Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Short Day on the Wakulla

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.
--Norman Maclean

Just a short trip to the Wakulla with only a few photos to show for it.

This river seems to be getting fairly degraded, which is a shame. The water is far less clear than that of the Wacissa and St. Marks, with the telltale rainbows of gas or oil spills scattered across the surface from all the power boats. I don't think it's a coincidence that of the three rivers, this is the only one with houses on both sides of the shoreline. Most of those houses have power boats parked at their docks. Simple repairs to those boats while they are on the water may be responsible for some of the spills in the river. It's very sad to see the water quality so poor.

There were some manatees in the river; one adult in particular swam alongside me for quite a distance upstream, which was fun.

I found most of the birds to be in the backwater areas away from power boat traffic. While there are docks in that area, too, there don't seem to be as many boats parked in the water, and the houses aren't visible since the river is somewhat marshy in spots and of course affected by tide. This egret was hanging out in the grass.

This one came in for a landing near the upper bridge.

I also found some green herons, though not nearly as many as can be found on the Wacissa. These guys make it very clear when they are annoyed by your presence by raising the feathers on top of their heads

and flying away.

I didn't see any adult little blue herons and only one juvenile.

The redwing blackbirds are coming back. I saw several flocks of them in the grasses along the edge.

I had an enjoyable drift back downstream. This anhinga was perched high in a tree working at swallowing a recent catch.

There is a large osprey nest near the boat ramp and another near the upper bridge. I haven't seen any between those two, but the osprey fly and hunt over the length of the river between bridges. I happened to see this one in a tree as I passed below it.

(As you can tell, it saw me too...)

Short day due to our rainy weather, and the birds seemed, for the most part, to be elsewhere today. This used to be my favorite river but I'm afraid it has dropped into third place among the Big 3. I enjoy it over the winter because several migrating birds hang out here, mergansers in particular, but I think my warm-weather visits will become fewer and farther between from now on.

As soon as our daily-thunderstorm phase ends, I'll be back out! Stand by.


OldHorsetailSnake said...

Regardless of all the oil and gas, you always make your trips seem so much fun.

Stacie said...

Fabulous photos as always! I was able to get out kayaking here in VA in a very tiny river near my house, but it wasn't nearly as exciting as the trips that you make. I need to find a better place to go, the water here was wretched with pollution and it just made me sick to see it. I do love the green heron's though..they're just kind of comical to me. I'm glad you're back out there.

Noel said...

First let me say that I love your photos. You really have a talent for wildlife photos, and I really enjoy them.

I live about 8 miles by road from the lower bridge on the Wakulla and because of this do a lot of training paddles up to the upper bridge and back. My observations is that the Wakulla has a lot of variability to it. From one day to the next the clarity of the water will change, or the current will pick up.

I have not figured all of the factors out, but some of them are:

Munson slew (spelling?)a wet weather creek in Tallahassee apparently drains underground and them feeds into Wakulla springs. I have been snorkling at the spring and had the water clarity go from more than a hundred feet to ten in 15 minutes.

The tide level downstream effects water flow (faster == clearer)

Just a couple of normal power boats who can't stay in the channel can bring up a lot of mud and grass in the river.

It also does not take a lot of oil to look bad. Though my guess would be the people running up and down the river more than the people with docks and boats. Most of the docked boats might as well be modern art as much as I have seen them leave the docks. I have however seen 40 trailers parked on the upper and lower bridge on a weekend. I think this should get better as it gets a little cooler.

On some weekend days I have gone from bridge to bridge without ever not seeing a motor boat. bah. But on weekdays it is very different.

On the plus side I have never seen a air boat on the Wakulla river.

Peggy said...

Hey Noel,

Thanks for your thoughts--you certainly know the river better than I do! I've been paddling it for about 8 years, BUT maybe only once or twice a month. The amount of oil on top was new this last time. The murkiness has been there a while, but again, could be my timing. And while you are right about the air boats, it's a shame to see the power boats at full speed when you know there are manatees just ahead of them.

Hopefully the river will come back to its previous pristine state. Were you there when Dennis took out *all* the bottom vegetation?

Maybe I'll see you there some time!