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Kayak Paddle Tales and Birdography
Friday, August 08, 2014
 
Hummingbirds! (And a Hummingbird Moth)
Like the hummingbird sipping nectar
from every flower, I fly joyfully through
my days, seeing beauty in everything.
~Amethyst Wyldfyre

We have a new deck (finally! Yay!), on which we have placed several planter boxes with flowers, and also a hummingbird feeder. There is a comfortable chaise chair near the feeder, but not so near that the hummers are afraid to come to it. This gives me an excellent opportunity to photograph them. I suspect I will be doing a lot of this in the future...

Here are a few photos I got recently:

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This guy was very wary of me as he snacked at the feeder...

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While I was sitting there, I noticed one of them perched in a tree above me. The lighting makes this just silhouettes. 

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Meanwhile, still in the realm of hummingbirds (sort of), we have hummingbird moths that come to our butterfly bushes in the back yard every day. So I took a few photos of those and decided to include them in this hummer post.

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I'm sure there will be more hummingbird photos coming along. I enjoy photographing them. It's a challenge, as anyone who has tried knows! Speedy little birds...

On the paddling front (as long as I'm here), we recently drove to check out Thorpe Reservoir as a possible paddling spot. It's close by, very pretty, though the launching access is much worse than at Chatuge. They have not made any accommodation for paddlers, so the only launch spots are concrete ribbed boat ramps--certainly less than ideal for kayak hulls. But once in, it should be a good spot. This is a rainy time here, but it looks like we might get some clear days next week. Stand by.
Saturday, July 05, 2014
 
Lake Chatuge near Hayesville, NC--In Sunshine!
A man of wisdom delights in water.
~Confucius

I guess the third time really is the charm! We attempted once more to visit Lake Chatuge and get in some paddling and this time the weather cooperated!

The drive to this lake is through the mountains and is incredibly scenic. Here's a photo taken during the drive.

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Shortly after taking that one, I got this view out the side window.

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We put in at the same spot as before, described in the previous post. Instead of repeating the cove we explored last time, we went straight across it and then stayed relatively close to the shoreline. We hadn't gone far when we came upon this house, with the resident horse watching us pass:

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There was a fairly strong breeze as well as several power boats on the lake, and so we spent a lot of time paddling into the wind and across a light chop. I loved it! Since almost all of my paddling in Florida was done on rivers, I haven't spent a lot of time in "textured" water and it was great fun. The water is very warm, almost puzzlingly so.

Again the view no matter where you look is gorgeous. I got this of DH alternating paddling and having one of the sandwiches that we had brought along.

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We wanted to see if we could paddle to the Clay Co. Rec Park, where we had visited before. We had found a map of the lake but neglected to take it with us. All of the shoreline homes disappeared, which indicated that we were adjacent to the Nantahala Purchase Unit (which seems to basically mean it's part of the National Forest). We also came to Chatuge Dam. At that point the wind was still blowing, the waves still choppy, and so we decided to turn around and look for the Clay Co. park another day. When we checked the map....it looks like we had been so close! It was not a hard paddle even with the wind, so if we can catch a calm day, it will be easy to go to the park, where we can stop and get out to picnic or swim.

Here's the road leaving the Hayesville area and the boat ramp:

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Last time we were driving home it was raining so hard we could not see out the windshield. Scary on narrow mountain roads! We finally came to a scenic overlook and pulled over to wait out the storm. Couldn't look over anything, of course, scenic or otherwise. This time we pulled over and got out to see what we had missed last time.

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This blog is filled with posts from trips to the Wacissa, but those trips differed from time to time because of the wildlife I was able to photograph. I think I have pretty well covered this lake in the last post and this one, as well as a photo on the Photo Miscellanea blog, so future paddling trips here will probably not be posted unless we see something different to show you. This is only the first paddling spot we have explored in our new home area, there must be many more, so I'll be back when we get to one of those. Stand by.
Monday, June 30, 2014
 
Paddling Lake Chatuge near Hayesville, NC
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore...
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
William Butler Yeats

Last time DH and I drove out to this lake to check it out as a possible paddling spot, we arrived during a ferocious thunder storm. We ate our picnic lunch in the center of the covered shelter, just out of reach of the blowing rain.

