Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Put-in:  10:10 am, clear sky, slight breeze, 63F, tide about to turn from outgoing to incoming; at take-out: 3:55 pm, 76F, incoming tide, sunny with clouds.

Dark greens dominate although the ogeche tupelo still has light green leaves.

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This year there seemed to be a pause between the blooms of the pinxster, swamp sweetbells, Virginia sweetspire, and swamp dogwoods, cross vines, American wisteria and false indigo and the later blooming plants.

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The pinxster has gone to seed, and only an occasional sweetbell, sweetspire, dogwood and cross vine cluster can be seen.  The false indigo, however, continues to bloom — spikes of purple.

The emerging flowers are not as noticeable, yet.   The fragrance of the swamp rose, if the wind is blowing the right way, anticipates the blooms.

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Finally, the clematis crispa are blooming, often hidden under their 3 part leaf.  The number of butterflies have decreased with the end of the early spring flowers, but bumble bees seem to like swamp roses and the black swallowtail spent some time on this clematis crispa blossom.

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Cow creek spider lilies have begun to bloom.

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Sweet bay trees are heavily budded, but a few early blossoms are out.

Blue flag iris plants in the sun are blooming.

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Another dark blue/purple plant, the pickerel weed is starting to bloom.

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Two weeks ago there was a single stand of narrow leaf primrose, today there were several plants, some in clusters.

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Where no bud stems were visible two weeks ago, a cluster of blooms and a number of bud stems of green fly orchids surprised us.   We were not expecting any blooms for several months.

In two weeks the stands of lavender false dragonhead will form masses of blooms.

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With warmer weather the spatterdock are putting out buds.

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The ogeche tupelo male flowers are opening up, with a few honeybees visiting them.  The female trees are forming what will become fruit when pollinated.

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At Nick’s road campsite, a yet to be identified flower is blooming.

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The dahoon holly usually blooms between the blooming time of the yaupon and the American holly.  Both these hollies have already bloomed, but the dahoon now are still in bud.  As are muscadines and the swamp bay.

One small alligator, several cooters and one snake (yet to be identified).  This snake, unlike the previous snakes we have photographed which usually stayed still while I photographed them, quickly escaped into the water.  It may be a moccasin, but I will need to confirm it.

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A yellow-crowned night heron, however, was the center of attraction.  After these photographs, it continued to fly up the river, alighting on the trees ahead, only to fly away — much like the kingfishers do on that creek.

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Above, a swallowtail kite briefly appeared, only to be barely captured by camera.

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Wasps were busy building nests.

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Walter’s viburnum are forming seeds, but the most interesting seed case was that of the green fly orchid.

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The incoming tide allowed one of us to paddle upstream of Nick’s road campsite.

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Within two weeks the late spring, early summer flowers will be blooming.

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Put-in: 10:50, take-out 5:10, 66 at put in, clear sky, outgoing tide changing soon after to incoming, gentle breeze.

In the spring, change is perceptibly rapid.

New blooms were blue and yellow hued:  American wisteria, Blue flag iris, narrowleaf primrose, star grass, pineland pimpernel.  But whites still dominate and the Cowcreek spider lilies are beginning to bloom with buds ready to burst open in areas touched by sun.

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They join the flowers which are still blooming and at their prime:  Swamp dogwood, swamp sweetbells, Virginia sweetspire, False Indigo, Candy Root, Butterweed, spatterdock.

A rose bush on the branch leading to Nick’s Road Campsite is beginning to bloom — the two dozen or so flowers perfuming the air around it.  That bush is heavily budded, but the other rose plants throughout the creek are still not budding.

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Expect in a few weeks swamp titi, southern arrow wood, muscadine vines and the ogeche female tupelo to be in bloom.  Only one honey bee was seen on a Virginia sweetspire, but when the tupelos bloom, hopefully the honey bees will find them.  Then, the creek will be filled with the sounds of busy bees.

By then, the following flowers will be going to seed:  fringe tree, pinxter azaleas, cross vines and rusty haw.

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And joining them in fruiting will be the blackberries:

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Swallowtails and monarchs were out, dragon flies, cooters basking where they could, and even an alligator found a log, or cruised the water.

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A huge barred owl, camouflaged in the tree at the entrance to the creek, stayed on its perch until approached too close.

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A clutch of apple snails were the first seen of the season and in a branch, an orb weaver took to the trunk of a tree, it’s web-building interrupted.

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Dragon flies have been on the creek earlier than the butterflies.  This one on a spatterdock blossom.

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The creek is greening out.

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At Nick’s Road campsite, as the temperature began to warm, it was nice to find some shade.

The kingfisher is back, small birds, a robin, a several buzzards flying overhead.

Spring is waning into summer, but thankfully, the breeze was cooling even though the day did not get much above 76.

One fisherman was enjoying casting — it was a good day to be out on the water.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday 2018

Put-in:  10am, take-out 2:40 pm,  62F at put-in, clear sky, outgoing tide going upstream, incoming tide returning.

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The pinxter bushes dominate the lower 2/3’s of the paddle to Nick’s Road campsite.

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The colors of early spring, less flashy pastels than the last burst of fall color, deserve attention.

The bronze through  light greens of the Florida maples, the budding Ogeche tupelo trees, the last tree to heed spring’s call to leaf and bloom.

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The blooming plants, however, are hard to ignore, starting with the pinxster azaleas, now at its peak bloom, with a few bushes still in bud to promise a few weeks more of color.

