May 4th, 2016
Rodman Reservoir was created by damming a section of the Ocklawaha River as part of the abandoned cross-Florida barge canal project. Even though the canal project was cancelled before completion, and the path of the canal is now the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, this reservoir remains. About every three years, the water level is lowered primarily to control invasive aquatic vegetation. These drawdowns allow muck from decaying vegetation a chance to consolidate and oxidize, reducing the thickness of the muck and providing a firmer lake bottom, more suitable for fish and wildlife.
This winter while the lake level was down I kayaked on two different days, once near the dam, and the second paddle near Eureka. It was a cool, gray January morning when I arrived at the temporary Kenwood Landing boat ramp. Several dozen vehicles with trailers filled about half of the parking area and the ramp was busy with more arrivals so I parked at the far end and launched from the bank. As I paddled down the canal between the now exposed spoil banks, tree swallows swooped and soared around me and I soon saw the first bald eagle of the day. I know there were at least two eagles, but I am not sure if there were more or I just kept seeing those same birds all day.
On the north side of the canal was shallow water with many slanting tree trunks where the crusher was used to clear the forest in preparation for the reservoir. With the water lowered, these provided many perches for the eagles, osprey, gulls, cormorants and herons.
On the south side of the canal mostly tall thin stumps are exposed that apparently were trees still standing when the area was originally flooded. Slowly gliding my kayak between these tall trunks imparted a feeling of crossing the river Styx. A number of massive cypress stumps were also present.
A sign marks the point where the historic Ocklawaha River channel diverges from the canal (photo at beginning of this post). The channel is a clear path that winds through the forest of stumps outlining where the original riverbanks were. I paddled up the original river imagining what it might have been like when these trees were alive and provided a canopy of green. Was it like the river below the dam to the St. Johns, or more like the still-natural upstream section of river from the Silver River to Eureka?
I continued my paddle looking for some of the springs that are covered by the reservoir most of the time but exposed during the drawdowns. The only one that was noticeable was the small flow of Sims Spring. I continued until the original river channel again joined the canal, then turned around and headed back to the boat ramp. My search for springs will continue on another day.
By contrast it was a beautiful, sunny day in early March when I launched my kayak from the ramp near the 316 bridge at Eureka. A group of teens in an 'Outward Bound' type expedition paddled up in canoes as I was putting my boat in the water. They were near the end of a week-long canoe-camping trip on the Ocklawaha. As I passed the Ocklawaha Canoe Outpost, more kayakers were starting their Sunday afternoon paddles. I would see all these people again before the day was over.
To answer a common question I get when out in a kayak or canoe, yes I did see alligators. Several were lazily sunning themselves on the banks as I headed downstream. Several times a river otter appeared ahead of me, but I was unable to get any photos other than its back barely breaking the surface. While I was stopped to take pictures, one of the kayakers I had passed previously caught up with me. As we paddled along together for a while I mentioned that I was looking for Cannon Springs, and he told me what to look for to know where to turn. This kayaker turned out to be Mark Chiappini, owner of the famous general store & gas station in Melrose.
I did find Cannon Springs, and managed to make some photographs before the crowds arrived. By the time I left, everyone that I had seen on the river that day was there to see the spring before the lake covers it up again. In one of the photographs the light on the clear water of the spring made for an impressionist, sort of pointillist style, image, as can be seen below.
Unlike everyone else there who were continuing downstream, either for another night camping or to take out at Orange Springs where they had shuttled their vehicles earlier, I headed back upstream towards Eureka. This was a strenuous paddle as the current was noticeable, possibly the flow from Moss Bluff Dam had been increased to start refilling Rodman Reservoir as the drawdown was coming to an end. I did pause to photograph a limpkin wading through the spatterdock in the river.
My last stop was at the eerily out of place Eureka Lock. Rising up out of a side pool of the river and the woods. Constructed for passage from the Rodman pool to the Eureka pool, then abandoned in place when the project was cancelled. Fortunately the Eureka pool was never created, as that would have destroyed what is probably the most scenic and wild section of the Ocklawaha River, from the Silver River to Eureka.
In case you missed it, you can read more about the Ocklawaha River and the Cross Florida Barge Canal in last year's Ocklawaha River post. To learn more about the springs under the Rodman Reservoir, visit Ocklawahaman's Springs of the Ocklawaha River.
For those interested in restoration of the Ockalwaha River check out Florida Defenders of the Environment.
April 29, 2016
March 20th, 2016
This is the first in a series of posts that will focus on images in the Only in Florida exhibit, now on display in the Lyonia Gallery in Deltona.
Bigflower Pawpaw, photographed in the Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, Florida.
In 1774 while traveling in present day Putnam county from Spaldings lower store at Stokes Landing to Halfway pond (now known as Cowpen Lake) William Bartram saw many new shrubs, “particularly a species of annona...”. Bartram went on to describe what is now known as Asimina obovata in his Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, a book that was not published until 1791. Imagine how difficult it was to get a book published in the 18th century, even if your dad (John Bartram) started a really cool club (the American Philosophical Society) with one of the area's most famous printers (Benjamin Franklin), who was known to come over and hang out at the house for chats (Bartram's Gardens).
The home of John & William Bartram at Bartram Gardens, Philadelphia.
In the meantime André Michaux was exploring Florida for France in 1787. Michaux also noticed this plant near the Indian River in present day Brevard County where he “collected two Annonas, one of which was a new species with very large white flowers...”
Both of these early botanical explorers were describing an endemic Florida species – Asimina obovata - or bigflower pawpaw. This plant is only found in the Florida peninsula from just south of Jacksonville to Lake Okeechobee.
Bigflower Pawpaw grows in a variety of habitats, but tends towards scrubby, sandy areas. Most frequently a shrub it can become treelike and reach up to 15 feet tall. The large white to greenish-white flowers can be seen from March through May after the current season's new leaves have emerged. The flowers form at the ends of short lateral shoots. The tips of these shoots and the veins on the undersides of the leaves are red-pubescent(fuzzy), one of the distinguishing marks that help identify this species. Another is the maroon corrugated area on the inside base of the inner petals.
Showing the maroon base on the inside of the petals.
For more information and photos of Bigflower Pawpaw visit the Wild Florida Photo Asimina obovata page.
March 20, 2016
February 23rd, 2016
Florida ranks as the fourth highest state in the number of endemics, species that are limited to a particular geographic area. Only California, Hawaii and Texas have more unique species than The Sunshine State. Early botanists exploring Florida such as Alvan Wentworth Chapman(1809-1899) and John Kunkel Small(1869-1938) noted the high number of endemic species in the state. The geographic isolation of the Florida peninsula, climate and soil variations contribute to this unique biodiversity. Isolation during previous interglacial periods when higher sea levels created islands in the higher areas is also a likely factor that contributed to the high number of endemics.
Scrubland Goldenaster, a species discovered in Highlands County by John Kunkel Small in 1924.
During my years of exploring and capturing images of nature, I have had a particular interest in finding and photographing the rare species, many of which are threatened or endangered. As I learned more about these subjects, I realized that many of them are endemic to Florida. About five years ago I decided to work on a photography project focusing on Florida endemics, which I call Only in Florida.
Applecactus Flower, photographed at night along the Mosquito Lagoon near the northern limit of this species' range.
Twenty-one of my photographs of plants and animals unique to Florida are now on display through next February in a solo exhibition at the Lyonia Gallery titled Only in Florida. Other photographers with previous exhibits in the Lyonia Gallery include Lee Dunkel, Eric Breitenbach, Rick Lang, Beate Bass, Eric Dusenbery and more.
Bigflower Pawpaw, photographed in the Lyonia Preserve, Deltona.
The Lyonia Gallery is part of the Lyonia Environmental Center(LEC). Originated as a joint venture with The Southeast Museum of Photography at Daytona State College, the gallery is now operated by the LEC. The Lyonia Environmental Center is located next to the Deltona Public Library and at the entrance to the Lyonia Preserve, a 360 acre Volusia County property managed to restore and maintain the natural scrub habitat. Lyonia Preserve is home to a population of Florida's only endemic bird, the Florida Scrub Jay.
