|Four Ecosystems to Explore|
Back when I started as a Docent Naturalist, NATL was much more bare bones. There were several basic paths, a picnic pavilion, PVC pipes for Treefrogs, some insect traps set out by entomologists and a kiosk where the kids could dig for ant lions. We still got a lot of use out of it with the school groups and summer camps. We caught insects in the fields, peered into the PVC pipes, peeked under logs, and played "The Thicket Game" (a Project Wild game about predators and prey) in the woods. We almost always saw or heard something wonderful. But since then it has gotten even better.
|Tiny Southern Toad on the Trail|
|Boardwalk through SEEP Area|
|Sign with QR Code for Smartphones|
|Welcome to NATL, from the Other Entrance|
|Interpretive Signs Along the Upland Pine Nature Trail|
I go to NATL when I want to take photos of butterflies or other flying insects. The open, sunny fields and well maintained pine sandhill provide an excellent source for wildflowers. It's a good place to see Red Headed Woodpeckers and Bluebirds, and I have seen Pileated Woodpeckers building nests on several occasions. In the winter, the pond is a good place to see Hooded Mergansers.
The wetlands around the boardwalk are teeming with dragonflies, frogs and butterflies. Occasionally I have seen turtles and snakes, and even an alligator.
|Snake Shed in the Forest|
A few years ago an owl box was placed in a big pine tree to attract Barn Owls. I don't think they have moved in yet, but one can hope. I don't believe that I have seen an owl in NATL, but I have seen hawks and kites. There have been several interesting structures to study the habits of Native Bees. The latest one is so attractive that I think I will borrow the design and make one for our new yard in Georgia.
|Native Bee Structure|
One of my prized butterfly sightings was at NATL. I had read a Facebook post about Harvester Butterflies on the Hammock Trail, and so I went looking for them. Not only did I see one, but I also found some Harvester Caterpillars eating Wooly Aphids on a Smilax vine (Harvester Caterpillars are insectivores!). When I visited this week, I was very happy to find and photograph another Harvester. I saw Wooly Aphids, but did not find caterpillars this time. I also saw a Question Mark Butterfly, but it flitted off before I could get a photo.
I spent about 3 hours in the heat on Saturday morning walking all the trails and reliving my happy memories of NATL. I was drenched with sweat and tired when I got home, but I feel like I could have walked all day. I love this place and hope I can visit again before we leave. I am encouraged because there is a teaching forest on the University of Georgia campus, not too far from our new home and I hope it is similar to NATL. Stay tuned for further reports.
Day 13 Total: 83 (no new birds) and 17 Natural Areas
|Tread-Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus)|
|Showy Milkwort (Asemeia violacea)|
|Man of the Earth (Ipomoea pandurata)|
|Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum)|
|Green Lynx Spider on Paleleaf Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)|
|Florida Milkvine (Matelea floridana)|
|A Walk in the Woods Always Makes Me Feel Happy|