Category Archives: Birds

It’s summer and the critters are moving, May 11, 2018 …

Juveniles — teenagers — have a lot to learn.  They are more curious than cautious, but in that, for humans, is hope — perhaps a new way to see things around us.  For critters, however, without an overarching adult watching, growing to adulthood is risky.  Alligator, raccoons, cooters and now, this yellow crowned night heron.

Whatever it was doing when Ed came upon it, it diverted its attention to what was more interesting — us.  As it went from muddy shoreline to a short step up a branch to a flight up to a higher branch, it’s eyes were upon us.  But it did not fly away.

It’s attention span was longer than our over 15 minutes.  We paddled away as it continued to watch from its perch.

Meanwhile on the shore, a juvenile raccoon we had seen in January with its mother and siblings was foraging for a late breakfast,  a little after 10am.   Then, the mother had given her brood a sharp warning sound, which none of them heeded.   She herself headed into the brush, they stayed foraging in the mud for crayfish and other goodies.  Now, this one is on it’s own.

Again…our interest span was shorter that this raccoon. It continued to forage;  we paddled upstream. 

The non-venomous water snakes on the creek seem to be a lethargic group — they take their positions and stay there.  Adults or juvenile, it doesn’t seem to matter.  But this juvenile, after extending its forebody a bit, didn’t move.

And then the caterpillars.  Of what species I don’t know.  They were too busy eating the leaves of both the cow creek spider lily and the swamp dragon’s head to take heed of anything.

It’s a busy time on the creek and the young ones are doing what they need to be doing to continue their species.

Perhaps…a New Pair of Barred Owls on the Lower Womack Creek?

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Over a year ago, we photographed a dead barred owl, tangled up in a bait line not far from where the owl above was perched.  Soon after that incident we camped at Womack Creek campground and did not hear the sounds of barred owls calling.

On April 11, 2018,  paddling upstream we saw this barred owl, well camouflaged.  Later we either saw the same owl or another.

Hopefully, campers will hear the sounds of a pair of barred owls calling across the creek.

American kestrel nestling by Larry R. Goodman

Kestrel, American. Nestling. BRSF, FL 061510

Submitted by Peggy Baker of Francis Weston Audubon Society of Pensacola, the society which completed a 2 year study recently of the birds in Blackwater River State Forest (abbreviated report by Peggy Baker posted in this blog, 2013).   The photo of the nestling was taken by Larry R. Goodman.

Peggy writes:

“Here is a picture of the southeastern subspecies of the American kestrel.

“This bird nested all over the SE US at one time.  In the last 80 years it has lost 70% of its population.  Most of these birds nest in the middle of the state.

“This bird was photographed and thus documented in Blackwater by our survey team after FWC put up nestboxes in an area where we saw pair feeding young.  Now there are numerous pairs in these FWC boxes.   We cannot find another record of these birds nesting in Blackwater.  So with the return of the Longleaf/wiregrass habitat, this bird has expanded it range.  Larry Goodman is our our photographer.”

Comment:  GRASI  EIS notes that the open areas of the forest would be advantageous for positioning of temporary camps.   These are the areas in which the birds would be found.  Although the report by the society was available at the time of the initial EIS, no mention of this report is found in the species to be impacted.

Paddling Womack Creek on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014

The day was overcast, the temperature at put-in was 82 F, but there was a slight and welcomed breeze.   It felt more like an early summer than late spring day.

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In a little branch off the Ochlockonee before entering Womack Creek, a troupe of Cowcreek Spider lilies — the first of many to present themselves on the creek.

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Nearby, in the same branch, more Lizard’s tails than we have ever since in one spot.  This is the way it is with the creek — a profusion of one species one year, scarcity the next.  Every trip is a surprise and every year is a different scene.

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Not too far away, and pretty early, false dragonheads.  In the main part of the creek in late May and June masses of these blooms were seen last year.

 

 

 

 

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Before I left the branch, I could not resist these blueberries — tart with a slight tinge of sweet.  There is nothing like wild blueberries — hybrids cannot compare.

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Last year cross vines bloomed from spring to the killing frost in the winter.  The year before they were hard to find.  They may not bloom in abundance this year.

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In 2012 the creek was festooned in clematis crispa.  Last year we saw only a few.  This year the vines are thick, but the buds do not seem to have appeared yet on these vines.  We cherish the few flowers we see.

