January 16, 2015. After five dreary days of overcast, rain, and cold, the sun finally makes an appearance. Knowing the swamp is still partially-flooded, I decide to walk the low boardwalk in hip boots. Right now Cedar Creek is reading eight feet and dropping, having peaked at nine feet two days ago. The low boardwalk is dry for the first few hundred feet, but soon I am walking in mid-calf water that at times gets to my knees. The clear water has a faint current, drifting west to east. Later, as I approach Weston Lake, the water gets swifter, muddier, and starts flowing southeast.
At 1:00 the swamp, which really is a swamp today, is about as still and quiet as you’ll ever experience. Only an occasional pileated woodpecker whacking on resonant wood breaks the silence. It seems strange sitting on a boardwalk bench that is only a foot from being submerged and to be completely surrounded by water. The resurrection fern is lush and almost dripping from the tree canopy after all of the rain and high humidity. It seems to do best in the tops of bald cypresses which have a “limbier” canopy and more surface area for the ferns to attach to than the spare-limbed water tupelos.
The railing on the footbridge over Tupelo Alley just east of the Sims Trail has pieces of many squirrel-gnawed water tupelo drupes, along with scattered squirrel droppings. During flood periods, the super-abundant water tupelo fruits are no doubt a staple of the squirrel diet, at least until the flood waters recede, and the tree rats are able to dig for buried acorns again.
As I look at the bridge railing, I see a pea-sized piece of green lichen move and realize there is an insect under there, the so-called “lichen bug.” It’s the larvae of the green lacewing, which uses bits of lichen to camouflage itself as protection from predators; the lichen cover will also be used as shelter for the larvae to pupate and change into an adult lacewing. I turn the bug on its back to see what it looks like and prod it with my pencil, which causes it to clam up like a roly-poly. Green lacewing larvae are considered prime biological pest-control agents, feeding on the eggs and immature adult stages of aphids, thrips, spider mites, white flies, and leafhoppers.
On the way back on the Sims Trail, I see more and more red maples starting to bloom. It’s hard to believe that it will be February in two weeks.