Florida Scrub Jay in an area of Lyonia Preserve undergoing restoration.
In association with the Only in Florida exhibit, I have developed a program of the same name that will show the photographs from the exhibit and more. I will talk about each image, with information both about the subjects and how I made some of the photographs. This program will be presented at the Florida Wildflower Festival April 2 in Deltona, the Florida Native Plant Society state conference May 21 in Daytona Beach and on August 18 at the first Lunch 'n Learn at Ormond Beach's new Environmental Discovery Center in Central Park.
Bartram's Ixia, discovered by and named for William Bartram.
For an online preview of the exhibit and to learn more about the endemic subjects, visit the Only in Florida exhibit page at Wild Florida Photo.
To purchase any of the photographs in the exhibit and other images of Florida endemics, visit the Only in Florida online sales gallery
February 22, 2016
January 26th, 2016
Now that winter has actually arrived, both here in Florida and in points north, I want to look back at just last month when much of the eastern United States was experiencing temperatures that could be used as a textbook example of 'unseasonable'.
Unless you have been living in a remote cave I am sure you have heard the reports that 2015 was the warmest year on record. In fact December was globally the warmest calendar month in 136 years of weather history. For anyone who wants to read more on this, Jeff Master's blog at Weather Underground is an excellent summary.
In Florida the weather was only marginally cool enough to camp a few days in November and December when it is usually ideal weather to sit around a campfire and sleep in a tent.
In mid-December I had heard that the water level was high enough to allow easy paddling up to Lake Norris. This had long been on my kayaking to-do list, so I enjoyed a beautiful Sunday on the water paddling upstream on Blackwater Creek, winding through the cypress swamp then all the way around Lake Norris and back. This scenic water body in Lake County is similar in appearance to Lake Disston in Flagler Co (see my October post) and Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County.
I was surprised to come across several scarlet hibiscus flowers along the edge of Lake Norris. It is not that this is an unusual place to see them because it is not. In fact, the best way to see this magnificent native wildflower is by boat, as it favors the wet edges of streams and ponds. But it is a summer or early fall bloomer, with flowers most often seen in July and August in this area.
During the Christmas bird count, our team noticed a few anomalies with the types and numbers of birds seen, including a low count of robins, which in a more typical year would have been driven here in large numbers by cold weather. While out canvasing birds we saw several out-of season flowers. The azaleas might not be that unusual, as they do tend to flower sporadically during even slightly mild winters earlier than their more typical late February blooms. But the big surprise were the southern magnolia flowers, which would normally be seen from late spring into early summer.
These untimely floral phenomena might be just a observational curiosity. It is unlikely - as can often happen farther north when plants bud and flower too early – that freezes will significantly harm the coming year's normal plant cycles. But as a fellow naturalist pointed out the other day, the last time there was a winter similar to this was 1997-1998. That was during an El Niño event, one that up until then was the strongest in history but surpassed by the current cycle. The warm and wet winter promoted a lot of unseasonable growth. Followed by a shift to a La Niña weather pattern that brought a dry spring and summer, making all that extra growth prime fuel for the most devastating wildfire season Florida had ever experienced. Each El Niño and La Niña period do not necessarily duplicate the resulting weather of previous events, but many of the factors that influence the weather in various areas can tend to be similar. Hopefully weather history will not repeat itself and that the increase in prescribed burns in the intervening years has helped lower the fuel load in many of Florida's natural areas and therefore make any wildfires that do occur more manageable.
January 26, 2016
December 14th, 2015
With the year coming to a close I looked back at the photographs that I made over the past twelve months and picked some of my favorites to share with you here.
Last December this “View from Blood Mountain” presented itself near the end of my first day of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. This shows the Blue Ridge Mountains in north Georgia form the highest peak of that week's hike. This trip was the subject of my February post and was followed up with another week of backpacking the next section of trail at the beginning of March. That hike was encapsulated in a video by Danial Reed which can be seen in the YouTube video "A. T. Neal's Gap to Dicks Creek Gap".
