Friday, September 23, 2016

Congaree National Park in August

Me and Kermit arrived at Congaree National Park at 6:30am on a Sunday in late August. It was already very humid, the day ended up having a dewpoint of 74 °F and 98 °F with a "heat index," according to NOAA of 106 °F, the point is, it was warm. Although, it was quite tolerable early in the morning.

Kermit chilled out by this massive old growth swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii). 
 Congaree National Park has 25 trees that are the largest known of their respective species, called champion trees. The park in fact has the largest concentration of champion trees of any area in North America. According to the NPS Congaree National Park website, the park has one of the tallest temperate deciduous forests in the world, taller than the old growth forests in Japan, the Himalayas, Southern South America, and all of Eastern Europe.

This photo was taken down in a cypress/tupelo slough, right after six or seven wild hogs snorted and ran off to a further distance, but didn't completely flee the area.

I saw many of these beautiful millipedes around the forest, particularly on the trunk and roots of large oaks. These cool little guys feed on detritus and play an important role in the nutrient cycling.

I saw many golden silk orb weavers in Congaree, it reminds me of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana

 This individual was one of the largest I've seen of this species, it was simply huge, as large, or larger than the palm of my hand. It appeared to be grasping a large beetle or part of a cicada.

Kermit spotted large armadillo rooting around in the forest floor.

I didn't get any decent shots of the hogs, these were the two best photographs I managed. The largest hogs were already further off in the distance, these few smaller ones hung around closer.

I didn't see anybody else out on the backcountry trails. Even though I was not too many miles from civilization, I felt as though I was way out in a remote slice of wilderness, it was the same feeling I had on Africa Lake in Tensas National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.

I look forward to future explorations of Congaree, including bushwhacking to some champion trees.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Camouflage- timber rattlesnake

Big timber rattlesnake! Excellent camouflage. 

I was fortunate enough to get to see this big timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) yesterday at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. It was only a few feet from the trail, and difficult to spot. As I photographed it, the few people that passed by did not notice it until I pointed it out to them. 

HUBBARD BROOK: The Story of a Forest Ecosystem

A photo I took in June of 2009  was selected to be on the cover of a brand new book about Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, in the White Mountain National Forest. I knew my photo of Hubbard Brook itself was up for consideration, but I was unaware it was chosen until the end of May when the publication press release was put out- . It means very much to me to have my photo on the cover of a book about such an important experimental forest. Hubbard Brook is where acid rain was first discovered in North America, and a huge amount of very important and innovative ecological research has been, and continues to be, conducted there. I spent a great deal of time working and playing in the White Mountains, in Bartlett Experimental Forest, Hubbard Brook, and across the White Mountains, they hold a special place in my heart.

The Muddy Waters of Swapping Swamps

A few months back, Kathleen Onorevole, a graduate student at UNC, wrote a blog piece on my graduate research. It's very well written, you can check it out here:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Late June in Congaree National Park

Two weeks ago some friends visited from North Carolina. We explored some of the trails in Congaree National Park. It was a warm day, with a high around 102 degrees F. Kermit was  really feeling the heat, with the recent move and everything associated with that, I hadn't been taking him for the usual long walks. 

The National Park Service does prescribed burns to manage the upland pine forests. Beware of chiggers! 

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Living in Louisiana, and now in South Carolina, I have really enjoyed seeing the green anole. It's a beautiful little lizard with the ability to change its color. They move lightning-fast, and can jump surprisingly far. 

When I was a child, my family lived near Augusta Georgia. My twin brother and I use to spend hours trying to catch these little lizards. They're tough to photograph because they can be rather shy and quick to flee. I photographed this lizard this morning in one of the shrubs in front of our house. The way the anole is peeking out of the leaves, looking at me, it reminds me of the "clever girl" velociraptor  scene in the movie Jurassic Park.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Congaree National Park (December 2016)

Congaree National Park is a beautiful forest and wetland complex. It is considered the largest intact old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. It is a relatively new park, having been designated as such in 2003, prior to that it was a National Monument.

Kermit and I visited Congaree during the last week in December. It was quite warm, once we got walking I was quite comfortable in a t-shirt (although everyone else was bundled up in winter coats!).

Congaree is a very biodiverse area, with some incredible cypress and tupelo stands.

Kermit does not have the best sitting posture   :-)

Much of Congaree was flooded during this visit

Crayfish holes

Cypress knees

Me and Kermit! Short sleeves in December! 

Shallow roots, another wetland indicator
A curious gray squirrel

Friday, July 1, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park- Chimney Tops

In May of 2015, I spent some time with family visiting Smoky Mountain National Park. I've been negligent with this blog, for several reasons, not least of which is because last fall my wife and I moved from Louisiana to South Carolina. So there's plenty to catch up on. 

While in TN, I had the chance to do some hiking, including up Chimney Tops, which is one of the many popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains. 

The hike up was beautifully lush, with many little verdant coves such as this one

I believe this is Flatbacked Millipede, Sigmoria trimaculata

Beautiful timber check steps
I've been many trails in the northeast, and the steps along this trail are some of he nicest I have ever seen. My brother builds trails like this for the National Park Service in Washington.
Beautiful stone check steps

The rock outcropping on Chimney Tops, offering a 360-degree panoramic view

I did not climb all the way to the top. The rock outcropping was still wet from rain earlier in the day. 

The southern Appalachians reminds me of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The views are similar, with some overlap in plant species,  but the plant communities of the southern Appalachians are famously diverse.  Now that I live in SC, I look forward to exploring