While driving along a road that runs through the refuge, we spotted several different raccoons, including young ones, walking around in shallow swampy water. With the extremely hot temperatures and sparse rain, the pools were a popular place. At first appearance, the raccoons seemed to be wandering aimlessly around in the water. However, after watching for a while, it became obvious that they were very methodically scanning the bottom of the pools with their sensitive paws in search of food. It was interesting to watch the raccoons use their human-like hands to catch and handle the crayfish and frogs that they pulled from the water.
“An objective is an ambition, and life without ambition is … well, aimless wandering.” ~Alfred Wainwright
Reelfoot Lake and the land along the Mississippi levee are favorite places to go for bird-watching. While some birds live there year-round, others migrate in and out at various times of the year, so you never know what you’re going to see. Here are some which were spotted between January and April.
“Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.” ~Alice Walker
We often park across the road from this American Sycamore tree when visiting the lake. Over the years, I have gazed up at this grand tree and admired its beauty and stately manner. This made me want to learn more about the Sycamore.
The American Sycamore has many unique characteristics which set it apart from other trees. It is one of the tallest and most identifiable trees in our area. The thin bark of the Sycamore tree is grayish-brown. As this fast-growing tree expands, the bark sheds, exposing a patchy camouflage-colored layer beneath. The highest branches, with their wide canopy, are smooth and white and stand out strikingly against the blue sky.
The leaves of the Sycamore are serrated and flat and are made up of three to five lobes. They can grow to an impressive 4-10 inches in width.
The Sycamore is also known as the “buttonball” or “buttonwood” tree. It produces fruit which are about one inch in diameter, each of which hang from a single thin stem. When the balls ripen, they fall from the tree and break open, exposing seeds which are packed inside, along with a button-like woody core to which they are attached.
Some Sycamore trees live for hundreds of years due to the strength and durability of their trunk, which enables them to withstand harsh weather conditions. They are extremely adaptable to their environment. Their trunk, which can become hollow with age, has been known to provide shelter for wildlife and people alike.
Soak up the sun Affirm life’s magic Be graceful in the wind Stand tall after a storm Feel refreshed after it rains Grow strong without notice Be prepared for each season Provide shelter to strangers Hang tough through a cold spell Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky Be still long enough to hear your own leaves rustling. ~Karen I. Shragg, Think Like a Tree
Source | Warren Jacobs and Karen I. Shragg (editors), Tree Stories: a Collection of Extraordinary Encounters (Sunshine Press, 2002)
Other than a gentle whir of wings, there is nothing to indicate that a flock of Double-crested Cormorants are quietly flying overhead. Shortly before sundown, they can be seen moving swiftly through the sky, perhaps heading for a nearby roosting sight.
While Double-crested Cormorants are interesting birds to watch,
their growing presence at Reelfoot Lake is having damaging and irreversible effects on the local habitat, including the Cypress trees, many of which have been around for hundreds of years.
These birds strip the bark off of the trees and, over time, their acidic droppings kill the trees and surrounding vegetation.
“A nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place — like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.” ~George Sutherland
We often hear the call of a Barred Owl as we walk in the woods of the refuge, but never seem to be in the right place to actually see one. Recently, however, while driving through the refuge, we stopped the car because I wanted to get a photo of a stream running through the woods. As I opened the door to get out, a startled Barred Owl in a nearby tree took flight and landed in another tree a few yards down the road. We had unknowingly stopped in the same place where an owl was sitting. It was a very pleasant surprise.
The Barred Owl with its Razor-sharp Talons.
Barred Owl scrambling up the branch of a tree.
Now you see me, now you don’t.
A stream running through the woods near where the owl sat.
“The best part of the journey is the surprise and wonder along the way.” ~Ken Poirot
Walking the trails and road in the wildlife refuge during the summer can be challenging due to heat, high humidity and a large number of mosquitoes which live there. It’s always nice when the weather cools down and the mosquitoes hibernate or die. Then, it is possible to walk at a slower pace and take the time to enjoy the sights.
“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” ~Brenda Ueland
While hiking a trail in the Reelfoot Wildlife Refuge, this Hermit Thrush caught my attention when it landed on the branch of a nearby tree. A winter visitor to our state, it spends a lot of its time foraging for insects under fallen leaves or searching for wild berries among the forest’s undergrowth.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” ~Leo Tolstoy