Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thanks, I needed that!

My husband had a bike accident last week and broke his collarbone. He's healing well, but I've been doing a short stint as his caregiver since the accident and thus have not been able to get outside as much as I'm used to. So it was a welcome treat when I was able to swing by Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park after dropping him off at work today. I had to renew our annual State Park Pass (great deal!), so I went to the main entrance of the park rather than La Chua Trail, where I usually go. I decided to check out the area around Lake Wauberg, by the Puc Puggy Campground. It was late morning by the time I got there, so I didn't think I'd have much chance of seeing Otters and Eagles, but it was still beautiful. I have not been especially taxed as a caregiver. My husband is able to take care of most of his needs. He's in pain, which is hard to see, and he's very uncomfortable. And he can't lift anything, or do his contact lenses (I hold his eyelids up). But otherwise, my work is relatively minor. Still, I've been tired and tense, and the cool breeze through the big oak trees felt so good. It was great to step out of the car and hear the "cheer, cheer, cheer" sounds of the Cardinals and the White Eyed Vireos chattering about "beer, Jack".

Big Oak Trees
I walked over to the short boardwalk on Lake Wauberg and saw an Anhinga that had just caught a fish. There were scores of Dragonflies in the Pickerel Weed. After many tries, I finally caught a shot of one mid air. I saw a Catbird in the blackberries and a female Blue Grosbeak perched on some Dog Fennel, and watched a pair of Osprey successfully fishing. The Fish Crows were Ca-ha-ing from the oak trees. The Green Anoles blended in perfectly with the water plants, taking on green and yellow backgrounds. Squirrels rustled in the tree leaves and scolded me as I walked along.

Mid Air Dragonfly

Blue Grosbeak

Hiding Anole

Wary Squirrel
I continued to the short Lake Trail, through the magnificent Oaks. Just past the Oaks there was a clearing and I could see a Gopher Tortoise walking towards me on the trail. I tried to speed up to get a closer look, but the Tortoise saw me, turned around and practically ran to its burrow! I caught a couple of shots of it tearing through the grass, and one more as it dove into the opening. I felt a little bad and selfish about scaring it, but I hadn't seen one for a long time. Right across from its burrow was another burrow that also looked active, but it also looked as if something had been digging in front. I suspect that something dug up and ate eggs that were buried in the apron of the burrow. I couldn't tell from the tracks what did the digging, but I suspect it could have been armadillos.
Gopher Tortoise Trotting Along

Turns Around and Runs Away

Tearing Through The Grass

Whoosh Down Into the Burrow

Digging--Maybe An Egg Thief?
I continued along the trail, passing fields of cactuses in bloom. Years ago, I thought it was odd when I first saw cactus in semi-tropical Florida. But I understand now that many Southwest desert species, including the Gopher Tortoise, Florida Scrub Jay, Burrowing Owl and Cactus have ancestors that migrated to the Southeast a million or so years ago.  It's our funny connection to the West where I grew up. The butterflies were excited about the early spring blooms of the Cactus, Tread Softly and purple Heliotrope.
Flowering Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa)

Tread Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) with Visitor

Clasping Heliotrope (Heliotropium amplexicaule) and Fiery Skipper
As I walked I looked down and noticed that the sandy road was covered in animal tracks. I saw tracks from Raccoon, lots of birds, squirrels, armadillos, lizards, deer, some sort of canine, and huge bird tracks that I figure were probably Turkey or Sandhill Crane. I looked for signs of snakes and bobcats but didn't see any indication. It's always interesting to look at tracks to see what animals have been in the area . This road was very busy!
Armadillo Tracks (See the Funny Feet and Tail Marks)

Birds Hopping

Raccoon Tracks on the Left and a Lizard Tail through the Center

Big Bird Track (Turkey or Crane?)

Intersecting Lizards

Critter Hoe Down!
On the return trip a Great Crested Flycatcher flew down and took a dust bath in the road right in front of me, while a Red Bellied Woodpecker thrashed around in a Palm Tree looking for good bugs. I watched a White Eyed Vireo catch a big bug, maybe a dragonfly, and feed it to its chick. The Cardinals called from every corner, and the Crows chased an immature Bald Eagle away from the lake. Back at the boardwalk, I saw a Common Yellowthroat and a Northern Parula looking for bugs in the bushes, and a Spider web sparkled in the woods on the way back to the car. It was all so soothing and pleasant and much appreciated.
Great Crested Fly Catcher Takes a Dust Bath

Red Bellied Woodpecker in the Palm

White Eyed Vireo

Cardinal Peeking Through the Leaves

Immature Bald Eagle Flies Away from Crows

Sparkling Web

Which got me thinking. Luckily and thankfully, my stint as a caregiver will be short and relatively easy.   My husband has the hard part. But many people do this difficult and important work every day for loved ones with serious, ongoing conditions and get little respite from the caregiving. Wouldn't it be nice if those caregivers could get away for some mind-clearing, soul-healing Nature Therapy? A little time outside gives you new energy and perspective. Here's an idea: If you are a caregiver, take a mental health day and go for a nature walk! If you know a caregiver, give them a restorative gift. Help them to take some time--a morning or afternoon, or even a whole day--to get away and go outside. Tell them to find a park, listen to some birds, watch the butterflies and breathe some fresh air. It will make a world of difference!
Nature Therapy

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