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The gold bristly buttercups which catch the sun and reflect it back to the camera eye, the mass of butterweeds in the interior, and a still to be identified pea-like flower at Nick’s Road campsite.  And also at Nick’s the candy root in full bloom in yellow and orange.

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Purple/lavender false indigo add a contrasting depth of color.

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And this is definitely a year of the crossvine as well as pinxster azaleas.  They are blooming early and in orange clusters at eye level, but particularly in the shrubs and trees above.

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The white flowers will dominate soon enough:  swamp sweetbells, swamp dogwood, Virginia sweetspire, rusty haw.  Still blooming are the fringe tree, blackberry and yaupon holly.

 

Another white blooming plant is still to be identified at Nick’s campsite.

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To be blooming soon are swamp roses.  The first blossom appeared on the upper creek and the buds are still yet to form on the bushes, so whether this will be a year of abundant blooms or not (as in last year), will still need to be determined.

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The spatterdock were in tight bud when we paddled upstream, the warmer air and the sun opened up a few.

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The first blueberries are bearing, sweet-tart and few now, but promising more by late April.

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The spiders seemed to be very active — they make themselves very noticeable in the fall, less in the spring. Several small ones had dropped into the kayak and were located at take-out, but most stayed on their webs or hid as these long jawed orbweavers.  And at Nick’s the eastern lubber grasshoppers were beginning to hatch out.

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On entering the creek a flock of what seemed to be egrets were perched and flew away, except for this one which didn’t quite escape the camera.  With yellow beak and legs it was more characteristic of cattle egret, a very unlikely bird to be found off river, roosting on trees as these were.   Other birds seen were a pair of hawks and a great blue heron.  En route to the creek, a swallowtail kite was flying above.

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Many cooters sunning, including this very tiny one who seemed unafraid and allowed for a very close approach.  The 4 foot alligator had its tail on land, its head underwater except for its eyes.

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The higher tide going upriver allowed us to explore some of the branches.

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We had lunch at Nick’s under bright and warming sun.

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Can’t think of a better way to appreciate spring and Easter than paddling on this creek.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Put-in 11:15, take out 3:45, blue sky, some clouds. Temperature at put-in 56F, at take-out 66F.  Wind at put-in 8mph, at take-out 9-10 mph – NE.  Outgoing tide at put-in and throughout most of the paddle.  The Ochlockonee River was choppy with small waves hitting the shore.  Appropriately dressed for warmth, we ventured against the wind to the creek.

Officially spring, and the azaleas are announcing it throughout the creek — both eastern tiger swallowtail and black swallowtail butterflies increasing with the blooms.  Hornets, dragon flies and other insects are more visible now.  One sulphur butter was seen.

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It was a beautiful day, wind notwithstanding.

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Once between the protective shoreline of the creek, we felt the winds only slightly, although the photographed objects moved in the direction of the wind.

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What was missing since the last two weeks were Walter’s viburnum blooms and parsley haw blooms.  Parsley haws have a relatively narrow period of blooming and the higher winds the previous day, continuing at a lesser force, but strong, nevertheless, probably did in the last of the petals.  Some years, we have missed the blooming of the parsley haws completely — their seeds in the fall indicate that they did bloom in the interval of our visits.  There are many of these trees on the creek and it is a gift to be there to see them all in bloom.

However, before entering Womack Creek, the golden clubs were still blooming.

Bristley buttercup were thriving and blooming throughout the creek.

Some years cross vines bloom sparsely.  This does not seem to be one of those years — the blooms are early and can be seen throughout the creek.

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Fringe trees are all fully blooming.

Also in full bloom are blackberry and a few butterweed.

 

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In a week the following blooms will fill the creek:  spatterdock, swamp dogwood, swamp sweetbells, poison ivy.

Yaupon and American hollies are in bloom.  Dahoon, curiously, is not.

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At Nick’s road campsite candy root is blooming, and ferns appearing.

Mosses were flowering and grasses, too.

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Although the hornet’s nest seemed without activity, new wasp nests were seen.

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Nick’s road campsite was in pristine condition as we paddled in for lunch at 2:05.

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And while many plants are still to bloom on the creek, Walter’s viburnum, blueberries and pumpkin ash are already setting seed.

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The tupelo trees have still to show their leaves, but the cypresses are beginning to fill out.

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As for critters, the sun and its warmth had two alligators basking.  One 11-12 feet one, we have not seen for over a year; the smaller one has been basking on the shoreline on sunny days.

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Cooters were there, too.

More blooms, more activity — Womack creek is waking up to a new season.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

We have never seen as many boats on Womack Creek, or at the Womack Creek landing, as we did today.   The Good Ole Boys, a group of law enforcement officers who trained at the same time were holding their third annual get together to camp, fish, joke and enjoy the outdoors at Womack Creek campground.  Most were retired, but there were some active duty officers in the group.  The group has grown from the small gathering 3 years ago.

It’s a great campground for such occasions — rarely frequented, never full (except when a group is there, such as the paddlers on a Paddle Florida trip).  The picnic tables under the covered pavilion were loaded with what seemed to be food or food preparation items with two retired officers guarding them from animal scavengers, perhaps?  The rest of the group were largely on the water, fishing.

It was good to see the facility being used and enjoyed.

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Although there were as many as seven boats in the creek, all were anchored and its occupants intent on fishing.

The boats did not seem to bother the king fisher and three alligators, although the cooters were somewhere, unseen.

It was a beautiful weekend of sun, mild temperatures (although the temperatures did drop at night).

