This was the kind of day that in any month other than January or February, I would have found something else to do. The blue sky was completely covered by clouds of varying colors of gray, letting no sunshine through. On the other hand, it was warm outside. I'll take overcast and warm over sunny and cold any time.
I didn't expect much from this trip, and yet, as often happens, it turned out to be one of the best for a long time. For the first two hours I had the river to myself except for one lone seaweed harvester. And the birds. This day's photos are a bit darker than usual, given the lack of sunshine.
This great blue heron was hanging out near the boat ramp area.
And of course there were many of the little sandpipers on the surface greenery and swooping through the air. You can tell during the summer that I am itchy to get some photos when I resort to taking moorhen pictures; in the winter that holds true for these sandpipers.
This was the first time I have had any luck getting one in flight--they are fast!
And off it sailed over the river. I like this photo because it gives you a sense of what the day and the water looked like.
There is a flock of ibis that can often be found on the river at the entrance to Blue Spring, and they were there on this day.
I went into the spring; very quiet, but no wildlife in sight.
There was absolutely no wind for the entire drift downstream, and the current was light enough that occasionally I had to put my paddle in the water just to maintain any forward momentum. For much of the time there were no man-made sounds at all (until a plane would fly over...). It was wonderful.
I think my favorite breeding plumage on the birds I typically encounter is that on the great egret. Those long wispy feathers are so beautiful.
That particular egret flew off shortly after I took the above photo, plumage waving in the wind behind it.
I turned around before reaching the Calico Hill boat ramp. For a while it was becoming as dark as it is an hour after sunset, though it was only about 3:00, and I didn't want to get too far downstream. The otter group that hangs out in that area showed up.
They swam into some greenery and took a better look at me.
As I was passing the Blue Spring inlet on my way back to the boat ramp, I saw a paddler coming out of it in a long envy-worthy QCC kayak. We talked for a while and then he headed downstream while I continued upstream.
There were cormorants here and there; this pair taking a rest.
As I neared Cassidy Spring on my way back upstream, some movement in the cypress trees at water level along the river's edge caught my eye so I paddled over for a closer look. A black crowned night heron was perched along the trunk of a tree, staring intently into the water.
I watched for a while and at one point it looked like it had caught something, but apparently was just having a drink.
(In a previous version of this post that bird was identified as a yellow crowned night heron. Force of habit on my part--I have only ever seen one other black crowned night heron, so when I see the white topknot and orange eyes, I think yellow-crowned. Thanks, Steve!)
Another (or the same) great egret with plumage waving in the breeze was posing for me in the middle of the river.
I paddled along the east side of the river as I got closer to the ramp, looking for the raccoon I had spotted before. No sign of it, but I did see a small limpkin.
The other paddler, Mike, caught up to me at about that point and we paddled together to the boat ramp and chatted some more. He offered to let me take the QCC out for a short spin--had it not been getting late in the day, I would have taken him up on it. Since they are made to order and not available in stores (except the rare used one), this is not something I get a chance to do often. Next time!
It was a great day on the river! I hope to get back out soon. Stand by.