Nature · Wilderness · Wildlife and Ecology

We are the Swampians

The chickee hut that sits just outside our door.
The chickee hut that sits just outside our door.

I apologize for the long break since my last post. In the interim, we moved from Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, where I’d been serving as an instructor/guide with the Grand Canyon Field Institute, to Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. We’ve settled in to our spot in the rear of the property at the Big Cypress Gallery and I’m now spending my days exploring, photographing, writing, and working in the gallery of Clyde Butcher, who’s been called “the Ansel Adams of the Everglades.” I’ve launched a new photography website (www.dfghailsonphotography.com) and am trying to learn all I can about gallery work while we’re here in the middle of the preserve. If time allows and I can come up to speed, I’ll also be leading tromps through (what can be) waist high swamp prairies, sloughs and strands.

Gene and I had struggled with whether to accept this gig as we were enjoying our lives in Arizona. But…we were moved to the decision to move through a conversation with Rader, one of the rangers at the Canyon. He’d just returned from Big Cypress and insisted we needed to head for Florida. He described the Western Everglades as pristine, with clouds of birds. So here we are.

Took me a few moments to notice this Green Heron in a canal across from the gallery. The larger herons stand prominently in the open parts of wetlands while these smaller relatives tend to be found at the edges, concealed in vegetation.
Took me a few moments to notice this Green Heron in a canal across from the gallery. The larger herons stand prominently in the open parts of wetlands while these smaller relatives tend to be found at the edges, concealed in vegetation.

To catch you up a bit, I’ll share just a few vignettes from recent days:

American AlligatorBack from my first Swamp Walk. We saw a gator before we stepped in to the swamp but, once in–through the wet prairie where one finds 700-900 year old dwarf cypress (yes, there is a prairie in the swamp) through the slough through the strand–we saw no scary predators. We did see bromeliads and orchids, cypress knees, pickerel weed, native and invasive snails, red-tailed hawks AND a Great Egret that came very near and circled around us. I took photographs but didn’t use my own equipment; instead, I had a friend’s waterproof camera. I enjoyed the experience. After some more training and time in the swamp, it looks like I might just embrace the idea of being a swamp guide.

*****

Chatted with a woman the other day who had just come in from a swamp walk and had spent a couple of overnights in Big Cypress. She told me she was now a “swamp girl” evidenced, she said (with great gusto and great joy), by the fact that she hadn’t combed her hair in four days. I’ve been wondering ever since why she decided to share that with me…Hmmm? Anyone have a mirror?

*****

Ochopee Post OfficeBrought the Christmas cards to the Ochopee Post Office for mailing this afternoon and got chatting with Postmistress Shannon, who, for the last nine years, has been holding down the fort here. Seems she was having a problem with her Pitney Bowes postage machine. A snake, apparently looking for a warm place to sleep on a recent chilly night, had gotten itself caught in the slot where the postage sheets are printed. The poor thing was dead and Shannon was waiting for her snake guy to come extricate it. She’s also been having trouble with curly-tailed lizards that are pooping on her shelves. Just another day in the country’s smallest post office!

*****

Shawn, a neighbor and fellow member of the swamp crew, who is also known as Murf, has introduced me to a new word: “Swampian.” My theme song is now “We are the Swampians” sung to a tune popularized by Queen. Hope you’ll give the new photography website a look see and hope you’ll also look for me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dfghailsonphotography and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dfghailsonphotography).

Skunk Ape Sign at BCG

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