March is unpredictable.
Based on the weather predictions for the Womack Creek area on the last day of February, we made plans to do our monthly field trip on Womack Creek, to note which changes had occurred since Valentine’s Day.
The one hour drive was under overcast skies, the temperature was much warmer than any day the previous week, and we were expecting some break in the clouds and warming temperatures. So confident in yesterday’s weather prediction, one of us was in shorts and short-sleeved wicking shirt. The other, more skeptical and weather-wise, dressed in waterproof pants and long sleeves and and waterproof jacket.
We were looking for new blooms of pinxter azaleas. When these are in full bloom on the creek the air is fragrant and their delicate blossoms form impressionist-landscapes, particularly if swamp dogwoods or fringe trees are also in bloom. This is too early for that yet, but we were looking for more than that one bush we saw blooming two weeks ago.
Walter’s viburnum is still in bloom, hopefully, if the temperature does not exceed the 60’s, they will still be in bloom when the pinxter azaleas come into full flower.
As we had expected, the swamp buttercup were beginning to bloom, the warmer temperatures inviting them to add golden dots near the forest floor.
All living creatures must be opportunistic, finding niches and opportunities to propagate. This demure flowering plant is no different — wherever it can find soil, it will plant its roots.
The blueberries are still in bloom, but this was a drizzly day and no insects were on the bushes. Red maples have gone to seed. Some red maple trees have both male and female flowers; others are only male and do not have seeds. The male trees are putting out leaves, as are the sweet gums — tender leaves and bud clusters. Last year’s seed pods — beautifully sculptured spikes of roundness, still hang, most of its seeds already strewn into the waters below.
And hornbeams, the earlier leafing trees, are leafing with pendulous bloom clusters adding an ethereal look against the sinewy tree trunks.
Two weeks ago the resurrection ferns were still brown. Today, getting ready for Easter, they, have, as they are named, coming back to life.
We shortened our paddle and didn’t go all the way to Nick’s Road camp site landing. The optimistic one had to put on her waterproof jacket and, from her hatch, her waterproof pants, which lay on her legs, not worn — to keep her bare legs from freezing. The temperature did not go up much than the 62 F when we started, and the drizzle became more persistent.
Blue skies or gray, there is always something new on Womack Creek. Today, we found another stand of green fly orchid and will be monitoring that to note when the new plants put out bud stalks.
And even in this bleak landscape, we saw an eagle, a sparrow, a goldfinch, 2 hooded mergansers, and 2 cormorants floating downriver and enjoying a quiet, wet Sunday. Even on a drizzly paddle, one can easily be restored by nature.
In two weeks, we expect more pinxter azaleas to be blooming and hopefully the beginnings of the swamp dogwoods, although this year, they seem very slow in leafing and no buds are detectable on the shrubs. And except for one or two parsley haw trees, this tree too, with its light pink/white blossoms seem a bit slow in leafing and budding. And the pumpkin ash will certain be blooming — the branches arching over the river should have purplish flowers.