Category Archives: Womack Creek

It’s fall and fruiting time on Womack Creek!

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Muscadines. You can balance four of them on a thumbnail, but they are one of the gifts of fruit of the creek. Year by year the taste seems to vary: some years very tart, some leaning more to the sweet with a touch of tartness. This year’s fruits seem to be the latter. We like to taste them and usually take a bunch off a vine, leaving the rest for the animals.

This year there are not as many as in some years, but the clusters have many more grapes.

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The ogeche tupelo have not been blooming very much for several years. At one time one could hear the buzz of bees in the creek when these trees were blooming.

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Inland sea oats.

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This sweet gum tree is turning early, its seed balls turning color also.

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Wax myrtle — one can use the extract from the seeds for bay candles.

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Rattle snake master. These plants are all over the creek and bloom in the summer when we haven’t been able to observe them.

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Pepper vine fruit are not edible for humans and considered lower-level food by songbirds and mammals.

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Oak.

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Swamp bay.

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Swamp leather flower, clematis crispa. You’ll see more of the seeds than flowers in the coming weeks.

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This was not a good year for blooming for the swamp rose. So it goes with its fruit.

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On the other hand, it was a good year for the American wisteria.

Many other seeds, to many to list.

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Yaupon holly – green.

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Yaupon holly – red.

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Dahoon holly turning.

When the hollies are turning…then the holiday season can’t be far off.

What’s blooming on Womack Creek?

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False foxglove.

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Snow squarestem.

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Swamp azalea — premature or way late in blooming. This is the first time we’ve seen this azalea off the Ochlockonee River, leading to the creek.

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Marsh tickseed — a favorite of insects.

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Swamp leatherflower, clematis crispa. You’ll see thorny-like balls of seeds on these vines also.

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Just starting to bloom, climbing aster. In a few weeks there will be masses of blooms on the creek.

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Common sneezeweed. Just a few still blooming; most are in seed.

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Green fly orchids. One of our favorite plants on the creek — these seem to bloom continuously.

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Water hemlock. A blooming aberration — most have bloomed months ago. Water hemlock is a very poisonous plant and affects the nervous system of mammals which ingest it, killing them within minutes.

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Pickerel weed. Another favorite of butterflies, bees and wasps.

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Not sure that this technically can be called a flower, but it’s the second dodder plant we’ve seen on Womack creek since last year.

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To end with a flash of red — a color (with green) of the end of the year, cardinal flower. We have stands of lushly blooming cardinal flowers almost everywhere we have paddled in north Florida.

It’s fall, it’s hot and the insects love it!

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Lubber grasshopper will either fascinate you or repel you. They are big and they are voracious. We’ve seen them at Nick’s campsite off Womack Creek. This one was at the Womack Creek landing. Fortunately, the only one we saw.

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Ringed paper wasp, swarms of them, may come upon you if your paddle hits the branch.

When I was young, my dad tried raising bees. I was fascinated by these creatures although I did not like honey. To his credit, although he used a smoker and a veil, he showed me how to act among bees and wasps: do not make abrupt moves, progress slowly as though you are part of the scene, if bees come near you stop and remain still, if they alight on you, let them be — be patient, they will fly away. Do not be afraid of them (that was before I found out that some people are highly allergic to insect stings) — they are doing just what they need to do to protect themselves. Nevertheless, I still carry a snack bag of baking soda which works wonders as a poultice to put over an insect bite.

On Womack creek there were about 4 of these paper wasp nests.

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This time of year, as winter should be soon upon us, it’s unusual to fine insect larvae of insects which life cycle is a year. This one may be able to form a chrysalis before the cold. Still unidentified. It’s on alligator weed, a plant which is invasive. We did not remove it when we first saw it in spring of 2018 and regret not doing so. That single stand has propagated itself throughout the creek and almost impossible to remove (with a kayak) because of it’s weight and mass.

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Here’s what we think is the larvae of the alligatorweed flea beetle. The alligator weed flea beetle has a short life span. This was removed from an case of leaves, still not ready to be on its own. The spotted areas of the leaves indicate the eating pattern of the flea beetle.

