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.

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Swallowtails and fritillary butterflies return when the pinxter and other plants bloom.

And at Nick’s Road campsite, newly hatched,  were easter lubber grasshoppers.

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Small now, they will triple their size in a few weeks.

And a Magnolia green jumping spider jumped onto one of our kayaks.

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Almost transparent, it’s a beautiful little spider — the photo does not do it justice.

And, a treat…a few blueberries are already ripening.

Another beautiful day on the creek.

2017 March 15 – Wednesday

Put-in:  12pm, clear sky, around 50F, brisk wind ~ 5mph+, outgoing tide upriver, incoming tide down river, take-out 4:30pm.

Temperatures in the area the night before were between 35-38; even lower temperatures expected tonight.   Paddlers with Paddle Florida Dam to the Bay suffered rains, cold temperatures last night and were not looking forward to the night’s even colder temperatures.   Twelve paddlers apparently chose to leave the group before the day’s paddle.

Mark had a load of firewood for the paddlers — a warm fire and even more the warmth of companionship might help, particularly tomorrow morning.

The Spring tide was out.  We have never seen the creek this low.  In an outgoing tide, leaving muddy shoreline exposed, shore birds as egrets, herons and ibis can usually been seen.

Today we saw a little blue heron.  It was skittish and the photograph was a long shot, but it flew ahead of us for about a mile, much faster than we could paddle, then flying away as we approached it again.

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We were jacketed and hooded — the coldest paddling day we’ve had for a year.

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The most dominant blooms on the creek are the dark orange cross vine flowers and white fringe tree.  Some of the cross vine blossoms were frost singed; hopefully the buds will not be too frozen after the freeze tonight to bloom. (Click on photos to expand).

And the pinxter azaleas which will continue to bloom for another two or more weeks — some bushes are still in bud.

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A few blossoms of Walter’s Viburnum are still on the shrubs, but there are more developing seed pods on these bushes than blossoms.

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At Nick’s Road campsite, primrose violets, candy root and partridge berry. Some of the palmettos have flower sprays and the cinnamon ferns are beginning to open up.

Beginning to flower are parsley hawthorne, virginia willow or sweetspire, swamp sweetbells, swamp dogwood, false indigo and yaupon holly.

At tree top height the sight of shades of spring against a blue sky dispels the chill in the air.

Water oak and other oak species are also blooming as are the pumpkin ash.

And below, it is easy to miss the bristly buttercup plants blooming throughout the forest.

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Every month we have been finding at least one swamp leatherflower or clematis crispa blooming.  Today we found one blossom in the sun and another large bud in shade.P1020580

Pinxter azaleas blooms attract swallowtail butterflies.  A few were out today.  This one resting on an alder bush, next to the pinxter bush.

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On the Ochlockonee, nearby, there must be a new osprey nest.  Paddling upstream and again downstream, in the same section of the river we saw flying overhead a single osprey.  We were hoping to see kites — this is the time of year they can be found in Tate’s Hell.  Paddlers today saw them on the Ochlockonee, but it was not to be today for us.  However, the kingfisher, vultures and a king bird and small sparrows were on the river.

One small alligator was in the water; a few cooters on the paddle downriver.

After tomorrow, warmer weather is predicted.

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2017 February 25 – Saturday

Put-in:  10:40 am, cloudy sky, around 74F, outgoing tide, take-out 3:00 pm

The phenology data shows that leafing and blooming are occurring earlier this year.  On Womack creek the pattern of blooming has been different every year.   This year, the Walters Viburnum continues to bloom and is, in late February, the dominant blooming shrub.   But punctuating the shoreline with delicate pinks are fully blooming pinxter azaleas, which almost 3 weeks earlier were still largely in bud.

Blooming now on the creek are golden club, though not in great mass groupings as in some years, swamp buttercup, swamp jessamine.

Not to be ignored are pinxter azaleas.  While the dominant hue is a delicate pink, there are a few bushes with much darker pink and one, we saw, almost white.

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Beginning to bloom are wax myrtle and blackberry.

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On Nick’s Road Primitive Campsite where we usually stop for lunch and the Womack Creek Campground landing, at ground level, to be easily stepped on, are candy root, primrose leaf violets, and yellow stargrass.

Still in bud, but promising blooms in a few weeks are fringe tree, yaupon holly, swamp dogwood, false indigo and spatterdock.

And one cannot ignore the fungi and ferns which are also beginning to revive.

The cooters and 6-7 feet alligators appeared once the clouds passed.

Knox B. paddled with us — we were planning to scout the upper New River the next day and planned to camp next to the New River to get an early start the next morning.

Our paddle on Womack Creek started out under cloudy skies, but ended in sunshine, which heightened the rose colors of spring.

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2017 February 6 – Monday

Over the last two years we had identified 6 stands of Japanese Climbing Ferns, the only invasive plants which we have seen on Womack Creek, except for one taro plant (which we dug up two years ago).

These ferns are beautiful, but difficult to get rid of.  Michael Jenkins, an expert on endangered and threatened species,  had advised us on its proper removal two years ago, but we had to adapt the procedure to conditions we found on the river.  We chose a time when there were no spores on the underside of the leaves — late winter.

[Professor Emeritus Loran Anderson (FSU, Biology) has informed us that it is not under the leaf that these spores can be found but “spongia (are) on finger-like projections at the tips of some of the leaves.”  He has continued to generously verify photographs we have sent him of new plants we have photographed on the creek.]

The protocol states that these vines should be covered with a plastic bag and cinched at the stems.   We could not cover the vines with a plastic bag.  Like any plant, they sought sunlight, and the vines were entwined over saplings and shrubs.  It also recommended that something be placed under the plant to catch any seeds (spores) from falling on to the soil,  another difficult procedure because on the woodland floor in rich river soil, a variety of plants, shrubs and trees were growing densely.  The procedure continues: after the foliage is covered and cinched, cut the stems at the base, turn the plastic bag over to keep the foliage from falling out.

Then the rootball should be dug out.  Japanese fern roots are like capillaries all under the soil, entangled with all the other vegetation.

We dispensed with the floor cover and the bag over the plant, but we checked to see if the leaves had any spores.  None.  Then we removed the vines as carefully as we could,then cut the foliage off at the base.  Then dug up the rootball, checking the soil to see that no remnants were left.

The photos below show the Japanese climbing fern and our methods of removing them.  The six identified ferns led equally as many other fern clumps which we found either in the interior from the plant or near these plants.

We put each fern into small plastic sacks and then added them to a larger sack, which was too large to carry in our cockpits and therefore transported on top of the kayak deck.

We will double bag this and let it sit outside for several weeks, tightly cinched.  Then we will burn it in our brush pit.

We vowed that we would  make this an annual event.

The day, however, was not all work.

At 10:30 in the morning, it was overcast and foggy.

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A black and white kind of day.  This is the view of the Ochlockonee River on the right and Womack Creek on the left from the Womack Creek landing.

The moisture in the fog created jewels on trees, droplets on spider webs.

Last Saturday when we were last on Womack Creek, we missed seeing the Sweet gum bud; the hornbeam tree was covered with these catkins.

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All the ferns were located below the branch leading to Nick’s Road Campsite, so we had lunch on the water at this secluded spot.

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One doesn’t need a vista to have a good view.

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Exploring a branch, one of many which open up after heavy rains, tropical storms or hurricanes, we found a remnant of a sad event.  Sad, because it was not in the natural order of things.  A barred owl (we think) — there is a pair of barred owls near there which we always hear when camping at the campground — probably came across a fish hooked on a bush line.  It either got entangled in the line or somehow the hook caught the owl.  Hanging from a branch, it had tried to fly away, but could not escape the nylon line.