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At the entrance to the creek golden clubs were blooming, slash pines were budding, their cones still tight on the boughs, orange cross vines, golden swamp buttercup, pink pinxster azaleas, Cowcreek spider lilies, swamp jessamine, parsley haw and Walter’s viburnum beginning to bloom on the lower creek, turning into seed on the upper 1/3 of the creek near Nick’s Road campsite.

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Budding were yaupon holly, swamp dogwood and fringe tree.

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Sweetgum trees were leafing, their balls still hanging from the trees.

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On the banks, an alligator basked and slowly exited from sight into the water.

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Azaleas attract swallowtail butterflies and they were there throughout the creek.

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Last season’s hornet’s nest was still hanging, unoccupied.

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Soon, the creek will be filled with insects of all types as more and more buds open into blooms.

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While the Good Ole Boys were enjoying company at Womack Creek campground, a more private group was enjoying the day, fishing boat on a trailer at Nick’s road campsite.  According to the Talquin Area Recreation director, campers must allow paddlers to launch at the site and provide access.   The water was too low for us to exit without chancing a capsize or slipping on the muddy bank, so there was little reason to have to explain to the occupants if we were contested.

Meanwhile, at the end of the day, the boats were coming in.  Fortunate there was enough food on the tables — from their admission, the Good Ole Boys did not catch enough to make a meal that day.  But, as one hapless fisherman explained, they were there to enjoy the sun, the cameraderie and the outdoors.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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Valentine’s day — Japanese climbing fern removal day: overcast skies, around 60 F, hardly any wind, and extremely low tide.

Low tide exposes all.  But on the return, the small cove at the mouth, with access to the Ochlockonee River, the tide had returned.

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Removal of invasives day can be long.  Florida maples, however, manage to add color to a grey day.

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And, the spring flowers: Florida maple, blueberries, Walter’s viburnum, bristly buttercup, horn bean catkins, Walter’s viburnum in bud along the lower part of the river, pinxter azaleas in bloom and in bud.

In the darkness of the day, a mother racoon had her brood of 2.  She disappeared after seeing us, but the two kits continued searching for their morning fare.

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And on a log, a large cooter, getting as taking advantage of the increasing warmth of the day.

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Fungus abounds in the moistness of the creek, but without an expert to confirm the species, we can only show the photographs.

But the mission of this trip was to remove all the Japanese climbing fern vines, as much as we would extract, which we had identified during the year.

First, one covers the plant — as much as possible, gently separating the vines from the overhead branches to prevent any remaining spores from falling into the water.  After cutting the plant at ground level, comes the job of digging the plant up, trying to get as much root as possible.  Sometimes the roots are so tight, one has to use a hatchet.

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We had over 8 plants to dig up, several bagfuls which we took home to burn.  Then the process of noting new fern growth will start and next January or February the identified plants will be dug up.  We’ve managed to keep the shoreline free of invasive plants this way.

Friday, February 9, 2018

This was an overcast morning, around 60 F, at low tide with little wind.

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But it was warm enough for 3 alligators, 1 great blue heron, 2 wood ducks which had not yet flown north and 1 warbler.   And cooters.

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It was just the spring temperatures which opens buds and entices blooms.  Like the blueberries, pumpkin ash, Florida maple, Walter’s viburnum and pinxter azaleas.

And the green fly orchids, which keep blooming and blooming and blooming.  These are hardy against frost, and the water moderates even what could be a killing freeze.

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Paddling the upper 1/3 to Nick’s Road campsite,  under ashen skies, the creek seems bleak.

Usually Nick’s campsite with its picnic table is inviting, but less so in the gloom of that day.

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An abandoned apple snail shell attests to its adult presence.  Normally we see only the pink egg clusters.

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If apple snails are here, can we expect to see limpkins soon?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

This was the third attempt to monitor the creek this week. This was the only free week we had if we were to do a January report. Human frailty (forgot camera) one day, a drizzly rain the next. Today, we vowed that predicted cold and winds would not stop us from doing our January visit.

Put-in time 11:15 am; take-out time 3:00 pm. We did not stop for lunch at Nick’s Road campsite because the very low water level made access to the site too difficult.

It was 37 F at put-in, wind speed, according to our portable aeronometer registered 10 mph, NW. According to NOA tables, this was a wind chill of 27 degrees. It felt like that. Ed had his waterproof pants over his regular paddling pants and three layers under his PFD. I was equally layered — two layers under my PFD and a wind breaker over. Ed had on a woolen cap and over that a cap with ear protectors; I put on the REI neck gaiters which attendees at 2017 Florida Paddler’s Rendezvous at Silver Springs SP had received and the hoods of both jacket and windbreaker. As long as we paddled, we were warm.

But monitoring requires stopping to photograph and further examine subjects of interest.

At put-in, the water levels on the creek was one of the lowest we have seen.

This was the situation when we took out 3 hours and 45 minutes later.

Branches and nooks off the creek were above water. On the first branch just before entering the creek, the water was so low that the remains of a long-sunken boat was exposed. Only a small channel marked what is usually a navigable branch.

On river left, entering the creek, an area with spatterdock was a mud flat. On return, the area was under some water.

Areas usually under water were exposed.

The precariousness of the trees rooted on not very deep ledges, explaining the many treefalls after heavy winds, was exposed. Like this tree, many of trees are standing on just a shelf of land.

At Nick’s road campsite, where we usually stop for lunch, the gradual shoreline which allowed for easy exit and entrance into kayaks was above water; below that a sharp drop of 20 inches.

