Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge's Boletim

30 de novembro de 2022

Okefenokee Swamp: The Heron is at Home

Green Heron Okefenokee Swamp
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 29932812 - Green Heron along the Trembling Earth Nature Trail; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 10, 2015.

In 1895, naturalist Bradford Torrey wrote of the Green Heron being at home in "watery woods", such as are found in the Okefenokee Swamp:

"The day was before me, and the place was lively with birds. Pine-wood sparrows, pine warblers, and red-winged blackbirds were in song; two red-shouldered hawks were screaming, a flicker was shouting, a red-bellied woodpecker cried kur-r-r-r, brown-headed nuthatches were gossiping in the distance, and suddenly I heard, what I never thought to hear in a pinery, the croak of a green heron. I turned quickly and saw him. It was indeed he. What a friend is ignorance, mother of all those happy surprises which brighten existence as they pass, like the butterflies of the wood. The heron was at home, and I was the stranger. For there was water near, as there is everywhere in Florida; and subsequently, in this very place, I met not only the green heron, but three of his relatives,—the great blue, the little blue, and the dainty Louisiana, more poetically known (and worthy to wear the name) as the 'Lady of the Waters.'"

  • Torrey, Bradford (1895). A Florida Sketch-Book.
Publicado em 30 de novembro de 2022, 12:57 AM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

23 de novembro de 2022

Okefenokee Details

Swamp Spreadwing Damselfly in the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 101527589 Swamp Spreadwing, (Lestes vigilax) photographed November 12, 2021 near Kingfisher Landing in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia USA

The Okefenokee Swamp features a variety of habitats within one giant ecosystem. As one paddles, the dark canoe trails through the cypress trees fall off to reveal wide-open, sweeping swamp prairie landscapes. There is never a lack of panoramas for the landscape photographer.

But there are areas of the swamp where the runs constrict and the scrubby vegetation of Titi and Fetterbush not only impede passage, but impede the view. While paddling the red trail north of Kingfisher Landing in November 2021, I could only get a view of Double Lakes by standing in my canoe… a tricky position for a photographer!

But when the walls close in around you, that doesn’t mean the photography opportunities disappear. If your senses remain alert to the natural world around you, one simply redirects focus and explores the details of some of the smaller plants and critters within the National Wildlife Refuge. If the open views are blocked, its time to switch to a macro lens and explore the smaller, hidden world of the Okefenokee!

Publicado em 23 de novembro de 2022, 07:11 PM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

23 de junho de 2021

Imagine Pristine Okefenokee

Cut cypress stumps from logging operations in the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise | Stumps of Cypress trees remain throughout the Okefenokee Swamp from extensive logging operations and clearcuts from the Hebard Logging Company in the 1920s. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. Paddling north on the Suwannee River Middle Fork red trail.

As beautiful as the Okefenokee Swamp is today, I can only imagine the grandeur of the pristine beauty prior to the logging of the early 1900’s. It has been nearly 100 years since the logging took place, but the scars of wide scale timber removal remain to this day. Many of the cypress have been growing back since the saws were silenced, but I do not think we see what the early explorers and swampers saw in the 1800’s.

In his book Mammals of the Okefinokee Swamp published in 1927, naturalist Francis Harper wrote, “This was doubtless one of the most magnificent stands of cypress in the country, many of the trees towering to a height of about 100 feet, and having a diameter of more than a yard above the swollen base.”

If the post-exploitation Okefenokee can hold such magnificence today, one can only imagine what it would have been to step foot in the towering cypress cathedrals of yesterday. But as long as we continue to preserve this national treasure, future generations won’t have to use their imagination. Cypress grow slowly, but they do grow! One day.

Publicado em 23 de junho de 2021, 06:30 PM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

17 de junho de 2021

Okefenokee NWR: A Letter Preserved a Treasure

It was a 1933 letter from Jean Harper to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt which lead to the protection of the Okefenokee Swamp as a National Wildlife Refuge. The efforts and studies of Harper and her husband, Francis, have preserved a treasure for generations:

Alligator swimming in dark swamp water
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 35508091 American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, swimming in tannin stained black water swamp of Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. March 6, 2017.

​Dear Mr. Roosevelt: there is a matter that needs your immediate attention - the preservation of the Okefinokee Swamp. Perhaps you may recall that a few years ago, Francis sent you some of his reprints on the swamp. For twenty odd years naturalist and nature-lovers have been working for the preservation of this marvelous wilderness; unique in its nature not only in this country, but in the world. The character of its fauna, its flora, and its human life is unsurpassed.

Two years ago the Senate Committee on Wild Life Resources visited the Okefinokee and submitted the report recommending its purchase as a national wild-life refuge. But because of the depression, nothing further has been done.

