Friday, March 28, 2008

Paddling Lake Seminole From Three Rivers State Park

We need the tonic of wildness…and some life pasturing freely
where we never wander.
~Henry David Thoreau

Well, I changed my non-paddling camping plans when the wind forecast for my original destination indicated gusts up to 25 mph. That makes it difficult to put a tent up alone! So I switched parks and went back to Three Rivers, which has been a favorite for a long time. The new Manitou went with me.

I was very lucky with the wind and weather this time, which gave me two great paddling days on a calm lake. On the first day I paddled out past Sneads Park, which looks like this on the way back:



The shoreline of this lake varies from being woodsy to marshy. The tall grasses looked very pretty in the sunshine.


As with the rest of our area of north Florida right now, there are very few birds out and about (I wonder if the people south of us, in warmer climes, are remarking on how many birds they see on their waterways?). As I noted last spring, the American coots seem to enjoy this lake. And I enjoy the American coots because they literally make me laugh out loud with their method of running on top of the water when they are fleeing. "Ungainly" comes to mind (but I love them for it).



Once they get that running start, they are able to fly, though...


I was on the water about 3 hours the first day, and then decided to do some hiking. Spring has come to this area and the flowers and bright green leaves are simply gorgeous.



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The nature trail from the campground to the boat ramp is very, very green, with wildflowers scattered here and there.


The next day I spent most of the morning at the campsite reading and enjoying the view. I met Lloyd, from the Niagara Falls area, who was camping with his wife Dolly. He had brought his kayak and after we chatted for a while he headed out to explore the lake. I waited for it to warm up a little and then set out myself.

Again, only coots for company, and one little blue heron. And then a great blue heron joined me. He would fish along the bank and pose for a while until I got too close, then fly a short distance ahead of me. Pose...



...and fly away.



At one point he flew back in the direction we had come from, and I thought that was it for my companion, but shortly after leaving, he swooped back by me and stopped on the bank (yes, could have been a different one, though it was the same smallish size) in a woodsy area of shoreline ahead of me.


And then it was getting to be time to head back to the campsite for dinner, so goodbye, great blue heron.



I wandered down to the fishing pier after dinner to see if the sunset was worth a photo (not really). While there I talked with some people who were fishing. A man came to the end of the pier with his daughter and their dog and proceeded to teach the girl how to fish. I took a stealth photo (that is, they weren't aware I was pointing the camera at them). When I was processing it, I realized that, except for the guy's camo pants, this could have been taken 50 years ago. (Camouflage clothing had been invented but wasn't widely used in civilian life...) (I checked.) So I decided to process it as an older photo to enhance that sense of timelessness (ignore the pants). I call it "Anticipation."


I didn't get out paddling the next day but rather just packed up after breakfast. A wonderful couple from Canada moved into the site next to mine and we spent a lot of time talking (I met fantastic folks on this particular trip).

I plan to get out next week to see if the birds are back to the Wacissa, and I have another Cedar Key trip coming up. I can't wait to get back on the water there. Stand by.

NOTE: I had a lengthy ranting nutcase comment here, despite having that code you have to enter (and the fact that I can backtrack such comments, "anonymous" or not). Apparently this guy really wanted to get his words out there. If this person comes back and does that again, I will have to moderate all comments, which I would prefer not to do. Wow, people are strange.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Good Friday on the Wakulla River

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her,
still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.
~Victor Hugo


The weather was fine and so off I went to the Wakulla. As I have mentioned before, there is an osprey nest across the river and a little way upstream of the boat ramp. This osprey was perched high in a tree near that nest. (I don't know if I like the bird or the branch better in this one!)
The woodpeckers were out today. It's easy to hear them, harder to actually find them. I paddled over to the edge of the river to try to get a photo of this one in the woods.
Later I spent time hunting down this one.
The parking area had been full and I passed many paddlers and people fishing. As I was approaching a guy sitting quietly in his boat with his line in the water, I was thinking about what a great way that is to spend a warm spring day. And then he got lucky.
The gators and turtles were also enjoying the day. I watched as this turtle swam over to a log occupied by other turtles--
--when it got there....now what?
Hey, move over!
There are more osprey nests near the upper bridge. This osprey watched me paddle by below it.
I paddled to the upper ramp and got out for a stretch. A few people were fishing from the bridge, and a boy was attempting to catch butterflies with a net (and not succeeding). I left to drift downstream.
I came to this egret on a dock. Now here's a pose you don't often see.
It straightened up as I went by
and then flew off, probably wondering if I planned to post that photo on the internet for everyone to see.
Although there aren't as many birds on this river as on the Wacissa, this is still my favorite place to paddle.
I hope to get out again soon. Stand by.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring is Coming to the Wacissa

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and
lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you,
you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.
~ Winnie the Pooh

Little by little the trees are popping out green leaves. It's beautiful! I'm a little surprised that there aren't more birds on this river yet; maybe we just need a few more warm days. This day was warm and a bit breezy. I was back in the Mystic. I love the new Manitou but not for wind and/or current (and nothing will ever take the place of the Mystic!).

I came to this limpkin. They don't have webbed feet and are not designed for swimming. I'm sure it was just walking along the bottom, but from my vantage point it looked like it was swimming, duck-style. That was kind of different...



As always, the egrets are out and about along the edges of the river. This one may have thought it was camouflaged in the tall grass. I don't think anything but a snow drift would effectively camouflage an egret.


As I got closer, it must have figured out that it was quite completely visible, and off it went.



I continued on toward Blue Spring. As I turned into the inlet, I heard a very loud screeching sound from the direction of the spring. It sounded like a cross between a limpkin and a heron, it was quite eerie to hear. I continued to paddle toward the spring. Hmmm, I recalled that gator that has been hanging out there for a very long time now, I wonder if it has captured something and is in the process of eating it alive...