Nevertheless, the day was clear, not all the trees were bare — the oak leaves were yellow and falling.

The tupelo trees are finally without leaves, except for a sapling in a protected nook with bright leaves, flapping orange and yellow-brown flags in the wind.

Instead of water, we drank warm cappucino.


In prior Januarys, one was sure to see the small white blossom clusters of Walter’s Viburnum, alders and once in a while blueberries. Of these, only the alders were blooming. However, silvering, an October-December bloomer was still in bloom. The winds blew off the seeds as soon as they formed and the water around the shrubs were dotted with furry seeds.

To our surprise, the green fly orchids we had seen in December, were still blooming!

We saw no insects; we saw no cooters. But returning to the landing, a huge alligator was basking in the sun.

The flock of wood ducks preceded us upriver and down, always too far ahead to photograph. Similarly for the ubiquitous kingfisher. Buzzards above. A flock of robins were in the upper third of the creek;  they were probably responsible for the red hollies stripped from the dahoon, American and yaupon bushes. Viburnum seeds, however, were left intact. The upper third of the creek is a favorite area for a number of smaller birds which have yet to be photographed. A single cormorant was routed out of the mud flats — it’s the first cormorant we have seen on this creek.

The day’s gift to us, however, was the sight of a family of raccoons: a mother and two young. On the way upriver, Ed saw the family. The mother corralled her young quickly under cover and I was not able to get but a longshot photo of a reluctant young one.

However, on the way back, I was in the lead. The mother, hastened into the brush, but left her young to forage in the mud for food.

When we returned to the landing, it was 45F and winds had decreased to 4mph still from the NW. The windchill: 43.

A new sign is up at the entrance of the Womack Creek campground. No one was camping the three days we visited this week.

2017 December 3 – Sunday

It started out foggy as we drove to Womack Creek.  I was anticipating photographing jewels on spider webs.  The fog lifted as soon as we entered Franklin county on SR 67 going south.

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The temperature was around 60, the sky was partly cloudy, then soon cleared.  There was hardly a breeze at the put-in.  One of three campsites with electricity was occupied by an RV.  The tent-only campsite closest to the landing was filled with men who had camped there since Friday, according to Mark, the host.   They had a boat which was tied to the landing along with Mark’s boat.  Mark and Debbie had gone out earlier and caught a huge catfish — enough for several meals, I would think — about 10 pounds, over 2 feet long.  At the end of the day, paddling back to the put-in we talked to a man and his young son who were fishing — they also had a big catfish in their cooler of their flat-bottomed boat.  Dad said his son loved the water and loved fishing.

The tide was going out and shoreline was exposed.  Normally, one would see shore birds at low tide.  But a flock of wood ducks was there, flying away when we got within a decent photo-shot distance.  Just like the king-fisher — I have never been able to get a good shot of those birds.

The resurrection ferns are green again.

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The fall colors are still on the creek, although some of the trees have lost their leaves and there are more leaves on the water.  The Florida maples are now in color.   I don’t recall that they were that much later than the sweet-gums in changing their leaf color.   The ogeche tupelo trees on the upper river are now turning — they were still partially green the last time we were on the creek.   Interesting that these ogeche tupelos have more color in their leaves compared to those we saw on Cash creek on the western-most part of Tate’s Hell State Forest a few days ago. Cash creek is a tributary of the Apalachicola River.   Womack Creek flows into the Ochlockonee River and is on the eastern-most section of the state forest.

December is not a flowering month.  Even for silvering.  But most of the silvering buds are still to bloom out.  The blooming period for that has been as early as mid-October.

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Insects were trying to extract nectar from the few fully blossomed silvering.   A few honeybees and other bees were on the few vining aster blooms — slim pickings.  But two zebra longwings and one sulphur butterfly must have found sufficient nectar somewhere.

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Begger ticks usually attract insects, but not the few we saw.

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Simmond’s aster and greenfly orchids do not seem to attract the larger, more visible insects.  But either the orchids are self-pollinating or some less visible insect is pollinating them — the seed pods develop after the blooms are long gone.

Not as many pinxster azaleas on that early-blooming bush.  And the only bromeliad we’ve seen on that creek, Bartram’s Bromeliad, was in its dormant colors.

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Come March, the flower stalks have a rosy pink tinge and later the tiny flowers appear.

A flock of wood ducks which we followed all the way up the creek, after we had turned on the left branch, about 2.5 miles upstream, a kingfisher earlier, also flitting ahead of us,eluding the camera, a single vulture hovering overhead, a flock of birds the size of sparrows overhead, a pair of possibly prothonotary warblers, the sound of a woodpecker were the bird presences on that creek.

There were 9 juvenile alligators, the largest a little over 4.5 feet long.

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What was most pronounced on the creek in this holiday season were the holly berries.  This is a good year for the American holly berries, normally the fruiting is sparse.  Yaupon and dahoon holly berries are usually in abundance and are the major red splotches on the creek.

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But a little parsley haw bush and a few rose hips were not to be denied adding some red berries to the scene.

A good way to end the year.

2017 November 10 – Friday

As noted three days ago, without a camera, the report was all text.  We noted that what we saw was not replicatable.  Every trip on the creek is singular.

Put in at 9:15 am to an incoming tide, totally cloudy sky and chilly – not quite 60F with about a 3 mph wind coming from the NE, which shifted from the south when we took out.   The sun appeared about an hour into the paddle.

