Monday, December 31, 2007

Back to Wakulla River

To stick your hands into the river is to feel the
cords that bind the earth together in one piece.
~Barry Lopez

The weather was good for paddling on this last day of 2007 and so I decided to take advantage of that (good timing--in two days our overnight low is predicted to be 12 degrees. Yes, it does get cold in Florida...). I had intended to go to the Wacissa but DH suggested that, being a holiday for many, there could be a multitude of airboats and power boats driven by those less than sober. The Wakulla seemed like a better choice. I don't know how it was on the Wacissa, but the Wakulla was loaded with paddlers--it was great! In the four hours I was on the water, I saw only two power boats; one was a canoe with a trolling motor on it and the other a large boat but going at no-wake speed.

As on the Wacissa, there are just fewer birds now, period. But they are there. I saw what must have been a juvenile anhinga sitting in a tree--the coloring was right but it was significantly smaller than usual.



Anhingas and cormorants always seem to be together and this day was no exception. This cormorant was taking a break from fishing and was soaking up the sun,



while this one was perched overhead.



There were many great egrets and ibis on the river. Speaking of which, I often overhear people misidentify great egrets as white herons. While there is a white morph version of the great blue heron, they are only found in south Florida. So, FYI, if it's a big white bird of that shape spotted anywhere but south Florida, it's most likely a great egret, not a white heron.

And there were a lot of egrets today. This one had dipped its head underwater and had just fluffed its neck to dry.



This one flew past me at close range.


The Suwannee cooters were out on logs all along the shoreline basking in the warm sun.



I paddled to the upper bridge and circled the island and drifted downstream. A belted kingfisher kept me company for much of the way.



I heard a woodpecker near the bank so I paddled over to see it. It was a pileated. About the time I got there, it flew to a separate tree, but overestimated the strength of the branch it landed on.



It swung there for a while trying to recover



and finally got to where it wanted to be.



There were a few grebes here and there.



As I was drifting downstream, I came to this egret perched on a log at the edge of the river.



I decided to paddle to another vantage point to take another photo.

The interesting thing about the vantage point, and the photo, which I didn't notice until after I had taken a few pictures, is the baby gator sharing the log with the egret!



You can also see its face peeking out of the first photo of that bird.

While I was parked in the water greenery taking those pictures, a canoe with two people came by, one of them with a camera with a long lens. I pointed out that if they came over my way, they could see the gator on the log, and so they did, and he took a few photos. I think the egret got tired of all this attention; it left.



Given the cold snap in the forecast, I'm not sure when I will get out paddling again.

I want to extend my wishes for all good things in the new year to everyone who stops by to read these tales and look at the photos and even sometimes leave comments. Perhaps I don't mention often enough how much I appreciate all of you!

I'll be back; stand by.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Not Paddling at Lake Frances in Madison, Florida

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
~William Blake

This is the time of year--and particularly this week--when I get out paddling least often. And so I look for the birds in places other than the river, at least until I can get back out in the kayak. Today DH and I were headed for a state park to go hiking and we stopped at Lake Frances in Madison. Last time I went to check for birds there, I found not even one. Today was different!

The lake was loaded with birds! Great blue herons, egrets, ibis, cormorants, a grebe, and many, many wood storks! I hadn't expected this so I did not have my good bird lens with me (but a good hiking lens...). Since these photos are along the same lines as those often posted here and I am not getting out paddling as often, I decided to put these here.

This great blue heron went flying over the water as I approached from the shoreline.



We walked up to the little fishing pier/dock they have there, which at the time was filled with perched birds. We can only imagine that they are gathered there because the persistent drought is drying up so much of the water around here. This wood stork was one of the ones on the pier/dock.



I should mention that this is a very small lake--more like a big pond--which is surrounded by houses and constant traffic. It was so surprising to see so many birds.

Here is a tree full of egrets, ibis, and cormorants.



I was able to catch this egret in flight as it went by.



We didn't stay terribly long--I need to get back there with a proper lens. Just before we left for the park I got this photo of a grouping I rarely see--two great blue herons, several great egrets, and a wood stork.



I will return to Lake Frances soon. And hopefully will get back out in the kayak before too long. Stand by.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm Ba-a-a-ack After a Long Absence

There is no rushing a river. When you go there, you go at the pace of the water
and that pace ties you into a flow that is older than life on this planet.
Acceptance of that pace, even for a day, changes us,
reminds us of other rhythms beyond the sound of
our own heartbeats.
~Jeff Rennicke

Finally, finally, finally, I had a good paddling day, the time to go paddling, and my good camera, back from the shop. What a complete joy. So let's see what I saw on my favorite river, the Wacissa.

