The upper creek in spring color.
The gallery of blooms on Womack creek on March 25, 2017.
And among them, ripening blueberries.
A low spring tide exposes the shoreline and prevents paddling up branches.
But, it attracts shoreline birds — like this little blue heron.
It was cold that day.
The the spring colors were promising of warmer days to come.
Spring flowers affirmed that.
With the creek beginning to bloom, we will visiting at least twice a month. A warm or a cold spell can change the array of blooms within days.
Observing the creek every month or more frequently during the blooming season, change seems the one constant. While one can generally classify bloom times by season, within each season, there seems to be no certainty. Certain flowering plants bloom gloriously in one year, only to be hard to find in another. As we have noted, every paddle on the creek is a new experience.
The morning started without event, but the spring colors were soon noticeable on the creek.
In north Florida one would not consider late February as the beginning of spring. But here is a gallery of flowers which were blooming on February 25, 2017.
In order (from top left, clock-wise): swamp buttercup, Walter’s viburnum, blackberry, pinxter azalea, fringe tree, spatterdock and to left of spatterdock, candy root, yellow star grass, golden club, primrose leaf violet, swap dogwood and to left of dogwood, wax myrtle, and swamp jessamine.
Alligators are more commonly seen now on that creek.
Tree fungus deserve to be examined more closely.
Up close – a gallery of forms.
A symbol of renewal — the resurrection fern which lies brown and dormant on overhanging branches and revives in the spring.
Womack creek has become our sanity place — away from the discordant sounds of a society ripping itself apart.
January on the creek, with its bare trees, often gloomy days, can be spiritually invigorating.
Witness these sights, taken on January 12 and February 4, 2017. There is always a serendipitous moment, nature’s surprises, on the creek. Depending one one’s take on life, these can be elevating or depressing. Like all before us, nature serves as a metaphor for life itself. We prefer the more hopeful interpretations, even as we see our species destroy the source of the metaphors.
To start the year — a gator and a cooter: predator and prey both sunning on a January day.
And on that same day, a surprising stem of green fly orchids. My mother used to grow orchids of all types in Honolulu and I grew up taking orchids for granted. We’re finding them blooming all year round, not just here, but on many creeks and rivers we paddle in North Florida (and even on the Ocklawaha River in central Florida).
They’re liking looking for violets in a lawn, concealed well, but upon discovery, what a thrill! They’re the only native tree orchids in North Florida.
In February, one begins to see in the marshy, dark brown muck along the creek, little shoots of gold — Golden clubs. The velvety leaves in varying hues of green are also beautiful.
A crisp February day, blue sky, slow moving river greeted us on February 4, 2017.
The entrance to Womack creek (going upstream) is to the left, the Ochlockonee River on the right. Increasingly that intervening land is being cut off from the rest of the peninsula and a small island will result. The soil taken from that cut is being deposited in front of that section and spatterdocks now are growing, where it once was too deep for these plants to take root and thrive.
Even in February, some flowers are beginning to show, some ahead of the usual flowering, others on schedule.
These are (from top left going clockwise) Walter’s viburnum, usually seen as early as late December; clematis crispa, usually seen blooming in March through the summer and early fall; Florida maple, Pinxter azaleas, some early blooms seen in late February, the peak usually being April; and under it blueberry blossoms, usually starting in January with fruits as early as mid-May, and the buds of the pumpkin ash tree.
And camouflaged, a small sparrow.
Anticipating warmer temperatures, an early spatterdock bud. These do not appear till March, usually, but the creek has many different micro-climates and sheltered areas which affect the blooming periods of the plants.
It was in the mid or high 70’s when we put-in at the Womack Creek Campground landing. There was a slight breeze, the sky was sunny with some clouds. The tide was outgoing.
Other trees and shrubs which had passed it bloom were narrow leaf primrose, cow creek spider lily, and sweet bay.
We had hoped to see orchids on the bloom stem we saw previously, but that had bloomed out. Instead we came across a patch of green fly orchids now blooming. A new flowering plant, still unidentified, was blooming.
We were hoping for blueberries to snack on, but the birds and animals had dispatched them in the 6 weeks we were away. But the blackberries are ripening. And while the muscadines upriver have little grapes on their vines, the lower vines are still blooming.
The temperatures are just perfect for snakes to catch some sun’s rays and we were not disappointed. A brown water snake and what we think is a green water snake were sunning.
And, the hornets were busy building their nests.
The hornets were building nests, the bumblebees, dragon flies, damsel flies, Gulf frittilary butterflies, and assorted flies and bees were taking food from flowers and other parts of the plants. We saw bright yellow headed prothotonary warblers in the shrubs, a pair of ducks, heard cardinals and other birds in the forests, and on the paddle back saw 4 magnificent kites flying overhead.
No one else was on the river; we heard no aircraft overhead — it was a warm, delightful paddle and we escaped the predicted thunderstorms of the late afternoon.
Summer weather too soon. Thunderstorms or rain predicted for the week and we chanced today’s opportunity to paddle Womack Creek.
Our last visit was 16 days ago and so much has happened on that creek: the American wisteria, a thickly clustered and fragrant native species, bloomed in the interval and deprived us this year of their blooms and their scent. All but the last few pinxter azaleas have bloomed, but the stalwarts in the shade still can outshine the swamp dogwoods which peached their peak in the interval.
Spring memories can easily fade when these flowers are stepping into the spot light.
Blue flag iris in a short branch of the creek.
When the patch is all in bloom the cow creek spider lily resembles a merry troupe of dancers.
Swamp dogwood, a few stands still blooming, but most are going to seed.
False indigo, a favorite of insects.
Clematis crispa, you’ll have to look to find them — this year they are less clustered along the vines.
A few Virginia sweetspire still blooming.
and…highbush blueberries! Each bush differs in taste, some tart, some sweet, some tart-sweet. This calls for sampling. This year the bushes are loaded, so sample some, there’ll be enough for the birds.
A colony of busy wasps.
Not many birds today, but…
There are more blooming plants and trees on this 3.75 mile of Womack Creek than almost any other creek in the Panhandle.
The last trip we destroyed what we hoped is the last of the invasive Japanese climbing ferns (3 locations). Today we dug up the first of the invasive taro plants, off the shoreline requiring some slogging to get to it. To our knowledge Womack Creek has no exotics, only native plants and trees.
Womack Creek is in the middle of its spring flowering. The blooms above, Rusty Blackhaw had a back drop of Pinxter Azaleas right now at it’s full bloom. Fringe trees, cross vines, yaupon holly are all blooming. And poison ivy.
Swamp sweet bells are just beginning to bloom. Below with cross vine.
Two swamp roses were blooming, promising more blooms and fragrance.
And the earlier bloomers are now going to seed and fruit. Pumkin ash and blueberries.
A kingfisher, an owl, a duck, cardinals and a yellow-crowned night heron — not much in the way of bird life.
One alligator out, only a handful of cooters, a few swallowtails, but hardly any honeybees and other insects except…
Get in your boat, canoe or kayak and check out the rivers and creeks of Tate’s Hell.