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This is what the entrance to Womack Creek looked like — Ocklochonee River on right, Womack Creek on left.

We had arrived early, hoping to be able to photograph the dew on the spider webs which we saw on Tuesday.  No fog, no sparkling spider webs, but we had an incoming tide which meant that we could explore further into some of the branches.

Until the sun appeared, the landscape was bleak, and not quite as vibrant as Tuesday.  However, the leaves were still on the tree.  This may not last long as a cold front was expected during the paddle or soon after.

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Flowers:

The dominant flower Tuesday and today was Simmond’s aster.  Simmond’s aster does not attract insects.  The earlier blooming vining aster bushes are filled with insects, bees and butterflies — a veritable dining table of goodies.  The Simmond bushes stand alone, without visitations.

Cardinal flower, narrow leaf sunflower, clematis crispa, climbing aster, butterweed, fetterbush and green fly orchids are still blooming.

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The fetterbush showing new blooms while this year’s leaves have still to change color seemed unusual.

Green fly orchids, the only tree orchid in north Florida, blooms all year round on Womack creek.  On another tree, several buds have already formed and should be blooming in January if there is no hard killing frost.

 

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Leaves

The leaves on the trees and shrubs of the creek have remained, allowing each plant to exhibit it’s fall colors.  Some years, the trees are denuded before they fully turn color.

Unusually, the Florida maples, of all the trees still are not in color.  But the following are:  sweet gum, swamp titi, pumpkin ash, muscadine grape, blueberry, poison ivy, ogeche tupelo, arrow wood, Virginia creeper, Walter’s viburnum, sumac and ferns.

And, if one looks above….

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In the fall one is drawn to the total palette of landscaped colors.

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Seeds

Fall brings the fruition of spring’s flowers.  Yaupon holly, wax myrtle, wild oats, dahoon holly, swamp titi, swamp rose hips, green fly seed pods, swamp bay, ogeche tupelo drupes, acorn, muscadine grapes and walter’s viburnum drupes.

Aberrations

Silvering usually blooms in October.  It’s buds are tight — perhaps a December bloom?

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And, in a turn around the creek, a pinxster azalea bush always blooms several months ahead of the other pinxsters on the creek.  This year was no different.

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Green fly buds are anticipating January blooms, if the temperature cooperates.

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Lichens and airplants

One surprise was the discovery of blooms on another epiphyte which will need to be identified.

 

And a lichen and another epiphyte will need identification.

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Birds

Vultures always hover overhead; today was not exception.  And we saw a red cockaded woodpecker, but it evaded being photographed.  And this bird, which we have seen many times on the creek, was photographed.

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A smaller bird, possibly a warbler, was also seen but could not be photographed.  This nest was vacated.

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When the tide started to ebb, a great blue flew in to feed on the exposed shore.

Insects and butterflies

Two zebra longwings and one sulphur were seen and one dragonfly.  One bumblee bee was photographed on a climbing aster and several skippers on the asters.  One Ocola skipper was seen drinking from clematis crispa as well as the unidentified skipper.

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Invertebrates

It has been exciting to see native apple snail eggs on branches and plants in Womack Creek these last two years, however we have yet to see a snail.   These eggs either have hatched or been opened.

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Reptiles

Two alligators were seen.  There is a six foot alligator which basks in one spot.  The smaller alligators are still not distinguishable.   We have never seen a Florida cooter climb up a limb, but they manage to get high up these dead logs and branches.

Observing the creek takes much longer than simply paddling it up and back, so lunch is usually eaten at Nick’s Road Campsite, 3.75 miles from put-in at the Womack Creek landing.  One could also put-in at Nick’s road and paddle one way downriver.  However, tidal current is stronger than downriver current, a downriver paddle on a strong incoming tide can be harder than an upriver paddle on an incoming tide.

This is the downriver and upriver view from that campsite.  It’s a private, very large, primitive campsite with a picnic table, a grill and a fire pit.  We recommend it to those who wish to escape the sounds and the tempo of civilization — tenting, preferably, to hear the night sounds and to be better exposed to natural air.

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Exploring branches

Over the years, additional branches have opened into the creek.  There will be tree falls and branches blocking  passage and navigability will depend on the tide and amount of water in the creek.   When exploring, it is better to do it on an incoming rather than an outgoing tide, however limbos under trees should be noted: an incoming tide may preclude this option on return and portage may be required.  We explored one of the branches today.

Upon return to the landing, the mushrooms, not to be upstaged by the fall foliage and seeds, put on a show of their own.

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2017 November 7 – Tuesday

Photos make a log more interesting.  I forgot the camera at home, but since we were at the creek, decided to do a survey and the notes below indicate the changes in the creek.  We hope to return within a week to photograph what we have seen today, but conditions change on the river and what we have seen today cannot be replicated in later photos.

Put in at 10 am to temperature around 68F, fog obscuring what was a clear sky above. The tide was outgoing and continued so until about 1 mile on our return trip back to the put-in.  Only a slight breeze.

In the dampness of the fog, the spider webs glistened with dew.  Spider activity is always visibly pronounced in the fall.

The trees are all still in leaf, but are turning:  sweet gum, tupelo, ash, cypress, swamp bay, blueberry, Florida maple and arrow wood.

Blooming still are clematis crispa, climbing aster – though not as profuse as last month, Simmond’s aster, narrowleaf sunflower, cardinal flower.  And very, very early, in one of the short branches, a small Walter’s viburnum bush is blooming.  And the 3 stems of green fly orchids seen in October are still blooming as is the small cluster of 3 orchids in another location on the tree.   On another tree a cluster of 3 stems with buds which will probably bloom in January if a killing frost does not do them in.   The only tree orchid in north Florida, these tiny plants seem to bloom all year round on Womack Creek.

