Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meeting a visitor from the desert southwest

The breezes were really blowing as I headed into work this morning.  Diana and I finally got a day to work on one of our projects rather than being stuck in the Visitor’s Center.  We headed off to the Fontainebleau Trail in the Ocean Springs unit of the refuge to document, with notes and photos, what was blooming on the trail.

IMG_6620First up, I noticed that the fiddlehead ferns were well on their way.  This is quite a bit earlier than I found them last year.


Since the azaleas were in full bloom at the Bellingrath Gardens yesterday, I had wondered about the wild azaleas that are found on this trail.  Last year, it was April before blooms were evident.  Turned out that they are about to burst into full bloom along the bayou as well.


A few of the buds had opened, but I’m thinking I need to come back here in about five days or so to be surrounded by these fragrant blooms.  Being on this trail at just the right time last year was one of those highlights of my volunteer stint here.  Not only are these blooms a visual delight, but the fragrance along this section of the trail on a sunny day can just send you to cloud nine!  The butterflies also find them intoxicating.


Those azaleas are only found along a certain stretch of the trail that is a certain distance up from the bayou.  I find that most interesting how certain species can only exist under exact circumstances.  You won’t find any azaleas a little lower down along this boardwalk,…

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but we did encounter this handsome fellow.  It’s got some really cool coloration and scaling along its back.


I’m not going to include all the blooms we found, but this is one of the plants we will have to investigate and identify tomorrow while we’re both working the VC.  Our plan is to identify blooming plants along the trails so we can develop a weekly list of what to see as folks hike along.

So what about the visitor from the desert southwest?  Well, after lunch we headed out to find a noteworthy avian visitor that somehow made it to the coastline just south of Ocean Springs.

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This Painted Redstart was discovered along the Gulf Coast in January.  It should not be here.  It naturally lives in Mexico and can be found, in breeding season, in certain areas of Arizona and New Mexico.  Certainly not in Mississippi! 

_MG_6678Well, this little dude was singing its heart out for us just as we arrived at the designated tree.  Smile  Don’t know who put up the sign pointing up a certain tree, but they didn’t quite get the name right.  That didn’t seem to matter, though, as the sign did point out the correct live oak tree.


And the reported yellow-bellied sapsucker showed up as if on queue.  The redstart follows this sapsucker around since the holes that it pecks in the trees produces sap that attracts insects.  The Painted Redstart was a life bird for me, so I appreciated its cooperation in showing up for a matinee performance.  Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy