Saturday, April 26, 2008

One of those non-paddling posts

Voyage upon life's sea
To yourself be true
And whatever your lot may be
Paddle your own canoe.
~Sarah Bolton

Today I sold my Riot Stealth kayak that has been for sale since February. I was not very aggressively marketing it; this was not like selling the two other boats I have let go (or the one I traded our AC guy for repair to the central unit). One of those boats, while fine, was simply too wide to be of any use to me and I had lost interest in it; the other one I had never liked and was amazed that anyone would want. I really liked the Stealth. I think I secretly wanted to keep it around, even though it was unlikely I would ever use it again. But a woman in Orlando found one of my ads and sent payment for it sight-unseen through Paypal. She drove up today to pick it up. It took us a long time to secure it on her Santa Fe since she had opted to skip the pesky cradles and just carry it right on the built-in roof rack.

I'm writing this to mention that I was surprised at how sad I was to see it leave our driveway and go off to who knows what adventures. I'm not normally an overly sentimental person, but it was oddly dispiriting to see this boat that I had no need for disappear down the road. This is the boat that I took out last summer when Abby and I paddled up the Withlacoochee to spend sweltering afternoons completely submerged in the water (good times). I had fun with this boat. I hope the new owner enjoys it.

Of course I can't write here without including a few photos, and I always have some left over that didn't make it into their respective posts. As you can probably imagine, I have more than enough of egrets flying!


Here's one in an unusual stretched-out flight position:



We are just now starting to see juvenile birds on the river. It won't be long before the young moorhens and gallinules turn up. Here's some from late last spring.



Speaking of juveniles, given all the little blue herons that have been on the Wacissa throughout the winter, perhaps we will see some of their young'uns as well. Interestingly, they start out white. Here's one from last year.



Finally, while I was digging around in my collection of unposted photos, I came to this one taken last fall of a belted kingfisher. Normally I crop out a lot of background in photos but this one seems to be just fine with the background bigger than the bird, so I left it as it was taken.


I didn't get a chance to go out paddling a second time this past week, and I leave on Monday for camping (not paddling) in North Carolina. I'll post again after my next paddling trip. Stand by.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wood Ducks on the Wacissa!

And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
~ Henry Wordsworth

I decided to go back to the Wacissa again (largely because of the current gas costs--best to go to the closest river). I had green herons to find.

No green herons today (why leave you in suspense?)--but many more wood ducks than I had anticipated! I saw these two early on in the paddle:



And then a little while after seeing those, I was thrilled to see a mother wood duck leading her babies!



This was a great sighting--maybe there would be more babies on the river. This was one of my favorite things about trips here last spring.

I paddled down to Blue Spring, as always. This tricolored heron was pretty much where it was before--this is starting to be one of those birds you can count on to be in the same place whenever you go by (like the turtle on the rock). Since I had my lens of choice with me on this trip, I decided to take another photo of it.



I believe the gator has been removed from the spring. A family (of humans) was there enjoying the swim platform and so I did not continue all the way to the spring but rather returned to the river. This little blue heron was perched on the shoreline.



I went downstream a way, but the wind on this day was blowing in that downstream direction so I turned around fairly early. On my way back upstream I was astounded to see this merganser. I looked for these birds all winter and saw not a one--and today here's this one, all by itself on the river!


The river was beautiful on this sunny day--all green and blue, given the sky, water, and trees.



On my way back upstream I came to the most peculiar thing--these two little baby wood ducks out in the river all by themselves.



They didn't seem particularly afraid of me (maybe had not been taught yet to fear humans?) and just paddled around near the shoreline. I wondered how they got separated from their family.



I continued upstream. When I reached the Blue Spring inlet, I decided to go back in. Right after entering it, I caught sight of this family of wood ducks moving out of my way:


I paddled over to where they had gone and caught this last photo before they vanished into the backwaters:



Immediately after taking that photo, I started to back up to pull out of the vegetation I had parked in. When I looked directly to my left, I saw that same tricolored heron staring back at me!



I left it alone and continued upstream. I decided to paddle down that small inlet to the right before the boat ramp. While I was in there, it occurred to me that I had seen very few egrets on this trip--just a few white spots in the distance, but that's all. I spotted one high in a tree--not the best photo op. However, as I approached, it flew off, giving me an egret photo for this day.



Very close to the head spring I spotted one more male wood duck--how could I not take his picture?



This was another ideal paddling day. A little wind but not a problem. I hope to get back out on the water (likely this river again for gas cost considerations) before my trip to NC next week. Stand by.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tricolored Herons are Back!

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.
~Emily Dickinson

Yesterday was a perfect paddling day! I had originally planned to go to the Wakulla, but then Abby posted a photo of a green heron on her blog, one of the two birds that have been conspicuously absent all winter (along with the tricolored herons) on the Wacissa. She saw hers on a lake in Tallahassee, but maybe they were on the Wacissa as well, so that's where I headed. I took along a different camera lens than I typically use and I'm not thrilled with the results; if the photos look a little different this time, that's why.

The first bird I saw was a snowy egret that was fishing along the side of the river.



It was having a fair amount of luck and was doing a fair amount of hopping around, pouncing at the fish just beneath the surface.



I think it finally got tired of my presence and went to fish elsewhere, fussing at me as it left:


I paddled into Blue Spring, which is where I saw the first tricolored. Welcome back! It left as I paddled by.



After I left the spring area and continued downstream, I saw a bird swoop into the bushes on the west side of the river. It had too short a neck to be an egret or tricolored and was a brownish-red color. So I paddled over to investigate. It turned out to be a juvenile black crowned night heron hiding in the bushes.



After taking the photo, I turned to leave it in peace. It surprised me by taking off and flying by.