First, a flock of ibis flew by.



Later I came to that same flock a bit downstream. These two were having some luck with lunch,



while this one preened for a while.



And while we are on the ibis, this one was alone further yet downstream.



I went through the passage that has all the gallinules. This juvenile was stretching a wing when I went by.



I came to a great egret. Always a photographic challenge on a bright sunny day.



I alarmed it as I approached and it took off--



--however, it didn't go far, maybe a few yards to some surface vegetation in the middle of the river. I followed it with the camera as it flew



and landed.



---



---



(Did I mention I have missed this camera?)

I turned around shortly after that. I found myself approaching a limpkin and decided to try to get a photo of it. Well, it seems that Bob is alive and well! He made no sound and let me hover around quite close to photograph him. Hail Bob!



It used to be that in this river, except for one section (Rock City), you could float up- or downstream while looking through the camera viewfinder to either side and not have to worry about surprise rocks or submerged limbs overturning you. Now that the water level is so alarmingly low, this is not the case--you have to be constantly vigilant about watching the river bottom topography. In many spots it is less than a foot deep. I need to get used to this.

On the way back upstream I spotted a great blue heron on the other side of the river and so paddled over to see him. There's no pleasing me with weather--too overcast and I don't want to go out paddling because it is, well, too overcast. No clouds at all and you will find me fussing about exposure due to such bright sunlight. I guess partly cloudy must be my favorite mode. Today was cloudless. I mention this because of how bright this heron was on his perch in the reeds.

'

It didn't like me getting quite so close so off he went.



It was a very easy paddle upstream. I went into Blue Springs in both directions but with no luck wildlife-wise (but it was peaceful and beautiful, as always).

On the way back upstream, nearing 4:00 pm, I saw this raccoon walking along the river's edge. Despite my making various noises to get him to look over, he remained seemingly oblivious of my presence. So no face photo this time.



It was a great day on the river--and I had it to myself except for one set of seaweed farmers and a solo canoe paddler. It's been too long since I have been out and I have to make up for lost time. I hope to get back out again very soon.

I hope your holiday season brings peace and joy to you and yours. And, as always, stand by.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Look Backwards...

What the human eye observes casually and incuriously,
the eye of the camera notes with relentless fidelity.
~Berenice Abbott

I didn't get out paddling this week at all. In part because of other activities, in part because of weather. But mostly because my #1 camera has been in "the shop" having the sensor cleaned since November 2nd (which is five weeks for those of us who are counting) (that would be me). It's not that I don't like the photos that have been posted here since November 2nd; the problem with using #2 camera, the backup, is not so much quality as quantity. It has certain limitations that #1 camera does not have. And so while the photos I do get are essentially the same regardless of which camera I use, I have found myself becoming increasingly aggravated during the last five weeks as I chant quietly "that would have been good" and "could have gotten that one" over and over about photo opportunities that I am missing. This minor service to the camera was originally to take 7-10 days, which stretched into 4-6 weeks. Unless the weather becomes simply too good to pass up going out just for the joy of paddling, I think I will wait until I get the camera back to hit the water again.

But I hate the thought of this blog getting moldy around the edges from neglect, so I have once again examined my collection of photos that didn't make it into the posts for their respective trips or into any of my other non-paddling posts like this one, but were worth keeping. Come with me down memory lane...

Remember tricolored herons? I haven't seen any for well over a month, but during the summer they populate the Wacissa. I spotted this one posed on a log last summer:



In the following month I passed this one showing off its very impressive neck. I remember taking this photo, it was near the boat ramp as I was heading back upstream.



Speaking of birds we aren't seeing lately, what about green herons? I miss them--I wonder where they go this time of year? Here's one I saw in early July:



I found this photo of an egret from all the way back in 2006. I kept it because I like the way it is backlit, particularly the sun on its beak.



And what is a post without an otter? I saw so many on one trip back in early September that I couldn't post all the photos I had taken and this one got left out.


The wood ducks are still very skittish and I haven't gotten a photo of one for a long time. Here's a female woody that I saw last June.



Summertime is when we see a lot of juvenile little blue herons, which start out white and slowly change to their adult blue-gray color, spending a lot of time sporting mottled in-between coloration. I decided that it had been too long between black-and-white photos here on the blog, so I am including this in black and white. I don't remember whether this one was landing or taking off.


There are still a few photos in the unposted collection (and new ones are always being added), but I think I will stop with those. I have no idea when the next post will be--by the time I finally get my camera back, Christmas will be rushing up on us! But I'll be back!

Stand by.