Bush lines are allowed by state law.  These are single lines which are attached to trees and baited and thrown into the water.  By law each line has to have a color of a registered owner, but this does not seem to be followed nor enforced.

Three years ago when leading a group on the Crooked River, about 3 miles south of the Womack Creek Landing, off the Ochlockonee, one of the paddlers came across a cooter struggling in the water.  It had been caught in the line.   Fortunately, he saw this and cut the line off with a knife another paddler had. This freed the cooter.  Just last week, on the Iron Wall in Lake Talquin, we saw a black vulture suffer the same fate, like the owl, hanging from a low branch.

The last fern having been dispatched into the bag, we paddled back.

The morning fog had dissipated soon after we were on the river and the day had turned memorably pure:  hardly any wind, hardly any current in the water, no artificial sounds, and the soft warmth that early spring produces.

A juvenile alligator was getting the best of the sun and a nearby cooter also, unpeturbed by paddlers nearby.

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And in the sky, as we approached the Ochlockonee River, the moon and jet stream created a pattern equally as  beautiful in the sky as the the shoreline and water.

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Even the landing, in that afternoon light, was beautiful.

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It was a work day for us, but what a place to be working!

2017 February 4 – Saturday

At 10:45 to clear skies with temperatures around 54 and a light breeze, we put-in to an incoming tide.  We took out at 3:10 pm, after having lunch at Nick’s Road Campsite.  Halfway up the creek, it got warm enough so we removed our anoraks.

Womack Creek landing is at the juncture of the Ochlockonee River and the mouth of the Womack Creek.  This is where we put-in and take-out.

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Paddling upstream on Womack is not like paddling up-river on the Ochlockonee.  The only current is a tidal one and most of the creek is protected from wind.

The creek is relatively broad at the mouth and narrows.  Depending on tide and water level from rains, one can easily paddle over 4 miles up the creek, past Nick’s Road campsite and into one of two branches beyond.  Over the years we have been paddling and monitoring the life there, new branches have opened up and when the days are longer, we explore them.  Winter exploration, however, has its benefits.  With no leaves on the trees and shrubs, one can see where one is going — branches meander through the least resisting path; there is no such thing as a straight paddle on the branches.

Over 2 1/2 miles after put-in the creek branches.  The right branch dead ends after about 3/4 miles.  The left branch will lead you to Nick’s Road campsite where we usually stop for lunch.  The take-out is muddy and oyster shells at one time were emptied there and there is a drop, so caution is suggested getting out of boats at low tide.  The campsite is a lovely primitive site (no water, no toilet facilities), but it has a grill, a picnic table and fire pit.   It is large enough for several tents.  We camped there with two families and there was more than enough room for 4 adults and 4 active kids.  After March 15, the reservation system for Tate’s Hell will be available on Reserve America.

We have been lax with removing the few Japanese climbing ferns. This is the only invasive and only non-native plant on this creek to our knowledge. Care must be taken in its removal to prevent spores from further propagating the ferns.  We saw a new fern and decided to return within the month to get this and 5 other ferns dispatched properly.

For the past three or four years the clematis crispa blossoms have not bloomed as profusely as we saw them the first year, nor as long.  We are always looking for them. We saw one blossom about 1 mile south of Nick’s Road campsite in November.  None in December or January.

But….looka here…

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In another section, a single flower, sheltered from the cold.

All of the blueberry bushes were in bloom.  In the past two years, we have always had a handful of blueberries (tart, but refreshing) in May, sometime late April.   A few bumble bees were visiting the flowers.

We look forward to tasting blueberries in late April and May and muscadines in October.

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Last month, there was only one big bush of Walter’s Viburnum blooming.  Today, there were a few bushes in bloom, but even more bushes in heavy bud and probably ready to bloom fully within 2 weeks.

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Horn bean catkins are also early bloomers.

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But earlier, still, are the alders.

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Soon after, golden clubs appear along a several branches off the main river.  A few were in bloom, but the number of plants visible seems much less than previous years.