I continued downstream in search of green herons. No luck. I was getting close to Cedar Island and decided to turn around. This great blue heron was posing on the side of the river near where I made my turn.



There are no baby moorhens or gallinules yet, at least that I could see. This purple gallinule was swimming around the middle of the river and did not mind my presence at all. These are very striking birds with all their colors.



I saw two snowy egrets perched on a fallen tree on the left side of the river and paddled over that way to take a picture.



I thanked them for posing so nicely and slowly backed away from them. As I was backing up, I looked at them again and noticed something I had not seen while I was concentrating on the egrets--above them was perched another (or the same) juvenile night heron.



It wasn't until I was processing the photos that I spotted yet another bird in the bunch. On a branch toward the back, you can make out the shape of another night heron between the two egrets. Popular resting spot!

Continuing upstream, I saw this weird bug-like thing swooping around over the water near the edge, so I paddled over there. It was moving fast and unpredictably, requiring less than close-up zoom on it to keep it in the frame. I thought it was one of the strange bugs that we often have flitting around the lantana plants (although this one was clearly plucking things out of the water now and then and was not near vegetation). I got some pretty poor photos of it and would have deleted them but while processing them to see if I could bring them up to posting quality, I noticed that this thing looks peculiarly bat-like (really bad photos...). This was at about 3:00 on a sunny day (seemed a tad early and bright for bats). Its light color is what caught my eye; definitely had a pinkish tinge, at least in the sunlight. No idea what this is but perhaps someone reading this knows:



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Continuing on my merry way, this snowy egret and tricolored heron were perched together near Blue Spring.



A wee bit north of the spring inlet I was pleasantly surprised to see otters crossing the river!



My last bird of the day was yet another tricolored heron, this one coming in for a landing as I paddled by.



A really great day on the river, though I never did see any green herons. Next time, maybe.

Stand by.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pink Birds in Cedar Key

A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.
~Dixon Lanier Merritt

-and-

...I love this town
That's why I keep coming around.
~Jon Bon Jovi

I got to go back to Cedar Key, possibly my favorite place to visit. I stayed at Natures Landing again, this time on the third floor, which gave me a fantastic view of the backwaters and the non-stop bird show that is put on there. Non-paddling photos are here on Photo Miscellanea.

As for this post, some are from my paddling excursion and some are from walking around, but appropriate for this blog nonetheless.

The first set I want to show is from my observation of a pelican from the end of the boardwalk that leads from the condo property.The pelican hovers in the air and spots a yummy fish below.



It divebombs in to get it,



and slams into the water.



How wonderful! Lunch!



Time to go. Possibly not the most graceful bird on takeoff.



Get the wings going for lift...



And it's aloft!



And off to look for more fish.



And I also am off to go paddling later that day. I hear an ibis but don't see it. Ah, there it is, high in a mangrove tree:



The paddling here is excellent, lots of little inlets and coves in the back bay area to go into--this worked out well on this day since it was a little too breezy to tackle the Gulf itself. I enjoyed the scenery and tooled around here and there. I saw a couple of people in a canoe and otherwise had the water to myself.

As regular visitors to this blog may have noted, I have long had the goal of encountering roseate spoonbills in the wild. I saw my first ones at the Homosassa Wildlife Park a year or two ago and have never seen one outside of a park enclosure. The more people I have told about this goal, the more photos I have been sent of their sightings, even in some areas I frequent. I wondered if I would ever get to see one not at a park.

I was sitting on my balcony in the late afternoon of the day I arrived, talking with DH on the phone and watching the bird show going on in front of me. Wait.... was that a pink bird that just flew by? Could it be?

The next morning before the paddling trip described above, I was back on the balcony having breakfast and I spotted a group of at least 5, maybe 7, spoonbills high in a tree to the right of the inlet that leads to the launch area. I watched them for a while. And then I went out for my paddling trip.

After covering a fair amount of water, I was heading back to the launch area at the condo property. Hmmm...here's an inlet that seems to lead in the general direction of the tree those spoonbills were perched in. I wonder where this goes? I moved very slowly and quietly through the water. As I rounded a bend, I frightened this black crowned night heron and snowy egret (what were they up to in there?):



It was narrow and twisty. I heard a bird call I had never heard before. The camera came up, but the spoonbills had seen me coming.



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About five of them erupted out of the mangrove and took to the air. I hardly knew where to aim the camera. This one shows you the shape of their beaks, the reason they have their name:



This one obliged me by flying near the blue part of the sky (thanks):



I took a few last photos as they made their way toward the Gulf and presumably somewhere paddlers won't startle them.


Needless to say, this was hugely exciting for me! I am still missing any photos of them on land. I was out on the balcony the next morning (I spent a lot of time on that balcony!) and saw the distinctive pink wings fly by and settle near the end of the boardwalk during low tide. I quickly dressed, grabbed the camera, and went down. I did in fact see one in the mudflat and I took a few photos but they did not come out as hoped. The bird saw me through the bushes and flew away. I guess getting a (decent) photo of spoonbills feeding on land is my next goal.

That evening as the sun was getting low I walked down to the boat slips/docks that they have in their little inlet. An egret flew down and walked around surprisingly close to me. These birds are very tall and so impressive to see up close on level ground. It probably came up to my chin (or would have, if I could get quite that close). I took this as it stood near me.



As the sun was getting lower, it crossed in front of me and stood partially in the remaining light.


Later still it wandered to another part of the docks, a photo I decided to render in black and white since there were few colors at the time.



I had to leave the next morning. One more walk down the pathway before packing up and a greeting from a laughing gull.



I will be returning to Cedar Key soon, it's hard to stay away from such a place. But until then I will be back to my regular paddling spots. Stand by.