Saturday, July 14, 2007

A *Really* Long Day on the Wacissa

Abby and I met at the boat ramp on the Wacissa at 9 am. Since we only planned to be out three hours or less (until the inevitable thunderstorm arrived), I took only a small container of water and no food and Abby took a few snacks but no water.

We got as far as little blue spring (which has another name, which I forget) before Stefanie, from FWC, came boating over. At that time Abby was photographing some birds and I was across the river in pursuit of an egret photo. Stefanie’s arrival scared Abby’s birds off. I watched them talk for a while and decided to go over and see what was going on. It seems that Stefanie was doing safety checks on all the boats on the river that day. Here she is writing up Abby’s safety certificate (we both passed). (Stefanie informed me that it is against the law to take a photo of a law enforcement officer without their permission, new info for me, and then promptly gave her permission. In case you were wondering.)

Stefanie was rather chatty and much of our expected short paddling time was spent sitting in one place on the river. We did eventually move on, though.

This great blue heron, most likely the one pictured previously since it was in precisely the same place, posed for me so I took another photo of it.

We went into blue spring, of course. As we were pulling into the inlet, I noticed a woman paddling alone a short distance upstream of us. She caught up to us near the spring. We talked a bit and she asked if she could join us, and of course we were glad to have her along. Her name is Janice and it turns out she has lived in the area for her whole life (so far) and she knows quite a bit more about the river and various spots on it than Abby or I do. (She also has a very neat little camera that I coveted. I’ll get one like it by and by.) So we set off downstream under still-clear skies.

We were paddling through Gallinule Alley and were drifting right toward a purple gallinule. These birds run better than they fly, and they don’t run with the greatest grace. I suspected that this one was going to sprint across the vegetation before we got much closer and so I had the camera ready to capture it.

And it’s off

and high-stepping it across the surface

Made it!

Janice paddled ahead a little way during the above photo session.

We got to Cedar Island under surprisingly still-clear skies and decided to continue downstream. Once past the island, this was all new territory for Abby and me; Janice had been there in a powered boat but had never paddled that far. A little blue heron watched us go by.

The baby gators seem to be out of the nests now, we saw several small ones. This one was a little larger than those, but not yet full-grown.

And then we heard distant thunder at about the time we wanted to turn around anyway, which was just short of the dam. At that point Abby and I had been paddling for five and a half hours and she was regretting her lack of water and I was regretting my lack of food.

The current is stronger south of the island. I was not particularly taxed by it in the narrow Mystic kayak, but Abby and Janice had wider boats and got a good workout in that lower part of the river. The current is much weaker north of the island so paddling became easier as we moved closer to the boat ramp. And the thunder was getting much louder, the clouds darker. Heh heh. It was a little daunting for a while, but eventually the thunder became more distant and we relaxed a bit. Abby and Janice both spotted a limpkin with a baby at the same time; I had paddled by them, totally oblivious. I turned around and was able to get this photo—first time I have ever seen a baby limpkin!

Here’s the thing. That adult looks like Bob. It was in the same general area where we always see Bob. Like Bob, it was almost completely silent (most limpkins are very verbal, particularly if you are near their chicks!), and it did tolerate our presence, though it showed some sign of agitation. We think it was Bob. This may require a new name for our tame limpkin friend.

A short distance upstream we came to an interesting grouping on some surface growth.

The rain came in when we were about a half-mile from the ramp. It was just a summer shower, no thunder or lightning. When there is no threat, I really like paddling in rain. It cooled us off, smelled good, and pattered quietly on my hat brim. An otter surfaced and dove ahead of us.

When we got back to the boat ramp, Abby and I had been paddling for eight hours. While some of that time was spent sitting motionless talking to Stefanie, the upstream paddle made up for that. A long day, but we made a new paddling friend and saw a limpkin chick and didn’t get struck by lightning; it doesn’t get better than that!

I’m not sure if I will paddle again before heading up to NC. Stand by.


OldHorsetailSnake said...

Your photos are so crisp! Nice eye, nice camera(?).

The name of your new limpkin should be Benjamin. I have been trying to sell the name to various then-pregnant women, and none of them accepted. Maybe a bird would?

Rhea said...

The wildlife is incredible there. I want to get to Florida one day soon. I was there when I was about 15. A long time ago.

SophieMae said...

Now it's my turn to be jealous! A limpkin chick! Sounds like a nearly perfect day!