The yaupon and dahoon berries are bright red and the muscadines, uneaten by birds and other creatures, hang like miniature raisins from the vines, which are still leafed.

With fewer sunflowers and climbing asters, both which are usually visited by butterflies and insects, we saw only 1 zebra long wing, 1 sulphur butterfly, 1 gulf fritillary and 1 dragonfly.  Bees and wasps were not visible nor audible.

However small flocks of unidentified ducks are back — they are skittish and escape before we can identify them.  One chickadee, one small unidentified bird (kingbird?) and the sound of a woodpecker in the woods.

The six foot alligator basked in its usual place past the branch which leads to Nick’s Road Campsite, unperturbed.   A smaller 3 foot alligator was seen further downstream on our return paddle.   Twenty two cooters — more on the way back with the temperatures warming and fog lifted.

Not quite 1 mile from the take-out, as we paddled round a turn in the creek, the sound of a large creature crashing away from the water was heard.  We have heard that sound before on Womack creek without seeing the source of the sound.   However, we have seen and heard the sound a black bear will make when making an escape from human encroachment in British Columbia while hiking.  There are bears in that area; we have seen bear scat at Nick’s Road campsite and at the Womack Creek campground and have been told about sightings of a mother bear and her cub several years ago on the road near the Womack Creek campground.

Leaving the creek after a 9 mile paddle which included a paddle to the other main branch, the temperature was much warmed and the tide had turned to an incoming one.

Hopefully we will be able to capture the colors of the river when we return within the week.

2017 October 20 – Friday

Put-in at 10:00 to around 70F temperature, no wind to speak of, cloudy sky.  The clouds dissipated before we reached Nick’s Road Campsite and the rest of the day was under clear sky and warming temperatures.  The tide going out  and exposed the take-out area.  There is a sharp, deep drop after a short area of gradual slope.  The water line was at the point of that drop; I dared not get out of the kayak.  Instead, we lunched about 1.3 miles downstream where the creek forks, in our kayaks.

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Ed did get out.  In the brief time he was on land, the window of opportunity for getting out safely disappeared.  Slip, slip,  splash.  Fortunately the day was warm and wicking clothes dry fast.  This is why we carry water pumps.

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The summer’s tropical storms and hurricanes brought down more trees into the creek  In a narrow section, two small trees on opposite banks had fallen..  Although the leaves were still green, indicating they had recently fallen, they were already capturing upstream debris.  Ed cut a small opening and moved away the debris downstream.

With temperatures the previous weeks in the high 80’s, the activity on the creek was like late summer.

A  white squirrel, like the squirrels seen at Ochlockonee River State Park, scampered on the opposite side of the creek at Nick’s Road Campsite.  A small group of squirrels further downriver from that white squirrel were noisily gathered, along  with a flock of migrating charcoal grey birds.  This is the first time we have seen white squirrels in Tate’s Hell.

We saw more alligators on that creek than we’ve ever counted before:  seven.  One was over 10′, corroborating Mark, the Womack Creek campground host,  who had insisted last year he had seen a 14′ ‘gator on the creek.   This one was basking and quickly exited into the murky waters when it saw us.  The other alligators were juveniles; they are less defensive and allowed us to paddle close to them without moving from their places.

There were only a handful of very small cooters on the creek.  Normally we see more cooters than alligators.

Birds, both resident and migrating, were active and audible.   There were downy woodpeckers, a flock of migrating charcoal grey birds, cardinals, great blue heron, a vulture, a pair of protonothary warblers and other smaller birds.    We did not hear the hawks or the owls — their calls being common sounds on that creek.

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Narrow leaf sunflowers and climbing asters attract all manner of insects, but the most common on this trip were butterflies, mainly skippers, but also a Viceroy and Gulf Fritillary. We saw one zebra longwing, the first one we have seen on the creek.

 

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There were no honeybees sighted and except for the hornets on a small nest, bumble bees, usually on the climbing asters, seemed to be absent.

The two small hornet’s nests below were on the same limb, one seemingly abandoned, the other still active.

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We saw no snakes.

The usual fall flowers were in bloom:  narrow leaf sunflower, climbing asters, a few cardinal flowers, and only a few Simmond’s asters.  The green fly orchid seems to bloom on this creek all year round — three stems of orchids were in full bloom.  And this was a good year for clematis crispa blooms — they appeared early this year and are still in bloom, although there are more seed cases, looking a bit like sweet gum balls, than flowers.   A single stand of water hemlock blooms were standing in a secluded area.

 

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Fall, is seed bearing time, and the hollies: yaupon, dahoon and American all are in seed in various shades of red and the American holly still green.

Although there are muscadine vines throughout the creek, only certain vines are ladened with ripe fruit.  These do not seem to be eaten by birds or animals — some drying on the vines.  They give tiny bursts of flavor: tart-sweet to tart when individually popped into one’s mouth.  Relative to the small size of the fruit, the seeds are enormous.

There were few flowers this spring on the Ogeche Tupelos; there were few fruit drupes, also.

Other seeds were visible throughout the creek:

The leaves have not yet started turning, although some bushes such as blueberries and sweet gum branches are beginning to turn.

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And as a reminder, that when it comes to invasives on that creek (or anywhere in Florida), one must be diligent.  We marked the location of this invasive climbing fern to dig up in January or February, as we have done before.