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A plant which has not been photographed for ID (and which will photos will be sent to Prof Loran Anderson for confirming ID) was seen — a species of tick seed, with a single bloom in a clump of leave.

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Another identified plant, an air plant, will also have to be identified before we move it to the Plant ID section.

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Birdlife is hard to photograph.  We have never been able to get a good photo of a protothonary warbler, or wood ducks, or the pair of hawks which nest in the upper parts of the creek, or buzzards which fly over the creek.  We have seen kites over the creek and once a kite soared low over the water as we watched silently in wonder.  And kingfishers refuse to get close enough to us to be photographed.  Similarly the squirrels and otters which we have seen on the creek.   Smaller birds which perch rapidly from one place to another are elusive to my point & shoot camera.  But…we think this is a female protothonary warbler, which would not stay still in a good shooting location to get a clear photo.

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It has a slight yellow cast on its breast, unlike the male which is quick to spot among the thickets.

In March, we begin to look for Pinxter azaleas, which, depending on amount of rainfall and water in the creek will bloom profusely or scantily, but always there is a show.  These native azaleas are a delicate pink, but even more they have a delicate scent.  Not the heavy scent of the sweet bay in late April, but slight and sweet. A slightly humid, relatively warm day seems to bring out more scent.   Soon after,  the sweet bay blooms and perfumes the creek, then swamp roses with their slight cinnamon sweet scent.

There were 3 pinxter azalea plants in full bloom.   Most of the plants were still in tight buds.  When the pinxters are in full bloom, the Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly can be seen.  There was one today, but were 3 bushes sufficient to satisfy it?

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Florida maples come in male and female trees.  They were in bloom.

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A bit early, pumpkin ash blossoms were getting ready to bloom.

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And hidden behind the trees,  swamp jessamine were blooming.

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Increasing beds of spatterdock are now seen on the creek where only two patches were present when we first started to inventory the plantlife on this creek.   They are getting ready to bloom and will continue to bloom all summer and fall until a really hard frost will stop them.

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The creek is already showing signs of early spring.

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2017 January 12 – Thursday

At 11:40 am it was warm, the sky was clear.  There was a slight breeze.  We took out over 3 1/2 half hours later, having explored several branches, making a usual 8 mile trip, a 9.2 mile trip.

A flock of wood ducks preceded us upstream and turned into the right branch over 2 1/2 miles from put-in.  This branch dead ends and we decided to follow the wood ducks, and after we failed to get good photos of them, turned around to continue up the left branch to Nick’s Road Campsite where we usually stop for lunch.

It was warm enough for a single sulphur butterfly, few other insects.  An alligator hurriedly plopped into the water — around 8′ long.  Large alligators are not usually found on this creek, juvenile ones and younger.

Alligators and sulphur butterflies are rarely seen in January.

As in the December report which was written on a Word document was not retrievable and the printed copy cannot be found.

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The day was clear and for January, warm.

Warm enough for a single sulphur butterfly which flitted from the last of the climbing aster, sheltered under leafless vines, and the blueberry blossoms.

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Warm enough for a small alligator.

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And the first pinxter azaleas of the season — two months ahead of normal blooming.

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These first blooms tend to be stunted — the petals on the azalea above were burned by the

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And, wonders of wonders, a stalk of green fly orchid was in bloom!

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Even while tiny bulbous seed cases were being formed.

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An egret was feeding.

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Alder catkins were a sign of normalcy — the alders usually put out their blossoms in winter.

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And Walter’s Viburnum start to bloom in mid to late January.

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2016 – December report had to be done on Word, printed & filed.  Can’t find that report. 

2016 – November 10 – Thursday

10:00 am put-in, take-out 3:05pm. incoming tide as we paddled upstream, outgoing tide as we paddled downstream, calm, clear skies, temperature at put-in low 60, at take-out upper 70’s.  Negligible rain all of October.

