Late August, Okefenokee

August 21, 2013 at 5:30 am (Birds - Georgia, Butterflies, Georgia, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Photography, Wildlife)

Rain in the burnt pines, Okefenokee

Rain in the burnt pines, Okefenokee

August in the Okefenokee is supposed to be the hottest, most oppressive month of the year.  Yet signs of autumn are creeping in.  A few red maples have turned, and the rains bring a bit of cooling.  Walking outside this morning, after a night of thunderstorms, it felt downright pleasant.  Summer mornings tend to fog your glasses when you step outside, such is the heaviness of the humidity.

Cattails and bulrushes

Cattails and bulrushes

I try to drive down Swamp Island Drive in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge at least once a week, generally after work at the visitor center where I’m a refuge ranger.  Thunderstorms are common in late afternoon and early evening here, and the bright overcast that precedes the downpour is a photographer’s dream.  Shadows and highlights don’t compete with each other, and colors pop.

Baby gator, age 1 year

Baby gator, age 1 year

Even though the round-trip is less than eight miles, it generally takes me two hours, since I stop every time I see a new flower or dragonfly.  I check the gator pond to see the babies born the previous fall, and the southern leopard frogs in the grass there always see me first and hop away.  Lately, though, there have been so many of these pretty amphibs that I can pick them out after the first hop.  But if I divert my eyes to check the camera, I instantly lose them, so well do they blend in.

Southern leopard frog

Southern leopard frog

Many trees are fruiting – tiny acorns already dropping on my head, titi racemes dangling from branches like fuzzy brown icicles.  I’ve been looking for the muscadine (or scuppernog) grapes but maybe the wildlife has gotten to them first.

Yellow-fringed orchid

Yellow-fringed orchid

Loblolly bays always have a few red leaves, as they shed all year, but gallberry, muscadine, and greenbriar have gone to berries.  A new crop of flowers is changing the palette and texture of the landscape:  goldenrod, rattlebox, yellow-fringed orchid, Barbara’s buttons.

Loblolly bay

Loblolly bay

Even the frog orchestras have switched.  Southern chorus frogs are doing solos and duets after a brief rain.  Cricket and pig frogs and a few little grass frogs still make their presence known, however.  I’ve yet to hear the leopard frogs sing.

Raindrops on grass

Raindrops on grass

Bachman’s sparrows – those plain brown sought-after birds – are still singing long after other birds have decided the breeding season is over.  “Here kitty, kitty, kitty…”  they sing in three octaves.  Red-headed woodpeckers are less frequently seen, trailing their “white shirts” behind them flying from tree to tree.  Migrant warblers are trickling in.  I saw a male American redstart picking bugs off an oak tree.

Bachman's Sparrow juvenile

Bachman’s Sparrow juvenile

Great egret and burned trees

Great egret and burned trees

Most people on Swamp Island Drive are looking for alligators.  They see little else.   I wish they would slow down, get out, walk around, look underfoot.  Marvel at the little beauties.  Listen.  Breathe.  Get wet.  Be surprised.

Hooded pitcher plant

Hooded pitcher plant

Bobwhite male

Bobwhite male

Pipewort (hatpins) and water lilies

Pipewort (hatpins) and water lilies

Barbara's Buttons

Barbara’s Buttons

Palamedes Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail

Young wild turkey

Young wild turkey

Storm cloud

Storm cloud

Photographs and text copyright Cindy McIntyre

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4 Comments

  1. bobdouat said,

    Beautiful pictures and narrative as always, Cindy.

  2. John Weinrich said,

    as always – beautiful and well do.

  3. James Cutler said,

    Beautiful photos! Your writing style makes me feel like I was actually there . . .

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