Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wakulla River

Even though it was a breezy day, I decided to head back to the Wakulla to see what birds were around. Only one car in the boat ramp parking lot, but several customers were next door at the canoe/kayak rental place.

The first section of the river was running a little swift due to the wind and current, but once past that, it was easy (except during wind gusts). I saw very few birds on my way upriver, which was discouraging—but it was a beautiful, warm day, just perfect for being outside. I passed several paddlers in rental canoes going downstream.

This river is changing in character again. First Hurricane Dennis took all the underwater greenery out last spring and that made a huge difference. Then the greenery started growing back early this year. Now it is going in the other direction—there’s more underwater growth than there ever used to be! It resembles the Wacissa in that there’s growth only inches below the surface in places, and breaks the surface along both shorelines. Must be like when you severely prune a plant—for awhile you have nothing and then the plant grows back twice as thick as it was before. I wonder if this will have any effect on the typical wildlife in and around the river.

I paddled to the upper boat ramp. Just before getting there, I spotted this egret fishing near a large tree—first bird of the day.

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After getting out for a stretch at the ramp, I headed back downstream. I spotted this heron in the leaves along the edge.

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The current near the top was fairly strong so I was drifting at a good clip.

This cormorant was showing off his wings (under the guise of drying them) and so I responded by taking his picture.

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It was kind of interesting that after seeing no birds at all on the way upstream, I was seeing them all over the place going downriver. Here’s a little blue heron who was finding some lunch in the shallow water on the side. I don't recall seeing these birds on this river before--lots of them on the Wacissa, but not here.

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And then I spotted it. As you may recall from a previous post, which might have cycled off this front page and into the archives by now, my primary goal on paddling trips is to spot—and better yet, photograph—male wood ducks. I don’t get to do that very often. The first one I ever saw was on this river about a year ago. And so I was thrilled to see this guy, though he was doing a good job of hiding from me.

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After I took the picture, he and his female mate vanished into the reeds.

These three cattle egrets looked quite lost.

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“Where are the cows?” “Do you see any cows? I don’t see any cows.”

I took the outside channel around the little island and came to this woodpecker, who was making some progress toward bringing down this entire tree.
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As I approached the ramp, I saw the distinctive outline of a manatee's back as it broke the surface to breathe and dive back down to graze. I paused next to it to take some pictures, but they look virtually identical to the ones I took on the last trip to this river, so I am not posting them. It's great to have the manatees back, though! Once again, I only saw one, but I'm sure more are on the way.
By the time I got back to the boat ramp, I had spent over four hours on the water. Which reminds me, I wonder if any of you have experienced this phenomenon that I encounter on a regular basis. You are going out for an out-and-back paddle on a lake or river. On the way out, you are paddling against a relatively strong wind. Well, at least it will be behind you on the way back, you think, which will be good. And yet, when you are on the way back, you are paddling against the wind again. I really don’t understand this. Is this change in wind direction some sort of predictable meteorological event? It’s certainly becoming predictable on my paddling trips. Very strange and a little aggravating, though it does turn the paddling trips into great exercise.

Another camping trip planned for next week that should include some paddling. Stand by.


clairesgarden said...

the birds are beautifull.
I am always at the back of the group and paddling into the wind.

anna0067 said...

Your blog has inspired my family to spend our spring break vacation in your area. We're headed to Merritt's Mill Pond for a couple of nights, and will definitely a day on the Wakulla. I'll post my adventures...!