We now learn of the project to put a ship canal through the swamp. You will know what this would mean to the beauty of the area to the wild life. The destruction that would thus be brought on is unthinkable. Our hope lies in you to stop the project before it goes farther, and spend the money in the purchase of the swamp for a reservation, where beauty and scientific interest may be preserved for all time.

Sincerely, Jean Sherwood Harper

Publicado em 17 de junho de 2021, 04:45 PM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

07 de março de 2021

Okefenokee Birding: Double-crested Cormorant

Cormorant Okefenokee Swamp
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 30501781 Double-crested Cormorant perched above Billy’s Lake; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 11, 2015.

Found throughout the United States, the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is one of the common waterbirds found in the Okefenokee National Refuge throughout most of the year. These somewhat goofy acting birds can be seen milling about on bare cypress trees and snags over the open spaces of the swamp.

With feathers that are not water repellent, most of their body typically sinks below the water’s surface as they fish and dive. Afterwards, while roosting upon a limb, they spread their wings to dry them in the sun.

Because of their color, size and behavior, they are often confused with the Anhinga. But the cormorant’s bill is shorter and hooked at the end, unlike the long spear-like bill of the Anhinga. And while it is just my opinion, they seem less graceful than the sleek Anhinga.

Learn more about the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia by checking out the Okefenokee NWR project on iNaturalist or following www.okefenokee.photography

Publicado em 07 de março de 2021, 12:38 PM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 1 comentário | Deixar um comentário

02 de março de 2021

Okefenokee NWR: For the Birds!

Immature Ibis Okefenokee Swamp
Juvenile White Ibis foraging in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 12, 2015. © Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 30501973

When the Okefenokee’s time for preservation had finally come, varying governmental departments and environmental groups had diverse visions for the swamp’s future use. Some wanted a National Park, like Yellowstone or Yosemite, “for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” Others wanted a National Wilderness Area where “human activities are restricted to scientific study and non-mechanized recreation.” Management philosphies rocked back-and-forth between an escape for the people, and a refuge for the wild.

But in the end, the Okefenokee was designated “for the birds”! Executive Order 7593 signed on March 30, 1937 declared the Okefenokee a National Wildlife Refuge to be “reserved and set apart… as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

While there are several miles of beautiful waterways that are maintained for ecotourism, the vast majority of the 400,000+ acres is uncrossed by canoe trails, and untouched by recreation and hunting, leaving thousands upon thousands of acres solely for the birds and wildlife. Truly, the Okefenokee is for the birds!

-- Source: Constantino G and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. 2006. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: Comprehensive Conservation Plan (https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/DownloadFile/1508)

Publicado em 02 de março de 2021, 01:32 AM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

22 de fevereiro de 2021

The Beautiful Okefenokee Swamp… what is it?

The beautiful Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. What is it? It is colorful Golden Club flowers lining the canoe trail; it is Parulas and the sound of frogs providing a background chorus; it is towering cypress and waving curtains of Spanish Moss; it is dark alligators swimming in blackwater swamp; it is raccoons cautiously exploring for their next meal. It is beauty… it is mystery… it is majestic! That’s the beautiful Okefenokee Swamp.

Publicado em 22 de fevereiro de 2021, 11:41 PM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

08 de fevereiro de 2021

It’s Okefenokee’s turn to take the global stage

Elise Pautler Bennett Guest columnist
February 2, 2021

Anhinga Darter, Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 36774453

From its sweeping pine savannas to the intricate mosaic of wetlands patrolled by wood storks, alligators and snapping turtles, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a crown jewel of the southeastern United States. But its significance extends far beyond our own backyard.

With hundreds of species of birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, Okefenokee is globally exceptional as one of the largest substantially intact freshwater ecosystems remaining in the world. That’s why I’m urging the Biden administration to grant Okefenokee the acclaim it deserves by nominating it for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The list is reserved for cultural and natural sites that have “Outstanding Universal Value” to all people of the world across generations. Current natural World Heritage sites range from the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley to the rocky ridges of South China Karst and include many notable wetlands like the Pantanal Conservation Area in Brazil and Everglades National Park here in Florida.

Okefenokee Zale Moth Caterpillar
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 47382643 - Okefenokee Zale Moth caterpillar - Zale perculta

As home to a flourishing diversity of plants and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, Okefenokee deserves its place among these globally important sites. It is the largest blackwater swamp in North America. Unlike many wetlands, which receive water from rivers, Okefenokee is the source of two rivers — the St. Marys and the Suwannee.

The remarkable array of species supported by the refuge includes 48 mammals, 200 birds, 101 reptiles and amphibians, 33 fish and as many as 1,000 species of moths. Many of these species, like the red-cockaded woodpecker and alligator snapping turtle, are globally imperiled. Okefenokee also offers key unfragmented habitat for large mammals like the federally endangered Florida panther and the black bear.

