Another great day paddling at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. It was chilly when we headed out for Ft. White but we were stashing our fleece in the cars by the time we arrived at the park. Since we went in two vehicles with 2 kayaks in each we took advantage of the outfitter’s $5 shuttle offer. After unloading the boats at the north entrance launch the drivers drove both cars down to the south take out and the outfitter shuttled the two of us back up. We were thus able to paddle back to our vehicles and head directly from the take out to a local diner for late lunch.
It was a beautiful, crisp blue sky day. A perfect day for manatees if the water level had not been so low. Due to some shoals on the Santa Fe River, the water has to be a bit higher for the manatee to get into the Ichetucknee. We’ve taken so many pictures of the Ichetucknee that today we thought we would concentrate on some of the little things, like the flowers and insects we see.
The Bur Marigold (Bidens spp) was blooming bright gold and and the Late Purple Aster ((Symphyotrichum patens patens) bushes were humming with bees.
Further downstream we ran across a large patch of Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) that the Great Golden Digger Wasps were enjoying. Water Hemlock occurs throughout Florida and is one of the most poisonous plants on the plant. The roots, stems, leaves and blooms are all deadly to humans and other mammals. There is even one report of people dying after eating birds who had ingested the berries. If you see a patch of white flowers that looks like Queen Anne’s lace growing in the water it’s probably Water Hemlock. The Great Golden Digger Wasps (Sphex ichneumoneus) is named for the gold hairs on their heads and have orange legs with an orange and black body. Digger wasps are solitary wasps meaning they don’t build a nest of wood fiber or mud in a colony like social wasps and hornets. Each female works hard all by herself to build a nest and provide a home and food for her eggs. She digs a small hole in the ground and deposits her eggs on dead crickets and grasshoppers, then leaves the eggs alone to hatch and grow into adults the next year. Digger wasps are very important pollinators for gardens and agriculture and in spite of their large size (over an inch long) are not aggressive. Stings are very rare unless you try to grab one. So, for both the Water Hemlock and the Great Golden Digger Wasp, look but don’t touch.
Of course we also saw the usual turtles, mostly Suwannee Cooters on logs and we always see a couple of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) along the way.
And we got to see a bit of fall color. The cypress are looking rusty, the oaks going yellow to brown, the sweet gums and maples in various shades of orange. It’s so dry this year it is not a great fall for color, but there’s a bit of it around.