Wild observations

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By Nancy Oakes

One of the things I'll miss in Georgia is our beautiful springs. In September I met with friends at Rainbow Springs. We go there frequently during the summer, always on a week day.

For a dollar, visitors can swim, picnic, stroll the scenic paths or just relax for the whole day.

It's the best bargain in town. The swimming area is a roped off section of the Rainbow River Springs headwater. The water is clear turquoise blue with white sand on the bottom. The temperature of the water stays the same in all seasons, a refreshing 72 degrees or so.

On the Monday morning when we last swam at Rainbow Springs only a few other people were there. It's never that quiet on weekends. Outside the ropes of the swimming area, a comorant swam and dived, looking for a fishy meal.

Quite a number of different kinds of fish could be seen, especially in shallow areas. I watched a couple of baby snapping turtles hovering over the sand in a manmade stream. The park before it became a State facility used to be owned privately and contained a small zoo in addition to the natural features. Constructed streams, pools and waterfalls, all looking natural, can be seen from paved walkways.

After swimming in the bracing spring's water, I walked on the paths to a butterfly garden. At one place, the walkway goes out to the Rainbow River, and I saw a whole bunch of cardinal flowers blooming. These were not planted by the park staff, but many other wildflowers were. To attract butterflies, the garden had been planted with spotted horsemint, hyptis, slyvia, and firespike. Spanish needle grew in great clusters, probably allowed to grow rather than planted.

Butterflies do visit Spanish needle, and I saw several zebra longwings in the garden and a few gulf fritillaries and palamades butterflies.

The picnic area of the park has native and nonnative flower beds. One of my favorite is firebush, a shrub with red flowers. We saw a hummingbird visiting its blooms.

In addition to nature observing at Rainbow Springs, I also walked in the next door wood. Our area has a profusion of wild plants that bloom now. The first wildflower I saw was blue curl. It has a small, delicate blue flower that is worth taking a close look at. I found false foxglove growing on a bank that I remember seeing blooming there last year.

The yellow blooms of partridge pea mixed nicely with the pink false foxglove blooms. The wildflower yellow buttons displayed the most yellow blooms, since it grows in dense clusters in certain areas of the wood. I also found a few blazing star, rayless sunflowers, white-topped aster, and morning glory wildflowers. The paintbrush flowers were just beginning. By the time you read this, they should be further along.

A couple of weeds going to seed now can be a problem. Watch out for sandspurs and ragweed.

Until next time, good observing.