In March one is sure to see swallowtail kits in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Here’s one we saw on April 15, gliding across the Ochlockonee River.
We have been seeing native Apple snail egg clusters deposited on stems and small thin branches throughout the creek, but until April 10, we had never come across an apple snail.
Flipping over the pads of the spatterdock to see if there what was eating the leaves, this snail plopped right on another leaf. Fortunate it did, for I was able to get this photo.
Six days later, this cluster of eggs was seen on a branch.
Apple snails are the favorite food of limpkins. We’ll now be on the lookout for these birds.
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.
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.
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.
Granted, this was the first sprig of bloom. Many of the trees just had an inkling of light green tips, but with several days of 70 degree temperatures, the Ogeche tupelos will be ready for the bees.
And hopefully, they will show.
Within a few miles of the creek are a bank of bee hives. In the last two years the blooms were sparse, but so were the bees. This year, the bees are on the blackberries and hopefully the tupelos will bloom soon so the bees can move on to these flowers. Tupelo honey is one of the area’s best agricultural products and they’re getting harder and harder to find.
Tupelo honey never sugars, but increasingly we’ve paid premium prices for tupelo honey (as gifts) only to find the recipient telling us that it sugars.
We like tupelo honey, but at the current price, our friends get it, not us.
On Womack creek, ogeche tupelo trees are the last to leaf and the last to bloom. To us its a sign that’s a sure sign of spring.
Pretty. Beetles can be beautiful.
Ask a few alder shrubs on Womack Creek which are losing their leaves to adult and larval alder beetles.
These grub with impunity, so it was not difficult to get photos of the adult, larva and pupa of the insects.
They love vegetables!
Until they’re pupated.
Had it not been for a recent curator added to the inaturalist.org experts, I might never had this identified. There is very little written about this species, although it apparently is a North American native.
If it contuinues its march along creeks and streams, eating alder leaves, it will soon be noticed.
Swamp jessamine were more prolific on the creek this year than in year’s past, As were crossvines.
At the entrance, golden clubs were still blooming.
Bristly buttercup still blooming throughout the lower creek where there is more sun.
The oaks were setting out their blooms: live oak and water oaks.
Southern dewberry and Pennsylvania black berries promise fruit later in the season.
Still blooming are Walter’s viburnum and parsley haw. Walters are usually are going to seed as the Virginia sweetspire start to bloom and the heat-sensitive parsley haw blooms fading with warm temperatures.
And definitely before Rusty haws bloom or fringe trees.
Poison ivy are blooming and pinxsters will be blooming for a few weeks more.
At Nick’s Road Campsite where we stopped for lunch, candy root, round leaf bluets and primrose violets were still blooming. Cinnamon fern were starting to sprout.
Spatterdock, just beginning to bloom.
A nice day to be on the creek.
This mud turtle was making its way from one ditch to another on Jeff Sanders Road near the Womack Creek Campground.
The walls of the restrooms at the Womack Creek campground is a good place to find moths.
And mosquitos and oak twig pruners.
And on the creek, it was warm enough for a Suwanee cooter and river cooters.
And American alligators.
And a brown water snake.
Ringed paper wasps were starting their nests.
Spotted fishing spiders were out.
And a fisherwoman, silently going down stream with her trolling motor.
She was calling it a day as we were starting it, having caught her meal for the day.
Tate’s Hell State Forest is a watershed; swamps are to be expected.
You may not think of visiting the northern border, with FR 22 separating the state forest on the south from the Apalachicola National Forest to the north, as a place to look for carnivorous plants. This is not on the wild flower trail which offers stupendous blooms off SR 65. It is over 8 miles east of Sumatra on a sandy forest road.
It was a wet non-winter and early spring and a section close to the New River is blooming right now.
Yellow pitcher plants will first catch your eye.
If you stop to examine the area, you will also see, Burke’s southern pitcher plants.
The full face of the flower is shown on the opening of this post.
Some are still in bud.
Pink sundews are all over the ground — hard not to step on them.
And interspersed are Zigzag bladderworts.
Also bunches of flattened pipewort.
They look like nature’s pincushions (like phone books, not a contemporary common reference.)
Bog club mosses can be found in the Apalachicola National Forest where the ground is perennuially wet, but they were in Tate’s Hell SF, also.
Looks like a green centipede.
Among all of that, the white bog violets are still blooming. These have thinner, longer leaves. There are more on the western section of Tate’s Hell SF than the eastern sections which has the white primrose leafed white violets.
Nearby, in small clumps, but noticeable because of their golden color, are Savannah sneezeweed.
At the New River one will see mayberry and high bush blueberries beginning to fruit.
And Atlantic White Cypress (cedar) fruiting.
Flatwoods St. John’s wort are still blooming.
And with the warmth, dragon flies appear — this one a blue corporal.
A great day to be out enjoying the forest.