Tag Archives: Womack Creek

Spring on Womack Creek – March 15, 2017

A low spring tide exposes the shoreline and prevents paddling up branches.

But, it attracts shoreline birds — like this little blue heron.

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It was cold that day.

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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.

 

Early Spring Flowers – February 25, 2017 – Womack Creek

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.

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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.

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Tree fungus deserve to be examined more closely.

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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.

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Invasive species destruction team – February 6, 2017 – Womack Creek

Womack Creek, to our knowledge has only native species.   We have been given permission to destroy any invasive species on the creek.  We once dug up a taro plant in the upper swamps.  It was small enough that digging it up in the wet soil was easily done.

The Japanese climbing fern, however, requires more careful removal methods.  The underside of the fern are spores (seeds) which can easily be dislodged when ready to seed and spread through the water.  This is why it is preferable to dig them up at the times when the spores are no longer as active.  As an added protection, we were advised to cover the whole vine (where possible with a plastic bag, to the roots.  Cut the plant off at the roots and dig up the remaining root ball, taking up as much of the roots as visible.  Both the vines and the roots, opportunistically, take the path of least resistance and greatest sun and nutrients; uprooting even a single plant can take half an hour or more.

We left the put-in around 10:30 and didn’t return till around 3:40, with a short lunch break at Nick’s Road campsite — a 5 hour day.

It was gloomy and dark when we put-in on the river.

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Womack creek, looking upstream, is on the left.  The Ochlockonee River is on the right.

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But, as always, there is always something which makes one’s day.

These dew-drops on spider webs make for incredible patterns, even more if there is a bit of sun.  We had none then, but the sight was radiant.

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The target — the invasive Japanese Climbing Fern.  We were on a mission to destroy the plants we had located during our trips to the river the previous year.

Cover with bag to keep any spores from falling on soil or water, cut the roots at the base, dig up the roots, clean the soil around the rootbase to ensure all visible roots have been removed.

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Canoes would be better suited for this, but we had two bags and each was transported on our kayak decks.  We were told not to put these bags in a thrash bin, but rather to burn them.  We took them home and burned them in our backyard fire pit until they were totally consumed.

But, all was not work.  The river never fails to give back.

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That gloomy day turned out to be a beautiful.

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The hornbeam trees were budding.  As early as 2012 when we began to monitor the creek for our Florida Master Naturalist project  (www.womackcreek.wordpress.com) the gnarled, hard-sinewed, trunks of these trees intrigued us.  There was a small section of the river that had hornbeam trees on either side, forming a canopy which allowed sun to filter through.   I called it “Hornbeam Boulevard” because it reminded me of the urban boulevards which were so refreshing to walk under on a hot summer day.  Increasingly, these shoreline hornbeam trees are falling into the river and only a few hornbeam trees will remain.  Then,  “Hornbeam Boulevard” will only be memory.

It is hard for someone who respects the ebb and flow and changes of nature not to mourn their decline, but nature is ever changing; forever is never.  At the ebbing of our lives, it seems that the creek may be preparing us for the inevitable, not intentionally, but with a metaphor which may be kinder than the starkness of death.

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But starkness is something not concealed often from us.   This barred owl probably got caught in a fish hook hanging from a bush hooks hanging from a branch on a short tributary of the creek.  The owl may have gone for a fish caught by the hook and got ensnared.  The sounds of these owls at dusk, night and dawn, are part of the experience of camping at Womack Creek campground.  They become reassuring sounds and when in a tent, just before falling asleep, one listens to hear them — almost a lullaby of owl pairs calling to each other.

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We had time and the branches had water, so we explored some of them. All are currently dead-ends, so there is little chance of getting lost, unlike other areas on the Ochlockonee River further north where paddlers have gotten lost in the maze of swamps and branches like this.

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Juveniles of a species, even humans, are often less cautious, more curious.  These two were no exceptions.

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At paddle’s end, we had a glorious blue sky and calm water.

Womack Creek – a place for all seasons – January and early February, 2017

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.

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To start the year — a gator and a cooter: predator and prey both sunning on a January day.

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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.

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A crisp February day, blue sky, slow moving river greeted us on February 4, 2017.

