Monday, January 21, 2013

What A Difference A Little Rain Makes…

January 19th, 2013. Finally, a few sunny days after weeks of cloudy weather. We made the drive down to Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge again. We’d had three inches of rain at our place since the New Year so it would be interesting to see if the rain had made any difference in the NWR.

At our obligatory stop on the bridge over Little Falling Creek, it was clear that the rain had rejuvenated the creek flow.

A view of the creek downstream from the bridge on November 24th, 2012. The creek hadn’t flowed for about six months. There was just a lot of dry rock and a few, isolated pools of water. The rock is stained black from biological activity when the area is wet.

On January 19th, 2013, the creek was flowing strongly. The water covered the area of black-stained rock.

A closer view of the area below the bridge on November 24th, and on…

January 19th, 2013.

It was great to see this creek flowing again. Wonder how long it will last this year.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

November at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge: Green, Brown, Red And White

November 24th, 2012. We’ve endured what seems like weeks of gray clouds and rain. Life is shades mostly of the dull green of pine trees and the browns of dead leaves and grasses. Time to look back to late November when there were still leaves on trees and some sun shining between the clouds.
We drove into the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge on Starr Road from GA-83 as we usually do. We spotted a grass…
blooming in the pine forest west of the road. It took a few minutes to process the fact that it wasn’t on of the native grasses – the seed heads were too ‘white’ - but…
Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) that had seeded itself in the national forest north of the wildlife refuge.
We drove down to Pond 6A which… 
 Is a pretty pond, and a…
good place to see fine examples of Silver Plume Grass (Saccharum alopecuroides) in the distance across the pond, and...

up close on the dam.
We then drove over to Pond 2A. One the way we spotted a white ‘growth’ on the trunk of a pine tree; about 15 feet above the ground. This proved to be a…
 Tooth fungus (unidentified).
My favorite view of the Pond 2A shoreline.
On this occasion, we were surprised to find that a gate to the wildlife refuge just beyond Pond 2A was open and we took the opportunity to explore a new road.
At one bend in the road we found this oak tree with brilliant red leaves, and a…
side road bordered by trees still holding onto their browned leaves. And then a stop to examine…
a few stalks of grass (in the center of the image) that I had assumed previously to be in immature Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) but which, clearly, were quite different when mature.
A closer view of the seed head. This is Elliot’s Bluestem (Andropogon gyrans).

 Then we made our obligatory stop at the bridge over Little Falling Creek. 
The creek had no water flow at all. There was just a lot of dry rock and a few, isolated pools of water.
We found several stands of Common Bushy Bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) at Pond 11a, and the final find of the day…
An Asclepias species seed pod releasing seeds. This is almost certainly the Green Comet Milkweed(Asclepias viridiflora) 

Even when the main wildflower show is over for the year, there are still a lot of interesting finds to be had. 
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beaver Lodge On Anderson Mill Creek Swamp

We found the swamps on Enoch John Road in Wilkes County, Georgia, in 2011 and drive by them every time we’re in the county. On the day we took the most recent photos of the beaver lodge on the eastern swamp on Enoch John Road, we discovered another lodge on the western swamp on Anderson Mill Creek.

We always stop on the..

bridge over the creek – looking west to the bridge - and take photos looking to the…


A closer view, and…


A closer view.

We stopped on the eastern approach to the bridge to photograph a…

Clump of Bushy Bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) that had gone to seed.

We were wandering around and noticed something almost insignificant but not quite…

A mud dam stretching between two clumps of grass. This wasn’t there last time we drove along this road. The road grader had been through and opened up the vegetation along this stretch of road to allow water to drain from the upper swamp to the lower area.

This was a small dam. No doubt about it. The beaver in this area have built and extensive length of dam, more like a terrace, along the north side of the road to the west of the bridge. This small section was very similar.

So we started looking around and found, a little way to the north, another beaver lodge almost hidden. In this photo, it’s a gray mound just to the left of center behind the bushes. It’s there; you just have to know where to look.

There was no getting closer to it. Its in the swamp. The water is probably a couple of feet deep and the bottom mud is probably soft. We weren’t equipped and weren’t going to attempt to get closer. The only other option was to position the pickup in the best spot and climb up into the bed of the pickup and strain for a better view.

This was the best we could do but, clearly, it is a beaver lodge not more than approximately 30 feet north of the road.

Judging by how difficult it was to get a good view of the lodge now that the bushes have dropped their leaves, it would be impossible to see it in the Summer.
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Identification Resources:
University of Georgia Museum of Natural History: American Beaver (Castor canadensis)

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Beaver Lodge On Wilkes County Swamp

We found the swamps on Enoch John Road in Wilkes County, Georgia, in 2011 and drive by them every time we’re in the county. These photos were taken at the eastern swamp on a tributary to Fishing Creek.

In summer, you’d never suspect anything. The view across the water is blocked by a large stand of American Lotus (Nelumbo luteo). Beavers are in the area but you think that they’d have their lodges further up the swamp. But no…  In the Winter of 2011 we got a better look at the swamp.

The water is impounded by a dam that is at least six feet tall at its tallest point.

A closer view…

And still closer…

And from the side…

Still closer…

It appeared that the dam had been undergoing maintenance. There was evidence of some new timbers and signs that fresh mud had been applied to the top of the dam.

When we stopped by in mid-December, 2012, the dam has grassed over completely. All that is visible of the long, thick trunk that was clearly visible in 2011, is the exposed part above the dam that has weathered.

At first we didn’t see it, but then we spotted the beaver lodge.

A classic beaver lodge in the middle of the swamp.

 In December 2012, it’s still difficult to see the lodge from the road

The lodge has weathered and some of the big timers that were on the top right-hand side appear to be in the water in front of the lodge.

We climbed up an embankment to get a clearer view of the swamp.

Views of the lodge in the distance. In the summer, the lotus field would block this view.

Increasingly closer views from this vantage point. Dead lotus leaves are clearly visible in the water around the lodge.

The icing on the cake would be to catch a glimpse of the beaver swimming in the swamp.
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Identification Resources:
- University of Georgia Museum of Natural History: American Beaver (Castor canadensis)