Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hangin' with the Herons on Lake Munson in Tallahassee, Florida

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.
~William Wordsworth

It had been over a year since the last time I paddled on Lake Munson. I assumed that after our recent rainfall the water level would be fine for paddling. This lake has such great potential as a recreational resource for the city of Tallahassee, but it has been neglected. Most of the shoreline is littered with bait buckets, bait containers, styrofoam cups, aluminum cans, and other trash. Fortunately the water quality is sufficient for wildlife.

Today made up for the lack of great blue herons on the Wacissa! There are many of them on this lake. And they are skittish! I saw this one wading in the shadows near the boat ramp before it saw me.


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The lake was very calm and when I launched at around 1:00 there was only one other boat on the water, a fishing boat. Despite the trash along the edges, it is a peaceful place to paddle. The lake has many fingers that you can access by paddling through lines of cypress trees.

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In fact, the entire lake is bordered with cypress trees. Early on in this trip a male wood duck swam to the shoreline and very slowly and calmly disappeared into the brush as I got close. I was hoping to see more and get some photos but that was the only one I saw.

An osprey flew directly overhead, checking me out.

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There is a grassy area near the "Munson Slough" part of the lake, and that is where most of the gators like to lie in the sun on the banks. It's interesting how they always look like they are smiling. Here's a happy fella:

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Just beyond that gator was a much larger one. I had him in the viewfinder when he saw me and made a dive for the water, which looks about like this (I think you can see his gray tail at the left)--

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The splash startled a great blue heron that I had not seen, and it left.

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As I came around a bend immediately after that, I saw a wood stork. However, I also did not know where that large gator was, so before focusing (literally) on the wood stork, I wanted to find the gator. He popped up ahead of me, a safe distance away.

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On to the wood stork.

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Such beautiful bodies and such, well, not beautiful (to me) heads... Normally these are pretty complacent birds but this one surprised me by taking off as I went by.

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I continued around the lake as the sun got lower and the shadows a bit longer. In one of the fingers I spotted this great blue heron perched high up amongst the cypress trees.

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A little later, in a somewhat populated area of the lake, I saw a limpkin. It was eating a snail when I came upon it and continued to search for more as I passed by fairly closely.

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As I was getting closer to the boat ramp, I saw a great blue heron fishing near the edge. The huge cypress trunks can make even a great blue heron seem small.

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That one didn't see me as I passed by since the tree trunks hid me most of the way. Until I got past the trees...

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As I was pulling up to the boat ramp I looked back at the lake. I was looking into the sun at a line of cypress trees. These trees aren't very colorful right now to begin with, and less so in that lighting. Hmmm, I thought, looks like a black-and-white photo... While I was processing these to post, I decided to turn it into a gallery print, just for fun.

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This lake is not good for paddling in the heat of summer, when the water turns bright kelly green from the algae bloom. Now that I know where to find the great blue herons, I'll have to get back here again before summer.

I'll post again after the next paddling trip. Stand by.

9 comments:

Mary said...

Wow...gorgeous pictures! I love the wood stork shots. I don't know if I'd like kayaking with alligators! You are a lot braver than I am!

Sandpiper said...

What a great day you had!! Your pictures are wonderful and they make me miss living in the south soooooooo much. All great pix, but the stork and limpkin pictures are really amazing. Love the gallery print, too.

nina said...

Wow--you sure see a lot when you're out on the water.
Are you in a kayak when you see the alligators??? (isn't that almost eye-level with them?)

Peggy said...

Hi Nina,
Yes, all the paddling photos are from the kayak, and yep, that is nearly eye-level with the gators. But they are generally either afraid of humans in boats, or bored with us. We just aren't their favorite snack. I don't think I'd care to encounter one while on foot, though...

Steve said...

I'll add to the consensus, Peggy. The stork photos are truly beautiful. And the black-and-white at the end is very nice. The action splash really gets us in on the excitement of gator movement.

You have so many great places to paddle near you, and you share them beautifully.

Stacie said...

These are great...that stork, what an odd looking bird adn yet beautiful in it's own right...(aside from the head) How cool that you caught him in flight. And the gators of course, ROCK! I soooo want to go kayaking with you some day!
Stacie

Lisa said...

Peggy,
Your photographs (and the accompanying stories) are absolutely wonderful. I looked through several of the archives but was unable to find any information on what type of camera you use. Would you share that with me - and how you keep it dry. Your photographs are so clear and the detail so fine - I really enjoyed your site. I kayak in South Florida but have been hesitant to take pictures because I am worried the camera will get wet.
Thanks!
...Lisa

Peggy said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for liking the blog! I currently use a Sony A700 DSLR camera with a Tamron 28-300mm lens on it. Since I am in a kayak with a cockpit (rather than an SOT), I can just put the camera in front of the seat on the bottom of the boat. It sits on a foam pad that is over a towel to keep the bottom dry, and I cover it with a small towel to protect it from sunlight and splashes when I'm not using it. I put it in a dry bag when I get in and out of the boat if there is even the remotest chance of tipping (on concrete ramps, in the presence of powerboat wakes, etc.). While this is a fantastic camera and lens, post-processing has a lot to do with the final photo results, particularly the sharpness.

Lisa said...

Thanks Peggy - your site is really inspirational! I can't wait to try to take a few photos on my own. Thanks for the tips on keeping the camera dry!