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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.

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And camouflaged, a small sparrow.

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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.

May 30 – Womack Creek in summer garb

P1140894To avoid the summer thunderstorms, we put-in early.  At 8:40 we were already on the river and the first blossoms we saw on river right was stand of cheerful shortleaf sneezeweed.   This and the poisonous water hemlock were new blooms on the creek.

The temperature was in the mid-80’s, the water was calm, the sky blue.   There was a slight breeze which was cooling and did not hamper paddling.  The tide seemed to be at equilibrium.

For those planning to paddle this creek, the following flowers are at the end of their blooms:  swamp titi, arrow wood, swamp rose, pickerel weed, swamp (false) dragonhead, button bush, narrowleaf primrose.  However, these plants are still in bloom:  sweet bay, scenting the air around them; coastal rose gentian (look on the forest floor); clematis crispa, nestled in their vines and spatterdock in the water; green fly orchids will be blooming for another month — you will have to look on the trees for them.

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We were delighted to find pairs of cardinals and, even more surprising, pairs of protothonary warblers flitting in the shrubbery.   They were the most common birds, but there was one little kingfisher and a buzzard overhead.   In the woods one could hear a hawk.

There were not as many cooters as one would normally see and these were juveniles.  One 4 foot alligator — another juvenile.

We were also happy to see many apple snail eggs throughout.  This is the preferred food for limpkins and their presence in this creek may mean that we may be finding pairs of limpkins there.  Except for one sighting last year, we have not seen apple snail eggs in that creek since 2011.

P1140960This was perfect temperature for water snakes, but as hard as we looked, we failed to detect any.  There are there, however — a favorite location is in the blackberry bushes which are now loaded with fruit.

New Ogeche tupelo leaves are sprouting after the infestation by tent caterpillars, but we noticed very few drupes (fruits).

Except for a Gulf Fritillary, the butterflies have departed to other areas with more nectar and pollen.  A few wasps, hardly any honeybees, a few bumblebees and other smaller insects.   But the dragonflies are throughout the creek, dipping into the water or hitching a ride on the kayaks.

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Deer (yellow) flies, however, were persistent and aggravating, particularly in the upper 1/3 of the creek.

We explored one branch — these are smaller creeks and provide lots of shade and a cooler temperature, but at the risk of deer flies.

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There is a smaller tree down in the upper third of the creek which we could have cut through if we hadn’t forgotten the saw.  And there is a much larger tree which would require a chainsaw to cut through shortly after that, but we were able to paddle around a small opening.

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When we took out, just before 1pm, the air around the water was in the 80’s, but the land was closer to 90.   Southerly breezes were cooling us at about 8-10 mph, and the tide was coming in.   In the summer — the water is where one wants to be.

Summer colors and flowers on Womack Creek – May 21, 2015

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.

P1140431We were expecting the swamp roses to be in full bloom.  But we had been gone from the creek for 6 weeks and only a few were blooming.  But they were fragrant!

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Other trees and shrubs which had passed it bloom were narrow leaf primrose,  cow creek spider lily, and sweet bay.

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The most dominant flowers are clematis crispa, arrow wood,  false dragon head, button bush and swamp titi.P1140478

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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. P1140533 P1140532 P1140529A new flowering plant, still unidentified, was blooming.

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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.

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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.

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And, the hornets were busy building their nests.

P1140576And perhaps in the future we shall see limpkins in the creek — there were many apple snail egg cases on various plants.

P1140437P1140501P1140555The 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.

 

March goes out like a lamb…. Womack Creek 3-29-2015

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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.

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Swamp sweet bells are just beginning to bloom.  Below with cross vine.

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Two swamp roses were blooming, promising more blooms and fragrance.

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And the earlier bloomers are now going to seed and fruit.  Pumkin ash and blueberries.

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A kingfisher, an owl, a duck, cardinals and a yellow-crowned night heron — not much in the way of bird life.

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One alligator out, only a handful of cooters, a few swallowtails, but hardly any honeybees and other insects except…

P1130917 This is wilderness, folks!

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Get in your boat, canoe or kayak and check out the rivers and creeks of Tate’s Hell.