The mats of the alligator weed on Womack Creek indicated that the leaves had been consumed during the summer and new leaves are reappearing. Also reappearing are the larval cases of this flea beetle.

And everywhere we see the work of the alligator flea beetle, we also see spiders of the Tetragnatha genus. They lay their eggs on the tips of the alligator leaves or in folds of lower leaves and with their silk form an envelope to protect the eggs. In some of these cottony folds, when unfurled, either a spider or eggs or both may appear. I was not able to get a photo to either in Tate’s Hell, but spiders are very active now on Womack Creek. It’s not unusual in the fall to have a cockpit full of small spiders which have fallen from branches one paddles under.

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Photograph above is of a 6 spotted fish spider.

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Here’s another spider sack on a button bush, species not known.

We watched with fascination as this female Carolina preying mantis slowly deposited her eggs in a case.

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The woods, swamps and waterways of Tate’s Hell are a whirlwind of activity as its creatures prepare for the winter.

Mud Turtles — Midgets of Charm.

Maybe it’s just perception, but sometimes stuff you’ve never known keeps occurring within a short period of time.

Earlier this year, we encountered a mud turtle making its way across the road on our way to Womack Creek in Tate’s Hell SF. We stopped. I photographed. Just to make sure it wouldn’t get run over, I carried it over to the side of the road it was headed. It was light . It’s limbs tightly encased in its shell, it felt really nice in my palms. And then I forgot the experience.

Two weeks ago at a Tallahassee Sierra Club, George L. Heinrich of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust spoke about spending one year — the year of the turtle — trying to locate over 59 turtles throughout the US. One of these was the mud turtle, in Texas, where the access was protected because poachers love mud turtles — for the pet trade.

Even then, I didn’t remember that mud turtle we had seen on Jeff Sanders Road. Reviewing photos on inaturalist.org I came across a photo of a mud turtle we had taken at Rock Landing off the Crooked River in Tate’s Hell SF. By then, I had enough information about mud turtles to make it stick in my mind.

Two days ago, while paddling Womack Creek, on river right where most cooters and sliders do not seem to like as much as river left, on a branch of a submerged tree, I glimpse a small turtle. It’s unusual shape caught my eye and I back-paddled and got into a thicket of branches. This little one didn’t move — most turtles will plop into the water at first sign of even the slight chance of encroachment. And as I tried to maneuver my kayak through all the branches, it stayed there, not evening hiding its legs within it’s shell.

This one looks like a Florida Mud Turtle, Konosternon steindachneri except that Amphibian and Reptiles of Florida (Krysko, Enge, Moler) says that it’s endemic to the Florida peninsula south of the Suwannee River. Apparently the other similar species K. subrubrum is to be found west of the Suwanne River, so it might be that also, or a hybrid, which the authors think possible. I’ve posted it on inaturalist.org, so I may be revising this paragraph.

BLOOMS GALORE ON WOMACK CREEK – MARCH 26, 2019

With a gentle spring breeze, these American snowbells were a troupe of dancers — those exiting the stage falling into the water, creating another stage of departing flowers into the creek below.

Virginia sweetspire at eye level, clustered blooms bobbing in the breeze.

Up above, false indigo with spikes of purple flowers are almost invisible surrounded by deep green leaves.

Fetterbush is just beginning to flower.

The hollies are blooming, yaupon and American and soon dahoon.

And soon, the roses will be blooming.

More is yet to come.

Come see the first act: paddle Womack Creek.

A LOVELY DAY TO BE PADDLING – WOMACK CREEK.

Blue sky. Temperatures in the 60’s. A spring breeze which wafts the scent of blooming flowers.

Insects are out, including butterflies, their wings looking like stained glass windows, the sun glistening colors through them

Pinxster azaleas blooming on both sides of the creek, the landscape punctuated by white blackberry blossoms , fringe trees and swamp dogwoods. Rusty blackhaws, high above, blooming white clusters as large as my fist; dots of orange cross vines and American wisteria above.

Natural perfume, spring palate of colors, breeze caresses — all’s well with the world.