As I got within sight of the spring, I discovered the source of the shrieking. There were four paddlers at the spring, one of whom had brought his or her baby along. Perhaps this baby was a drowning victim in its previous lifetime and that's why it was making such a commotion. Or it was trying to say "Hey! There's an alligator right over there, you guys!" Anyway, I turned around and left and continued on downstream.

There are a few little blue herons here and there.



I did not see as many ibis as usual, only this one about two miles downstream.


As I was deciding to turn around, a little north of the Calico Hill boat ramp, I spotted this pair enjoying the sunshine.



That was a good place to turn around so I decided to circle the rocky area where they were settled. The turtle dove into the water as I passed by. I rarely take photos of cormorants any more but this one didn't move as I got closer and closer so I decided to grab the opportunity for a picture.



On the way back upstream I startled an egret I had not noticed behind a reedy tussock.


You know, I am partial to wings-up photos of birds flying, and almost all the flight photos on this blog are of that variety. When I was in Cedar Key recently, I went into a gallery filled with assorted arts and crafts by local artisans. One person offered several egret pictures, mostly paintings on very thin sheets of wood, matted for framing (they were really nice). In all of his paintings of egrets flying, the wings were down. In case any readers out there prefer that perspective, here's the same bird a second or two later:



When I got back to the Blue Spring inlet all was quiet so I decided to go in again. I got about as far as I did the last time.

Hey, anyone want to go swimming at the spring?

I left him there on the swimming raft--he seemed very comfortable in the sun on the warm wood, but he was vulnerable that far out of the water and I knew if I approached he'd just leap back in. Why bother him? (And it's always nice to leave a photo op like that alone for the next person with a camera!) I'm wondering if the FWC people will attempt to relocate him when school lets out and swimmers start showing up at the spring.

On the way out I passed a baby gator, couldn't have been more than two feet long, sunning in a less exposed spot.



I had only seen one great blue heron all day, and that one only when it was flying across the river far in front of me. I have often had luck finding them near the small spring that is upriver of the ramp area, so I paddled up there. No great blue herons, but I was thrilled to see the first snowy egret that I have seen on this river this year! Hopefully they will be back in their usual numbers soon. It was still breezy.



I look forward to getting back here on a non-windy day (although I love it when the wind blows the plumage like in the photo above!). I'd like to get back out again this week if the weather permits. Next week I have reservations for a non-paddling camping trip.

Stand by.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Paddlin' with the Pelicans at Cedar Key

There is indeed, perhaps, no better way to hold communion with the sea
than sitting in the sun on the veranda of a fishermen's cafe.
~Joseph W. Beach

It was time to return to Cedar Key, and this time with the kayak! The new rec boat, a Necky Manitou 13, went along on this trip. Here it is waiting to be loaded during the packing process:



I had reserved a cottage but ended up in a condo (long story and it ended up working out very well). Info on the condo property, including a link to their site, and photos from around town on this trip are on the Photo Miscellanea blog.

I was given a condo on the first floor of Building B (B102--I recommend it). All the condos have balconies with views of the nearby inlets and islands. This was the view from my balcony (if you look closely you can see a pelican perched on one of the docks on the left side of the water).



The kayak could be easily launched from a shallow area next to that little wooden walkway at the end of the yard. I did minimal unpacking (just transferring food from the cooler to the refrigerator) before heading out. Here's the view from the water right after launching.



There are a few docks on the left side that had two birds on them as I passed by. A pelican (probably the same as the one in the balcony view above),



and an egret.


I tend to seek out pelicans whenever I am near saltwater. Since I rarely paddle in saltwater, I seldom see them from the same level. I had a great time on this trip! First I passed these two.



Similar to the birds on the Wacissa, these pelicans see a lot of paddlers and are unconcerned with our proximity. This one was perched on a piling and while it was fully aware I was nearby, I had to wait a bit for it to look my way.


Such great coloring. I continued on the channel, heading for the Gulf. And here's yet another group of pelicans milling around near the dock of another condo property.



I was not the only kayak on the water (not even close), and liked the way this boat looked as I reached the Gulf (note more pelicans on the pilings).


I saw a gull coming in for a landing and took a series of photos of it. It's near touchdown, so far so good,



Putting on the brakes...



Might have come in a bit fast...



Hard to know if it overshot or if it had spotted a fish. Less than graceful, either way.



And off it went.



A flock of white pelicans flew by overhead:


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The number and variety of birds that can be spotted on just a short paddling trip is astounding. I tended to concentrate more on photographing the ones I see less often on paddling trips, but there were many great egrets and snowy egrets as well as the more saltwater-specific birds. No need to pursue them from one side of the channels to the other, you could just sit still and they would fly by. Here comes another one!



I headed back to the condo (if I had known the next day would be too windy to go back out, I would have stayed on the water much longer!). In the inlet that leads to the launch access I came to two pairs of lesser scaups.



(The other female was lagging behind a bit...) They seemed a little more skittish than the other birds had been and watched me warily, keeping their distance.


The female of that pair took off flying. As I was drifting along, the male decided maybe leaving was a good idea. So with a few hops



and skips


he was away.

At the risk of being redundant, this is a perfect paddling destination! And the residents are wisely promoting it as such, with many places renting kayaks. Everywhere you walk through town, you will see kayaks.



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Here's a collection of them in the parking area of the condo building.



I spotted this paddler and catamaran in the water during a walk through town.


Before I left Cedar Key, I made reservations for my next stay there--I can't wait to get back out on that water again. I had been told that one could sometimes spot roseate spoonbills in the mangroves along the water edge. I wasn't lucky enough this time; maybe next time.

Meanwhile, I will be getting back to my regular paddling spots. Stand by.