Beidler Notes – October 21st, 2023 by Judith Kramer

It is that gorgeous time of the year in the Beidler swamp.

During the spring and summer what little sunlight penetrates thru the tree canopy comes pretty much from above. Today the low slant of Autumn’s golden light spotlights areas un- noticed during the warmer months. Sideways morning light casts incredible and unexpected shadows on the diversity of the ancient tree bark often totally missed in other seasons.

The bright gold light feels almost electric giving an energy to the Dwarf Palmetto leaves that seemed particularly numerous today. Splashes of sunlight on the swiftly moving water reflect back an almost hallucinogenic scene which sometimes seems upside down!!! I am wondering how the Native Americans and runaway slaves found their way through such a confusing, disorienting tangle of tree trunks - imbuing in me a feeling of deep respect for their courage and skill.

A dwarf palmetto's large, three foot wide fronds bend in all directions away from the plant. From behind sunlight pierces a few of the fronds, giving them a warmer appearance.
Sunlight shining through a Dwarf Palmetto. Photo: Richard Covey

Suddenly a massive eruption occurred to my left just off the boardwalk. I jumped back in surprise!! Two White Tailed Deer had leapt out of their totally unseen hiding place on a tiny ‘island’ of densely packed Dwarf Palmetto surrounded by moving water. Part of this tiny hummock even extended under the boardwalk I was walking on!! Couldn’t have been any closer to them!

One of the deer turned it’s beautiful round eyes on me, ears high, forward and very alert, regarded me for about 15 seconds then spun around towards the water and ran very quickly to the other side, some distance away, the second deer followed suit. I was amazed by the speed these deer were able to run through hip deep water with unseen and untold numbers of cypress knees to navigate. Wild creatures have a knowing totally outside our human base of understanding. This was truly an awe inspired and privileged moment making all the morning rush to get to Beidler on time well worth the effort.

I was on a mission to find the spot a tree limb had fallen butt end down through the boardwalk taking out only one portion of one board, almost as if the tree aimed it’s branch’s fall in such a way to create the least amount of damage. However, the hole was significant even though the boards on either side were unscathed. The hole was large enough for a child’s foot and leg to go through. I was to place an orange caution cone over it to keep this from happening.

On the left side of the deck of the boardwalk a large branch about five inches thick has fallen and broken through the boardwalk, leaning up at an angle towards the handrail. The damaged board will have to be replaced.
A fallen limb has broken through the boardwalk, but fortunately damage was localized only to one board. Photo: Richard Covey

Mission accomplished I moved on toward the lake. Another Big Splash came from around the base of a large, flared Tupelo tree maybe twenty feet away. Some creature, a beaver or otter perhaps, had leapt into the water much in the way the deer had done but the deer were big and very visible, this creature disappeared under water before I had a chance to see anything except the very large circle of receding wavelets. I need eyes on both sides of my head like an eagle so I can view both sides of the board walk at the same time! Then I wouldn’t have missed the plunge.

In my brief turn around the boardwalk, twelve species of birds were picked up by Merlin, many were our year round residents but also just arriving winter ones like the Golden Kinglet and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Heavy rain the night before and during the day Thursday had left leaves of every color and description strewn along the boardwalk accented with rusty colored cypress needles and hickory nuts creating a spontaneous autumn tableau complete with the mixed media of natural materials including raccoon scat! Nature based and Nature placed!

A Red-femured Orb Weaver delicately removes a leaf from its web. Photo: David Ramage

Because I am the first person out along the boardwalk this beautiful morning, I am gifted with the sight of spider silk anchor lines crisscrossing from handrail to handrail, still wet and sparking diamond like in the golden slanted light.

Those behind me will miss these early morning miracles. I am grateful to be a morning volunteer, privy to such unexpected, joy-filled scenes.

-Judith Kramer

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