After getting all settled into our site, and checking out some of the public areas of the refuge, we were ready to start lending a hand. Tom is going to be doing the majority of the volunteering, but we’ll also be opening the Visitor Center on some Saturdays and I’ll tag along occasionally when there’s something interesting going on.
Tom and his Dad have been hanging out with the Biologist most days, exploring some of the non-public areas of the park, checking on the hunts that they have going on, and finding wildlife.
The refuge needs to keep the deer population under control, so in October each year, they hold several hunts including a youth hunt, a primitive weapons hunt, and a couple weeks of normal hunting.
They got to see several of the deer that the hunters had gotten last week.
They also saw some turkeys,
a bald eagle that they didn’t get a picture of, and today they spotted a 12-ft. alligator in one of the ponds. Tom got a couple of decent pictures with his phone.
Last Friday, the Refuge Manager took Tom and I on a tour of the Bluff area that becomes a habitat for waterfowl beginning November 1st. One of the projects that Tom will be working on is to make sure that all of the wood duck boxes in this area are in good shape for the nesting season this winter.
After November 1st, we won’t be able to enter this area without a staff member (can’t stir up the ducks, making them vulnerable to the hunters that wait just outside the refuge boundary), so we took the opportunity later that evening to ride our bikes around the bluff.
It was a little windy, but a nice cool evening for a bike ride. Our first stop was at the duck pond.
Next month, they’ll be doing a duck count out here, and we’ll be able to participate – we’re looking forward to that!
We watched for birds for a few minutes,
but only saw a few egrets that were too far out for my camera.
As the sun continued to dip behind the trees,
we continued on our bike ride.
We were doing pretty well, but suddenly the wind died and the mosquitos came out in full force! We were being attacked from all sides – next time we won’t come out here without first coating ourselves with bug spray!
On our way out to the bluff, the sun was still pretty high in the sky,
but by the time we returned, the sunset was pretty much complete.
Although much of the hurricane damage at the refuge has been cleaned up, there are still trees down in many places and there are branches EVERYWHERE! Tom and his Dad spent one whole day cleaning up around the Visitor Center – picking up branches, mowing, and blowing leaves out of the parking lot.
It looked pretty good when they were done!
There’s a beautiful view of the lake from the back porch.
Since we’re going to be responsible for opening the Visitor Center on the weekends by ourselves, I stopped in to familiarize myself with it. It’s actually a really nice Visitor Center!
They have several displays of the animals found at the refuge,
including the non-native invasive species that they are trying to eliminate.
They have several areas for kids – a touch table of things found on the refuge,
and an “arts & crafts” corner where they have coloring pages, puzzles, and other projects for kids to work on.
Overall, it’s a really nice educational and informative Visitor Center, and should be pretty easy to manage on the weekends . . . there’s no admission fees or gift shop, so we don’t have to worry about handling money at all. I think we’ll do fine!