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Accompanied by David B, who is completing his final module in the Florida Master Naturalist program.  Later met by two Colorado snowbirds, Erin and Jay, who,  traveling from St. Joe, mistook Womack Creek’s eastern time and arrived 1 hour later, but correct at central time.  Erin and Jay stayed to camp at the Womack Creek campground  in their trailers.

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Leaves:   turning:  sweet gum, blueberries, ogeche tupelo, arrow wood, cypress, sumac.

Leaves normally turning, but still green:  Florida maple.

Blooming:  Climbing Aster, Simmond’s aster, swamp sunflower, green fly orchids, yellow star grass, silvering, clematis crispa.

Seeding:

Walter’s viburnum full of seeds, dahoon and yaupon hollies bright red with American holly berries still green, alder, swamp titi, climbing aster, swamp rose, indigo, wax myrtle, button eryngo, parsley haw, Indian oats.

Birds:  5 wood ducks, kingfisher, alarm call of hawk pair, unidentified small birds.

Butterflies:  Gulf fritillary, zebra longwing.

Other insects:  honeybees busy on Simmond’s aster blossoms, bumble bees on climbing asters, smaller unidentified nectar sipping insects on Simmond’s aster.

Reptiles, amphibians:  few turtles, 4 juvenile alligators ranging from a little over 2.5 feet to over 5 feet.

Discovered gopher tortoise opening, but it may have been abandoned – no sign of recent entry.

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Fully into fall, spring and summer nests have been abandoned.

One could not  have asked for a better north Florida day.

2016 – October 14 – Friday

This was the longest stretch of time we have not surveyed the creek — we left Florida on the 24th of May and returned 2 days ago.

Although they were signs of debris load caused by sudden rivulets of water on Nick’s road campsite with small tree limbs and pine branches around the area, we were not able to confirm how much rain either Hurricane Hermine or less likely Hurricane Matthew had increased rainfall and winds in that area. 9\

9:50 am, put-in; slight breeze, tide low at put-in, returning from Nick’s Road campsite, tide was incoming, sunny with a few clouds, temperature around low 60’s.  Temperatures started to rise and by take-out it was probably in the mid-80’s, but a stronger breeze tempered the heat.

Leaves:  Swamp trees still green except for sweet gum and blueberries; pinxter azaleas are without leaves

Blooming:  Swamp sunflower, snow squarestem, climbing aster, green fly orchid, cardinal flower.

Seeds: tupelo, yaupon and dahoon hollies, walter’s viburnum, green fly orchid, laurel greenbrier, rose hips, muscadine, acorn, green fly orchid (1 pod).

Buds: silvering — probably will bloom in November, still tight.

Dormant:  Resurrection fern.

Birds:  heard woodpecker, buzzard, several small insect eaters, one egret.

Insects & butterflies:  gulk fritillary (2), zebra longwing (1), sulphur (1), pair of mating dragonflies in air, unidentified small carpenter-type bee, only a few other insects.  There were fewer insects and butterflies on the climbing asters and swamp sunflowers than one normally sees at this time of the year.  Few spiders, mainly unidentified black orb spider which sits in the middle of the web.

Other wildlife:  cooters (2), brown water snake (small, light colored)

Photos – Trees and undergrowth foliage:

Photos – Flowers and other blooms:

Photos – Seeds:

Photo – insect seed case:

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 Photos – Critters:

We have paddled and tent camped in 47 states and 6 Canadian provinces and we return to Womack Creek always finding a changing, yet constant, habitat.  We l0ok forward to what the rest of this year shows us on that creek  — every paddle is different and a discovery.

2016 – May 22 – Sunday

10:00am, about 68F, clear, outgoing tide, income about 12:00, wind 3-5mph

A “cold front” bringing drier air and a slight breeze made for a pleasant late spring put-in.  The creek is in summer color and by take-out after 1pm, the temperature was in the 80’s and climbing.  Normally, we would have lunched at Nick’s Road Campground, but yellow flies and some black flies which normally do not follow one on the water, pursued us soon after about 15 minutes of paddling.   The frequency of their bites increased as we approached the campground.  Clearly, camping there would be miserable as it would at the Womack Creek Campground.  Taking out — two or three flies created bite welts on one of us.