The swallow-tailed kite pictured here (and also at the top of this post) was captured (photographically) near Goethe State Forest. I had been there to hike one of the forest's Trailwalker trails and try and find some of the spring orchids to photograph. I did not have much luck with the orchids, but I did find other wildflowers and wildlife including a red-headed woodpecker and a Sherman's fox squirrel, the latter of which eluded the camera. This kite was plucking things to eat out of the tops of some trees, occasionally swooping low and close to the position I had taken near the trees of a fencerow. I did get some nice images of green addersmouth orchid on the way home that day at a location I knew about near Ocala.
This image from Lake Disston (see October post) is what I consider an iconic Florida scene, but one that is mostly only seen by kayakers, canoeists and fishermen out enjoying the state's lakes and rivers. The image shows two osprey, one on the nest and another perched nearby, in an old, gnarly, weatherbeaten cypress tree growing in the shallows of the lake surrounded by spatterdock leaves.
Closer to home on the Atlantic coast this summer I photographed seaoats backlit by the early morning sun.
Once the heat of summer broke, Virginia & I went camping at Hillsborough River State Park in October. The entrance road to the park was lined with spectacular fields of Liatris in bloom. This wildflower has several names, also known as gayfeather or blazing star. This is one of the images that I made while we were there.
I hope that you have enjoyed my photographs from the past year and that you are also inspired to go out and enjoy nature.
December 14, 2015
November 26th, 2015
Many of you have heard that outdoor retailer REI has announced that they will close their stores on Black Friday and pay their employees encouraging them to spend the day outdoors in a campaign called #OptOutside. At least one other outdoor sports retailer - NRS - has followed suit. Being out enjoying nature is such a better way to spend the day after Thanksgiving than the hustle and bustle of the annual shopping ritual, which I cannot remember ever participating in and if I did it was a very long time ago. Virginia & I have spent most of the past Black Fridays camped in a state park for the long weekend, often with friends and family.
We are not camping this Thanksgiving weekend, but we had a very special camping trip the previous weekend at Anastasia State Park. It was our first time camping with children, taking three boys on their first campout. These boys, aged 10, 6 & 4, were relatives whose family recently moved to Florida and were very enthusiastic about going camping and on a nature hike.
Boys on the Nature Trail
A torrential downpour cancelled our walk on the beach, but it did not dampen the adventure. Our endeavor to follow the advice of Richard Louv author of Last Child in the Woods and other books on children and nature seemed a success as our young camping guests seemed to have a fun time outdoors and unplugged.
Nature Scavenger Hunt in Campground
A great blog on enjoying the outdoors with youngsters is The Big Outside by Michael Lanza where there are stories about outdoor adventures, tips for backpacking with children and gear reviews.
November 26, 2015
October 19th, 2015
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of going on on a small motorboat to Lake Disston in nearby Flagler County. This state designated Outstanding Florida Water has been on my list of places to go kayaking, so when my day job boss's husband and fellow Florida Master Naturalist Dale Dittbenner suggested a late afternoon trip I quickly accepted. Also on our little excursion was Chapman Root and Victor Kowal, a visionary artist of St. Augustine.
You can see a sample of Victor's extraordinary work at victorkowal.com.
Lake Disston is a shallow lake averaging eight to ten feet in depth and covering 1844 acres. This lake is drained by Little Haw Creek, which flows into Crescent Lake. That lake then flows through Dunns Creek to the St. Johns River.
The lake is a popular fishing spot, but our attraction was the reason the National Audubon Society lists the lake as an Important Bird Area. Since we got out on the water earlier than expected, and the birding area will be best viewed closer to sunset, we toured the long way around the perimeter of the lake first passing the docks of the few houses along the shore. We did not see any of the swallow-tailed kites that are known to utilize the area of the lake while they are in Florida, we did see some of the osprey nests that, like at Blue Cypress Lake farther south, are mostly in the tops of cypress trees that grow in the shallow edges of the lake.
The first part of the rookery area where numerous birds were nesting is shown as we approached, framed by a cypress tree in the foreground in the following image.