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As we turned downstream, the tide changed its course.

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We returned to put-in at 2:40 — there was much to see after a long summer away.

2017 May 19 – Friday

Put-in  10:15 am, overcast throughout with occasional breaks of blue sky, incoming tide throughout, take out 2:45 pm.

The air was humid and warming, but a southerly breeze made the temperatures tolerable on the down river paddle with the tide still incoming.

The blooms are sporadic, except for the flowering of the arrow wood shrub, which can extend high in the understory like a small tree.

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The flowers from afar can be easily mistaken for rusty haw, but the rusty haw has glossy, thicker and darker green leaves and blooms a little after the main pinxter blooming season.

The other dominant flowering shrub is the swamp titi.

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There seem to be separate growing areas along the creek creating different zones of blooming time.  One pinxter azalea shrub still had remnants of blooms.  This has been the longest blooming season for pinxters since our observations in 2011.

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Coastal rose gentian continues to bloom along mossy banks.

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And some ogechee tupelo trees are blooming, although some also have drupes.  There were no honey beans seen, although the hives have been set out for several weeks on Rock Landing Road.

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Certain blooming plants seem to be appearing about the same time as they did in the last few years:  false dragonhead, pickerel weed, American elder or elderberry, swamp rose, button bush, southern arrowwood, narrowleaf primrose, clematis crispa, beauty berry, sweet bay, spatterdock.

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Green fly orchids continue to bloom and a spray of just buds indicates that this stand will be blooming for another month.

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The discovery of the trip was that Spanish moss has flowers!

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Mosses do not flower, but Spanish moss is a bromeliad.

Most of the blueberries bushes have been picked clean.  This year’s crop was generally very sweet; usually these tiny balls are tart.

Promising a heavy crop of muscadines, are grape buds throughout the creek.

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Perseus bay are also thick with bud.

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Apple snail eggs still continue to be laid.P1000153

Dragon flies and bluets are all over the creek, but hardly any butterflies.  Wasps are building nests, but no honey bees.

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The wasps on this nest in a mass of black berry canes bearing fruit stung me as I was trying to sample a ripe blackberry from the section below.  I felt a sting on the back of my left hand — the wasp penetrated my paddling globe.

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Not being able to get to the medicine kit which is in the hatch, I paddled to the bank to make a poultice of mud.  I wasn’t sure this would work — a Sumatra resident told me that he put mud when bitten by water moccasins.  I deduced it must draw out the venom, so my off-the-cuff remedy.  It didn’t work.  By the time I was able to get out of the kayak for lunch — over an hour later, I had difficulty removing my glove, the area around the sting had become swollen.  I couldn’t find the baking soda in my kit; but at trip’s end the swelling had normalized and at the end of the day it was gone.

Those black ready-to-eat blackberries remained on the bush for a bird or animal to eat.  Like the roses, the blackberries are sparse this year.

Juvenile alligators, like all young creatures, are curious.  This one did not avoid us, but as I stopped to take a photo, it cruised around the kayak — about 10 feet away, but in an arc.  It was not more than 4′ long.

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At the mouth of the creek, in a shallow bay, was the up-turned shell and still uneaten remnants of a very large turtle.

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Despite the southern breeze we were glad to be taking out.

The yellow flies were at the Womack Creek landing and in one narrow shaded section of the creek.  Unlike mosquitoes which will not follow you into the water, yellow flies will.  Deet can for short periods deter them, but they are persistent biting insects.

Summer is clearly here.

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2017 April 26 – Wednesday

Put-in 9:25 am, cloudy sky, outgoing tide, take-out 2:45.

The most notable item on this trip was the number of apple snail eggs we saw on the main creek and in some of the branches.  Also, the number of insects which were on flowers and plants.

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Apple snail eggs — since Friday, considerably more eggs on the creek.

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Solitary wasp building a nest and further along the swamp dogwood branch an egg case.

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A colony beginning on a dahoon holly branch.

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Long jaw orb weaver with a larvae.

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Honey bee on dahoon holly blossom.

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Black swallowtail on pinxter blossoms.

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Even the birds were active:  a pair of little blue herons, a male cardinal, the sound of the resident hawk, a single yellow prothonotary warbler, vultures flying overhead and other unidentifiable smaller birds.

No alligators were seen, no snakes spotted, a solitary cooter.

The pinxster azaleas continue blooming as do the swamp dogwoods.

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A few cross vines blossoms still blooming.

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And false indigo.

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Still to reach their peak of bloom are swamp ti-ti. swamp sweetbells, lizard’s tails,  false dragonheads, cow creek spider lily and ogeche tupelo.

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The rose family: swamp rose and blackberries have not bloomed well this year with the fewest blossoms we have ever seen since 2011.

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Newly blooming are coastal rose gentians and blue flag iris.

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And a few climbing aster blooming quite early.

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Soon to bloom are Southern arrow wood, sweet bay and perseus.

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and button bush.

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The tiny green fly orchids continue to bloom and on one tree there are two bloom buds which promise blossoms into June.

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And promising to bloom throughout summer are demure swamp leatherflower, clematis crispa, their vines entwining shrubs and plants throughout the creek.

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At Nick’s road campsite salvia continues to bloom.

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And a very early calling card for fall — a single leaf at that campsite prematurely decked in fall’s colors.

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The blueberries are bearing and the few blackberries seemed stunted.

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And increasing patches of spatterdock are blooming.