Green is the predominant color except for the white balls of arrow wood blossoms and swamp titi blooms.   Close to the swamp rose bushes, their fragrance is noticeable, and throughout the creek the headier smells of the sweetbay reminds us that summer is soon upon us.   Not as many dragonflies as two weeks ago, but a miniature species caught rides on the kayak.   There are few honeybees on the creek, but flies and other insects are serving as pollinators.

A kite was seen early on, about the same area we saw the kite flying at tree level two weeks ago.  This one, however, flew in graceful arcs much higher up and over a longer area.

In bloom:  narrow-leaf primroses still in bloom, dahoon holly, and in full bloom false dragon-head, arrow wood, swamp titi.   A few stands of pickerel weed mixed with the dragon-head.  The spiderlilies have all bloomed out.  Most of the grape vines have heavy buds — hopefully this will mean muscadines in the fall.  Only a few clematis crispa.

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Dahoon Holly

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Pickerel Wee and False Dragon-head

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Up close false dragon head.

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Arrow wood blossoms now blooming.

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Sweet bay, scenting the creek with heavy sweetness.

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And a few blooming clematis crispa.

No alligators nor snakes were seen, but a few turtles, including this very curious one, which gawked instead of plopping into the water as did its kind.

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And, a dead alligator snapping turtle.  We have never seen a live alligator snapping turtle on this creek.  This one was huge.

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Insects:  dragonflies, no butterflies, sparse honey bees, no carpenter bees, few wasps, but small flies and biting yellow and black flies.

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Birds: single kite, great blue heron, little blue heron, hawk, red headed woodpecker, and an unidentified yellow warbler type of bird.

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Just before the mouth of Womack Creek, in one of the branches, an elderberry bush was blooming.  These are common on the Ocklockonee below the creek and on Crooked River, but have not yet been seen on the creek itself.

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Except for the yellow flies, a good day for being on Womack Creek.

2016 – May 7 – Saturday

10:45am, around 70F, clear, low tide, incoming at about 1pm, breeze from west 2-4mph

The creek is in early summer-late spring garb, scented by blooming swamp roses and sweet bay.  The yaupon and American holly blooms were short-lived, but the Dahoon hollies are now heavy with buds.  The flowers blooming in April have gone to seed, except for the false indigo which continues to bloom.  Heavily budded arrow wood flower clusters should be opening up in a week or more and swamp titi are beginning to bloom, although most are still in bud stage.   Muscadine buds promise a good crop if temperature and summer rain prove favorable.  We welcome the sweet/tart tiny fruit in the fall, to taste a little, but to leave the most for the animals and birds.  The Perseus Bay is also flowering, but their blossoms are very inconspicuous — a sharp contrast to the sweet bay blossoms with their strong scent and sculptured petals.

We were the only ones on the creek and took our time searching for flowers such as cross vines, which this year had only a brief period of blooming; clematis crispa which in some years can be seen throughout the creek as purple dots of bells, but this year we had to scan carefully to find the few we did see; American wisteria blooms in a particular thick stand, which did not even seem to have bloomed this year — no spent flower heads could be seen; and snakes.  The sun on our skin and the warmth foretold perfect snake basking weather.  Also turtles and alligators.  They were not that many turtles on the fallen trunks and large branches and only 3 alligators were seen, two small and one about 5-6′ long basking on a log in a sheltered bay.  One water moccasin was seen swimming and one similarly coated brown water snake was in a large swamp rose branch.

Dragonflies flitted all over the creek, only one yellow swallowtail since the azaleas are no longer blooming, a few carpenter bees in the roses, but no honey bees in the ogeche tupelo blossom balls.