This time we had a beautiful sunny day so we packed up the kayaks and headed over the mountains back to Lake Chatuge. It's about 30 miles from our home.

When we got there, dark gray clouds filled the sky and thunder rumbled. Argh. So we sat in the truck for a while looking at the lake--so near and yet so far.....  After about 30 minutes the thunder was more distant and the sky was of two minds--the left side still gray and threatening, the right blue with white clouds. We decided to join other boaters who had been waiting and we launched, with the plan to stay nearby. It's been so long since I have been paddling, I had to get on the water! This is how it looked from where we launched:

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When it rains in the mountains, the clouds settle low, as you can see in the mountains to the left.

We paddled to the right (under the pretty section of sky, of course!). Another lake shot:

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This is a very large lake, with a shoreline that is woodsy in part and lined with houses with docks in the rest. It's a nice combination. The water is clear and on this day was a beautiful green color. It was remarkably warm as well. If not for the distant thunder and our limited time, I would certainly have found a place to get out and go for a swim. Next time.

We paddled into a cove lined with houses and just enjoyed the feeling of being back on the water. However, the dark half of sky was gradually defeating and moving into the cheerful blue half. Here is the look of it as we were leaving the cove:

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What amazing timing! When we got out of the boats, it started to sprinkle. When they were loaded and we were pulling out of the parking lot, the sky opened up and it was a deluge. The wind blew sheets of rain across the pavement.

Some day we will visit this lake and it will not be storming....

I don't know the name of the boat ramp that we used. We did not have to use the large concrete ramp to launch, the shoreline all around the parking lot is shallow with pebbles or small stones on the bottom. Very easy launching, great spot to start a paddle. We got there by heading west on 64 going from Franklin toward Hayesville. We turned left on Ledford Church Rd and stayed on that until it dead-ended into the boat ramp parking lot. If you get to the Ingles in Hayesville, you went too far and missed Ledford Church Rd. There is a boat ramp sign on 64.

We want to get back to this lake, and will also be exploring Nantahala Lake, which is about the same distance. Stand by.
Monday, June 16, 2014
 
Birds of Prey....and a Jay
A wise old owl sat on an oak;
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard;
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?
Unknown

We have moved to the mountains of North Carolina, unpacking is almost finished. I am not sure what the paddling opportunities will be yet, nor how many of my beloved egrets and herons I will be seeing the near future. But hopefully the "birdography" part of this blog will continue on. (Meanwhile, miscellaneous photos of the area can be found on the Photo Miscellanea blog, which is coming back to life.)

The people who lived in this house before us were apparently avid bird watchers, and they had several feeders set up. We had been filling them on our trips up here from Florida during the year between buying this house and retiring and moving to it, and now we can keep them full on a regular basis. We have many, many more types of birds here than we had in Florida, and I hope to get pictures of them as time goes by. Meanwhile, I did catch this blue jay at a feeder. A lot of people don't like jays--they see them as bullies--but since we never saw any in Florida, we are enjoying their bright colors. Also, while they do display some mob-like behavior, they have only taken over this feeder, leaving the others to the smaller birds. So it all works out.

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A few days ago we went to a Birds of Prey demonstration at a nearby recreation area, which of course led to lots of photos!

First out was a young barred owl.

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Here, the presenter, who was really great, was pointing out that those are not ears on top of its head, but rather ear tufts.

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Next out was a 7-month-old barn owl, which was born in captivity.

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He fed the owl a (long-deceased) mouse, which it happily consumed up to the tail...and then it sat looking like this for a while.

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And then he brought out a small screech owl that happened to be in a red phase.

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This owl is blind in one eye, and never took that one eye off the handler. The guy said he had never had one do that before.

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Next we moved from owls to this small colorful kestrel.

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Its tail was very impressive.

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The last bird was a red-tailed hawk--a very large bird! And very photogenic.

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It was a wonderful and informative show. We followed it with a picnic lunch next to the lake (no boats allowed, not even kayaks).