Okefenokee is renowned for its impressive variety of reptiles and amphibians, many of which depend on multiple, distinct habitat types to survive. For example, globally imperiled striped newts live out much of their lives buried in the ground in pine forests until breeding season, when they search out temporary, fishless ponds for courtship. Gopher tortoises dig intricate burrows that they share with hundreds of other species.

Okefenokee Hooded Pitcher Plant and Bidens gold wildflowers on peat hammock
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 65080214 - Okefenokee Hooded Pitcher Plants on a peat blowup, Sarracenia minor var. okefenokeensis

The refuge also holds closely guarded secrets about our collective environmental history. Below Okefenokee’s waters, centuries of decomposed vegetation forms a thick bed of peat that contains information on global environmental changes over the past 5,000 years or more. Unstable masses of peat may push to the surface of the swamp or tremble, giving rise to Okefenokee’s name, a Choctaw word meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Indigenous people have lived in and around Okefenokee for thousands of years, marking the swamp’s deep historical and cultural significance.

It’s no wonder Okefenokee is a must-see tourist destination. It draws visitors from across the globe to stand in reverence under canopies of endangered longleaf pine forests or silently glide in canoes or kayaks through 400-year-old cypress stands rising from the tea-colored waters. The vast wilderness areas totaling more than 350,000 protected acres offer a sanctuary of solitude and deep connection with nature. Dark skies, unmarred by artificial light, are a stargazer’s delight.

It is all of these features — and more — that make Okefenokee a compelling candidate for inscription on the World Heritage List, which would bring no additional restrictions on the refuge or surrounding properties, only benefits. The international designation would attract tourists and scientists from across the globe, boosting local economies.

Joining the ranks of globally renowned cultural and natural sites is the highest honor Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge could receive. It would spotlight that the unique wild wonder of Okefenokee must be preserved, just as it is, for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Publicado em 08 de fevereiro de 2021, 11:06 AM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

29 de janeiro de 2021

Not Safe Yet - How Biden climate policy might impact Georgia

While many environmental groups may have let out a sigh of relief after the presidential election outcome, the Okefenokee isn't totally safe yet...
Entering National Wilderness Area kayak Canoe trail direction sign Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia USA
© Photographer: William Wise

Excerpt from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
How Biden climate policy might impact Georgia
January 28, 2021

One of the most watched environmental issues in the state is the fate of a proposed titanium mine a few miles from the Okefenokee Swamp. In October, state officials determined that the wetlands in the proposal are not subject to federal approvals based on new regulations established by the Trump administration.

While Biden’s executive order, which included a mandate to review the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” is encouraging, it may have little impact on the mining project, said environmental advocates.

“ ... that review does not stop projects like Twin Pines’ proposed mine near the Okefenokee Swamp from destroying our vital resources, which is why we are continuing to challenge the rule in court,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia, said it was unclear what the timeline might look like for reinstating protections of certain wetlands. “There is definitely some urgency for the swamp,” she said.

For detailed information about the issue, see https://protectokefenokee.org/

Publicado em 29 de janeiro de 2021, 10:53 AM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

27 de janeiro de 2021

Red-cockaded Woodpecker Artificial Nest Cavities

As I sit roadside peering into a batch of white-blazed Long-Leaf Pines, my eyes watering and blurring from over a half-hour of anticipatory scanning, I am amazed to think that at one time, millions of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers drummed across the eastern United States. But as the forests fell, so did the numbers of Dryobates borealis. In 1973, it was listed as an endangered species. Given my difficulty in spotting one on multiple trips to their prime habitat, it is obvious they are still in peril.

© Photographer: Liam Wolff (ospr3y) | iNat Observation: 35495207

The USFWS has been making attempts to bring back this little black-and-white woodpecker here in the Okefenokee Swamp. Along the western entrance to the refuge (Highway 177), tall stands of Long-leaf Pine, the primary nesting tree of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, are managed through prescribed burns and advanced forestry techniques. And high in those trees are placed artificial nest cavities for the woodpeckers.

Artificial nest cavity in Long Leaf Pine tree for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 68679310

Bearing a white ring at the base, the pines with the artificial nest cavities are easy to spot as you drive through the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Another tell-tale sign of woodpecker activity is the oozing white sap, like melting candle wax, that drips down from woodpecker excavations in the Long-leaf pines. This sap provides a sticky defense against climbing predators, such as snakes.

White blaze indicating artificial nest cavity in Long Leaf Pine tree for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 68679310

I hope these efforts pay off and that one day, instead of squinting for hours just hoping to see one Red-cockaded Woodpecker, we can let an unexcited exclamation of "there goes another one. Man, these woodpeckers are everywhere!" Until then, look for the white blazed tree and hope to spot this endangered little woodpecker. ​

Publicado em 27 de janeiro de 2021, 11:11 AM por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário