apparently blackwater swamps as well! Looking at eBird’s illustrated checklist for Charlton County, the Spotted Sandpipers are most commonly observed in the Okefenokee in April and May. So I was happy to be able to make a May visit to the swamp (thanks COVID19!) and spot this Spotted Sandpiper!


Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography Wordpress blog at https://okefenokee.photography/. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in this project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

פורסם ב יוני 27, 2020 10:30 לפנה"צ על־ידי williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה