Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Pt. 1

Wood Duck Love!

Keep your fingers crossed that this, my third try to post a new entry, will "take." Blogger kinda went gonzo on me for some reason. This is the story I've been trying to tell you. Tuesday morning I had the honor of meeting the Supervisory Park Ranger of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. She graciously agreed to meet with me to hear about a project that I hope will come to fruition. More about that later if everything works out. After our meeting I took time for myself and strolled around some of my favorite spots there.

See the little bird house?

The first leg of my trek was down the Atkeson Cypress Trail. It's a short 1/2 mile boardwalk adventure through a lowland filled with Bald Cypress. I love this little trail. There are seats built in for sitting and soaking in the peace, however it was just me visiting this day and there was peace aplenty. The day was cloudy with rain showers playing around the edges. The light was so soft and pretty, changing often with the breezes. This veiled light brought out the subtle colors of the lichens and tree bark, mosses and cypress knees. Powder gray skies created stark reflections upon the dark waters. This places feels primeval.

Every ripple in the water made me think a T-Rex was walking toward me!

My last visit here was with my road trip buddy, Carroll. The winds were stronger then and the trees were swaying and dancing. Those of you who read that particular post may remember my mentioning the singing trees. "Singing" as the winds made them rub together and a strange throaty sound filled the air, much as a cellist strums a bow across her instrument's strings. We'd stood there the longest time listening to the trees sing. I was hoping to hear that again today, but the winds were too light.

Hairy Knees

The water is low now and multiple bands of colors ring the bottoms of cypress trees marking the rise and fall of the seasons. Fallen cypress leaves rest like rust-colored feathers below the water, adding a reddish hue to the overall effects. Cypress trees have exquisite bark. Lightly shaggy, with colors of iron and rust that provide the backdrop to light teal lichens and bright green mosses.

Looks sorta like a lightning bolt!

"Bald cypress is a long-lived, deciduous wetland species that grows along rivers, streams and creeks as well as in swamps with slow moving water. It can live up to 600 years old. It is a legendary tree of the Deep South known for its "knees," moss-draped crown, and buttressed trunk. It occurs in the coastal plains along the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean and north through the Mississippi River Valley."

The Boardwalk

"Bald cypress is a very important tree in the swampland ecosystem. It is valuable for wildlife food and cover. Canada geese migrating to the south feed on the seeds. Swamp rabbits and other birds, such as Florida cranes and ducks, also feed on bald cypress. White-tailed deer escape to the cover of bald cypress swamps during hunting season. Many animals find shelter in and around the base of large old-growth trees."

Knee with reflections

"Knees" are present in both pond cypress and bald cypress root systems when they are growing in water. Cypress "knees," or pneumatophores, are cone-shaped extensions of the root system protruding from the ground. Pneumatophores are thought to function as the trees' means of obtaining oxygen for the roots during flooded conditions. Bald cypress and pond cypress are "Trees with knees." (source)

Goodbye trees with skirts!

It's time to say goodbye to the cypress trees and start my short hike to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Observation Building. Next post, I'll show you what I found!


Bird Girl said...

You did a wonderful job describing your boardwalk experience and these bald cypress! Loved the image of the tree tops reflected in the water!

Jenny said...

Really fantastic post Debi. Beautifully written and informative and the 'lightning bolt' photo blows me away. Stunning! Also love the 'skirt' one....lovely intense colours. Can't wait for the next installment!

Eve said...

This is just great! I love that fifth photo with the reflections! Just great. I wish I was there. Haven't been to a cypress swamp yet! We'll do that some day soon!
Thanks Debi, waiting for more!!

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Thanks for sharing your knowledge on cypress groves. This is so alien to me. Who would have thought trees have knees! LOL The "lightning bolt" shot is fabulous!

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Bo Mackiosn said...

Oh my, oh my!

Primevel settings, gray skies, singing trees ala cellist, hairy knees, lightning bolts, knobby cypress - not only amazing photography, but you are one fine wordsmith! And you have succeeded--if your mission was to so enthrall me that I have got to see (and shoot) a cypress forest with MY VERY OWN EYES.

As I already said, oh my, oh my, oh my!

The Garden Ms. S said...

These trees with knees are beautiful. The forest does look primorial - I can only imagine how peaceful it must feel. Look forward to more!

kendalee said...

Oooh, how interesting! I've ever seen these trees before and they are beautiful and fascinating. And that little birdhouse... love it!

And thank you for your kind words yesterday. Your thoughts and prayers are very welcome and really do help me feel better. I know this wheel will turn. I just have to hang on until it does... And I have much to be thankful for :) I hope you have a lovely weekend!


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