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Soon, the buzz of honeybees on the ogeche tupelo blossoms will form a backdrop of sound on that creek.   The bee hives on Rock Landing road have all been set out, protected from maurauding black bears with thin lines of electrically charged wires.

2017 April 21 – Friday

Put-in 9:55am, clear sky, high 60’s, incoming tide, take-out 3:30pm

Normally, during the month of April, we try to do at least a visit every two weeks.  Over 3 weeks have elapsed since our last observation.  Much has changed on the creek.

The azaleas have continued to bloom — one of the longest seasons of bloom we have seen since 2011.  The swamp dogwood is also still in bloom.  A few cross vines remain blooming.  The false indigo continues to bloom, but the wisteria which was not blooming in late March, bloomed quickly and went to seed quickly this year, just a few fading blossoms remaining.

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Azaleas, one or two bushes still with buds.

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Swamp dogwood (enlarged).

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American wisteria and false indigo, the top photo taken on the creek, on the bluff in front of the rest rooms at Womack Creek campground.

Cross vine, Virginia sweet spire, swamp ti-ti.

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Clematis crispa — leather flower continues to bloom as well as rusty haw.

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Newly blooming are cow creek spider lily, false dragonhead, rain lily, pineland pimpernel, narrowleaf primrose, lyreleaf sage, ogeche tupelo, lizard tail, pickerel weed, swamp sweetbells, muscadine, swamp rose and a small stand of green fly orchids.

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Cow creek spider lily.

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False dragonhead.

Rain lily, pineland pimpernel, narrow leaf primrose.

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Lyre leaf sage (salvia).

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Ogeche tupelo.

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Lizard Tail.

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Pickerel weed.

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Swamp sweet bells.

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Muscadine flower buds.

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Swamp rose are very sparse this year as are blackberry blossoms.  But even with few blossoms, the fragrance is noticeable.

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Green fly orchid.

And in the water, the spatterdock are finally blooming with increasing number of patches since 2011.

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A few candy root are still blooming at Nick’s Road campsite.

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Swallowtails on the azaleas and bumble bees on the roses.

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Long jawed orb weavers building nests.

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Black shouldered sprinleg dragonfly hitching a ride on the deck of the kayak.

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When we put-in the rain lily above was still in bud.  Upon return five hours later, it was bloomed, but over half eaten by eastern lubber grasshoppers.  Which were also on the creek.  This is the first year we have seen them in the plants along the creek, in the past a few were seen at the campsites.

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Apple snail deposits on branches and plant stems.

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Blueberries are ripening.  This year they are much sweeter than before, with some berries giving an intense blueberry flavor!

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American holly drupes,  fruiting much earlier this year.  Dahoon holly still in bud, yaupon holly already bloomed.

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Paddling upstream for a few yards beyond Nick’s Road campsite, this 4 foot snake, still to be identified was basking.

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The creek is rapidly preparing for summer.

2017 March 26 – Sunday

Put-in around 10am, overcast sky, low-mid 70’s, outgoing tide, slight wind, take out 12:15

This trip started at Nick’s Road campsite — we were leading a small group of Audubon paddlers, who were able to confirm that the hawk which nests in the upper branch is a red-shouldered hawk.   This hawk is not shown in our gallery because we have not been able to photograph it, and many of the other birds.  All photos on this blog have been taken on Womack Creek or the dry land around it.

We had examined closely overhanging brush and branches along the river yesterday looking for snakes, but could not find a single one.  Today, we were not expecting to see any, even though the day was warmer by a few degrees.

Trying to get a better close-up of this rusty haw, I didn’t see the brown snake which was sunning on a log in front of the shrub which I bumped in trying to get to photo. Most of the snakes on the river are slow, but this was quickly slithered into the water thus missed being photographed.  It looked like a brown water snake.

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Downriver, this banded water snake was sunning on a branch intertwined by vines, over the creek.   Unlike the other snake which I had inadvertently startled when I crashed into the log on which it was sunning, this snake stayed put.

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2017  March 25 – Saturday

Put-in:  12pm, partly cloudy sky, low 70’s, incoming tide, wind ~ 5-8 mph, take out 4:30pm

There was a distinct feel of spring in the air.  The air was scented possibly by the pinxter azaleas or fringe tree, the scent strong when the warm wind blew.   Starting out partly cloudy, there were intermittent periods of sun, enough to encourage a young alligator to take to a sandbank.  But not enough to encourage more cooters out on the exposed logs.

The colors of the creek were still spring — delicate light greens, pink and bronze hues of tree leaves.  Some ash trees were already deep green.  The tupelo was just starting to bud.

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The Walter’s viburnum blossoms which had dominated the shoreline with its small mounds of flowers were starting to seed and only a few fringe trees still had their blooms.

But the pinxter azaleas and cross vines are dominating the spring this year as did the Walter’s viburnum earlier.  Last year, cross vines blossoms were scarce. A few golden clubs plants are still blooming.  And on the floor, swamp buttercups continue to bloom, their petals reflecting sunlight.

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As in other years, the order of blooming does not seem consistent.  In full bloom are the false indigo — their first major show since 2011.

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Other blooming plants are Virginia sweetspire,

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Butterweed,

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Candy root,

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American holly,

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American snowbell,

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Swamp dogwood,

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Rusty haw,

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Clematis crispa,

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Blackberry,

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Fetterbush lyonia,

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Yaupon holly.

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Except for the kingfisher who will not stay in place to be photographed, there were few birds.

A juvenile alligator was sunning.