 

 

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Sweet bays are always blooming; in some years in greater profusion.  Their fragrance, thick and heavy, lead you to the blooms.

 

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I inadvertently broke this spider’s web while holding on to a branch to get a steady shot.   More often than not, it’s harmless water snakes I encounter while taking photos.

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There are three native hollies on Womack Creek:  Yaupon, which blooms first, American and Dahoon which bloom about the same time.  They provide fruit for the migratory birds in the fall.  The dahoon hollies will be in full bloom next week.  Along with the swamp titi, Arrowwood, muscadine grapes and poison ivy.

 

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This inch worm fell on my thigh.  I relocated it to a better surface to photograph.  Wondered what type of flying insect it would develop into and where it came from.

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Got my answer just a few paddles upstream.  On the Ogeche tupelos tent worms.

 

 

 

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The last of this springs pinxter azaleas — this was a glorious year for pinxters.

 

 

 

 

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Another flower which leads you to them by scent — swamp rose, not in such profusion as 2012.

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Ferns, a harbinger of summer, at Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site, our usual lunch stop, 3.8 miles from put-in at the Womack Campground landing.

 

 

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The geometry of natural forms — hard to come up with a better design.

 

 

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This less than 1/2 inch grasshopper will grow 5 times and consume many times its weight in tender plant leaves.

 

 

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Every trip, we check the green fly orchid plants, a threatened species.   We have never seen the blossoms of this epiphyte, the only tree orchid in North Florida.  Today we were rewarded when two tiny plants showed these bloom stems — even seeing these buds was a thrill.   If you wish to know where they are located e-mail quincypair@comcast.net — we will give you the coordinates.  We have been advised not to post the coordinates on a public forum because plant hunters will harvest them.

No snakes, today, but we saw a hawk, heard what we believe to be a pileated wood pecker, cardinals and barred owl.   We also saw a mother duck with 6 ducklings and a great blue heron — probably feasting on the frogs we heard while paddling upstream.   Turtles are always sunning on this creek and the few alligators are skittish, diving into the water with a great splash when they hear us coming.   Dragonflies, no butterflies, but mosquitoes and yellow flies at the Womack Creek Campground landing (not at Nick’s Road primitive camp site), lots of bees on the Ogeche tupelos.  The old frames in the bee hives on Rock Landing Road have been replaced to store the tupelo nectar which bees transform into honey.

As for the sound:  1 small plane, a light drone; one motor boat on the Ocklockonee and a pontoon boat on the Ochlockonee going at minimum speed.    Except for these, the whole paddle was without reminder of human mechanized invention.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, we spent the day with Mother Nature.

 

 

Listed species – Blackwater River State Forest

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Gopher Tortoise

Blackwater River State Forest is home to many species on the federally endangered and threatened list.

  • 1 Fish
  • 5  Amphibians
  • 8 Reptiles
  • 5 Birds
  • 3 Mammals
  • 54 Invertebrates
  • 19 Plants and Lichens

The Nature Conservancy says of Blackwater River State Park:

“Considered by many as Florida’s premier state forest, Blackwater River State Forest — 209,571 acres and counting — is the bedrock of a conservation complex that hosts an amazing 300 species of birds and 2,500 species of plants.  One of the most biologically rich areas in the US, the forest is part of a vital nature corridor that gently rolls from Conecuh National Forest along the Florida-Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The state forest is a significant piece of the largest, continuous longleaf pine/wiregrass forest complex in the world. Once blanketing the entire southeastern United States, only 3 percent of that vast forest survives today.

For more:  see http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates.

Blackberries for Birds, Animals and Us, Tate’s Hell

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What blooms  bears fruit and Tate’s Hell State Forest has food for birds, deer, turkey, water fowl, insects, fish and humans. This year the wild muscadines were in full fruit, blackberries and blueberries for eating out of hand with enough left for the animals. If you ever want to see these working creatures all on their separate daily missions, but complementing and benefitting each other, even as they are prey and predator — come spend some quiet, observing time in Tate’s Hell.

Womack Creek leading to Womack Swamp, Tate’s Hell

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Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell, upstream from Nick’s Road Primitive Camp site. After heavy rains, this area is deep enough to paddle, with fallen trees to limbo under, brush to avoid, but you may be rewarded by an otter, a barred owl flying overhead and wildflowers which still manage to bloom in the patches of sun they have found. Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site is another isolated site which makes you think you have the wilderness all to yourself. Mosquitoes and yellow flies in the summer months.