There were a few roseate spoonbills, but most of the birds were wood storks, cattle egrets and white ibis. The wood storks had young on the nests of various ages.
Please check out the Wild Florida Photo events page for all upcoming programs, festivals and exhibits featuring the Nature Photography of Paul Rebmann.
October 19, 2015
July 31st, 2015
The photography of Paul Rebmann is being shown in two public venues.
The Halifax Historical Museum is featuring the exhibit "Our Natural World Around Us" and one of the entrance displays at the Ormond Beach Library will be filled with Wild Florida Photos during The month of August.
One of the themes of both exhibits features photographs of plants named after some of Florida's botanical explorers, such as Curtiss' milkweed named for Allen Hiram Curtiss (1845-1907).
Other explorers with images of their namesake plants include Mark Catesby (1683-1749), André Michaux (1746-1802), William Bartram (1739-1823), and Ferdinand Rugel (1806-1879).
Another theme is "Only in Florida" featuring state endemic species like the Forida Scrub Jay.
A couple of the other species found only in Florida include the peninsula cooter, Florida Indian Plantain and Celestial Lily.
Both exhibits are filled out with other images of Florida scenes, flora and fauna
"Our Natural World Around Us" opened on July 14th and will be on display at the Halifax Historical Museum, 252 S. Beach St, in downtown Daytona Beach through November 14.
An online version of the exhibit can be found at the Wild Florida Photo Halifax Historical Museum exhibit section.
During this exhibit run, I will be featuring one or two images from the exhibit at a time in limited time sales of 11 inch by 14 inch stretched gallery wrap canvas prints for only $50.
To see which image is on sale, visit the Wild Florida Photo home page or the "Our Natural World Around Us" page, and/or follow on twitter @WildFlPhoto.
An online version of the Ormond Beach Library display is also available. The photographs will be on display at the Ormond Beach Library at 30 S. Beach St, Ormond Beach, FL.
July 31, 2015
June 30th, 2015
There are many interesting spiders that can be seen in Florida. I will show you a few of them and their webs.
One of the largest and very common spider is the golden-silk spider. This member of the orb-weavers family is also often called banana spider. My photograph of a golden-silk spider hanging below her web won honorable mention in the Advanced category of Orange Audubon Society's 2015 Chertok Nature Photography contest.
The male golden-silk spiders are much smaller than the females, as can be seen in several of the photographs on the Nephila clavipes page at Wild Florida Photo.
The spiny orb-weaver is a much smaller but very distinctive spider. Also known as the crab spider or spinybacked orbweaver spider, this is also a fairly common spider, especially in Florida citrus groves. The range of Gasteracantha cancriformis extends across the southern United States, through Central and much of South America. This species may have different markings in other parts of it's range than that shown here, which is how they look in Florida.
Unlike most of the other orbweavers, the Orchard Orbweaver spins its web on a horizontal or only slightly tilted plane.
This small spider, also called the Venusta orchard spider, hangs below the center of the web which can often be seen off to the side of trails.
Last month's blog post included a crab spider on rayless sunflower. This is one of the Mecaphesa species in the crab spider family. These are also called flower spiders because instead of building webs to catch prey, they lie in wait, often well camouflaged, and catch insects that come to visit the flower. The flower spider on horsemint below is another example. This spider had caught a small bee soon after this photo was made.
The image at the top of this post is a black and yellow Argiope. Also called the writing spider for the distinctive zig-zag pattern on the web. These patterns are called stabilimentum and the immature spiders of this species make a circular one as shown below. The purpose of the stabilimentum is debated by experts. Although the name might indicate that it stabilizes the web this is not currently considered the primary function. A number of theories include: camouflage for the spider, attracting prey, attracting a mate, molting platform, sun protection, and silk production practice.
Most spiders are relatively harmless to humans, at most inflicting a painful bite. In Florida only widow and recluse spiders are venomous.
You can read more about them at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
Spiders are part of nature's insect control, so not only are they pretty to look at, they can be beneficial to have around. These are only a few of the many kinds of spiders, some more that occur in Florida can be seen at Wild Florida Photo.
June 30, 2015