At the start,  a single kite flew at tree-top height, allowing us to see what a beautiful bird it is.  We also sighted for the first time a pair of plovers on the creek.  Cardinals, mainly heard, and one seen were on the creek.  And the ever present black vultures.

In bloom:  false indigo, sweet bay, swamp rose, dahoon holly, swamp ti-ti, narrow leaf primrose, ogeche tupelo, cow creek spider lily, one false dragonhead and yet to be identified tiny blue flower at Nick’s Road campsite where we had our lunch.

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Swamp Rose — a fully blooming shrub will perfume the air around it.

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Clematis crispa — just a few blooming.

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False indigo.

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Dancing Cow Creek spider lily, an endemic species in this area discovered by Prof Loran Anderson, FSU Emeritus Biology.  To the upper left, a clematic crispa and in the corner, an early false dragonhead blossom.

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Sweet bay — it’s heavy scent permeates the creek.

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Dahoon Holly.

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Narrow leaf primrose.

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And early bunch of swamp titi blooms — the full blooming is still a week away.

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A demure 1/2 inch blossom on a 6 inch tall plant at Nick’s Road campground.

Budding now, but soon blooming are: muscadines, button bush and arrow wood.

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Muscadine (grape).

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Button bush.

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Iron wood.

A dragonfly was in the water.  Whether this was a female who had just recently deposited her eggs or a stricken dragonfly, it wasn’t clear.  As the kayak approached the creature, it flew away to another area of the creek about 14 feet away.  It landed on its back and remained that way until turned over and then subsequently lifted out of the water to put on the deck of the kayak.  The animal seemed fragile, but hung on to the deck bungee chord for about 1/2 mile.  Not sure it flew away or fell off; however, later another smaller dragon fly attached itself to that same bungee chord for a down river ride of about the same distance.

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Apple snail eggs, not many, are encouraging signs that this primary food for limpkins are taking hold on the creek.

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A light breeze cooled the warming air on the paddle downriver against an incoming tide.

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Brown water snake.

Another beautiful day on Womack Creek.

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2016 – April 15 – Friday

11:45 am, 68 F, overcast with chance of rain, high-incoming tide, winds around 5-6mph

Except for a few fringe trees and the absence of clematis crispa and the false indigo still to bloom,  the creek’s flowering resembles that of spring 2011.  Huge bushes of rusty black haw with their large balls and waxy leaves contrast with the pink pinxter azaleas with smaller bushes of swamp dogwoods with their composite clumps of white flowers in the background looking like miniature rusy black haw, their leaves thinner and coarser.  In delicate festoons the swamp sweetbells and Virginia sweetspire add form and additional white to the spring display against leaves which are turning darker now.  We have not seen such a thick show of rusty blackhaw since 2011.

Flowering:  pinxter azaleas (pink), cross vines (orange), swamp sweetbells (white), swamp dogwood (white), Virginia sweetspire (white), Rusty black haw (white), yaupon holly (white), American holly (white), swamp bay, perseus (cream), American wisteria (lavender to purple), blackberry (white), the last remnants of the fringe tree (white).P1190614

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Budding: Spider lily.

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Seeding: poison ivy, blueberries, Walter’s viburnum

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Just leafing: ogeche tupelo, the last tree on the creek to leaf out.

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Reptiles/amphibians/ turtles: American  alligator, Florida cooter

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Birds:  flock of little blue heron, kingfisher

insects: yellow swallowtail, carpenter bees, honey bees

The temperature continued in the high 60’s, it threatened, but never rained.  Spring on Womack Creek is always a delight.

2016 – March 22 -Tuesday

11:45 am, 60F, clear, 3mph, low tide, incoming tide up stream and back

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In bloom:  pinxter azaleas, Walter’s viburnum, parsley haw, cross vine, swamp buttercup, butterweed, swamp jessamine, oak, white violets, blackberries, golden club, fringe tree.

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