When we get a little more settled, we will start looking for paddling spots. Two of my favorite lakes, Santeetlah and Calderwood, are about 90 minutes away, give or take. A long drive for a paddle, but the scenery make it worth it. We are also not too far from Lake Jocassee, which I have wanted to see for quite a while. 

Stand by.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
 
Herons on the Wacissa
A ship is safe in harbor,
but that's not what ships are built for.
~John A. Shedd

I'm finally bringing this blog out of its induced coma, now that the weather is (occasionally) cooling enough to get out with the camera--and in this case, the kayak as well. And of course I headed for the Wacissa.

It seems the birds had headed somewhere else. I thought I was going to come home from an enjoyable paddle with no photos. And then I found myself approaching a great blue heron alongside the water. Very timid, it flew off as I got closer, but I had anticipated that and had the camera ready.

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And off he goes to the other side of the river.

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He's not pleased...and is squawking to let me know...

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After that, I paddled a couple of hours, during which time I spotted two snowy egrets that flew off before I was close enough to get a photo (one was a shame to miss--the bright white bird was fishing in the middle of a large clump of bright red flowers....ah, that would have been a good one...). After all this time away from paddling, my arms were starting to feel the effort, and the wind had picked up in a downstream direction. So I headed back upstream to the boat ramp.

There are a lot of these really pretty reedy things along the edges of the river, with little flowering tops that look like feather dusters. Really nice when they wave in the wind.

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As I got closer to the boat ramp, I saw another heron (smaller than the one shown above) at Duck Island. This one was not quite as timid and just stood still to let me photograph it.

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After getting that picture, I slowly backed away. It didn't fly off. I love the flight photos of birds, but there is something satisfying about getting a picture without disturbing the bird!

That was all for this time. It was hotter on the river than I had thought it would be, so, like camping, paddling may end up waiting a while more to begin on any kind of regular basis.

Stand by.



Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
Back to the rookery at the Alligator Farm!
April prepares her green
traffic light, and the world
thinks Go.
~Christopher Morley


Well, it was time for my annual trip to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine to visit the birds in the rookery there. I lucked out on the weather and missed the rain by one day. As usual, I took over 100 photos, which I  pared down to 30, which I then reduced by a few for posting here. Despite all that culling, this is still a very image-intensive post.

The great egrets had chicks of varying ages. The snowy egrets had eggs but no chicks yet. The wood storks had some chicks. I couldn't tell what was in the roseate spoonbill nests as they were very high up in the trees. The little blue herons did not appear to have any chicks and I did not see any eggs in their nests.

Many of the egrets were still in the breeding stage, and most had their breeding plumage and bright green  nares (area around the eyes on the beak). This is one of my favorite photos of the day, as it shows the plumage, but also the egrets in the background.

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And of course there were many chicks with their parents...

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I watched this wood stork head back to the nest with a nice leafy branch:

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And then off it goes to find more...

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These chicks were left waiting while Mom or Dad (in background) fly off on an errand...

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This little snowy egret was sitting on a couple of blue eggs.

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These two chicks were waiting patiently in their nest:

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until it got boring. Look! I can fly!

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That was actually kind of scary to watch. This rookery exists because the many, many (many) alligators in the water below these trees keep the birds safe from critters. However, sometimes these little chicks fall (or are pushed by siblings) out of their nests, only to be an alligator snack. Luckily none met that fate while I was there.

I waited a long time for these wood stork chicks to wake up from napping and show themselves, but no such luck. Only the parents...

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A small battle broke out at the nest in the uppermost branches of a tree.

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This little blue heron was very protective of its nest; I couldn't tell if it had eggs or not.

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This is another favorite photo of a family:

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The rest of these are more photos I took while there, images that caught my eye as they were happening. Of course there are numerous chick photos. 

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On my way out, I passed by a red parrot, so of course I decided to include it here, even though it was not in the rookery. It adds color!

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I'm toying with going back to the rookery next month to check on the snowy egret chicks and the little blue heron chicks. And there's always a chance I will get back out to the river! Stand by.




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