Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back to Cedar Key!

I always knew that I liked this place
You don't have to look too far to find a friendly face...
That's why I love this town...
~Jon Bon Jovi

With the hope that it had cooled down as much in Cedar Key as it has in northern Florida, I headed back to one of my favorite spots to do some paddling and be otherwise seriously idle.

The first two days were very windy, which took paddling out of the picture but made for some enjoyable reading time on the condo balcony, watching the birds fly by over the water below me. I'm sneaking in some non-paddling photos here.

One day I was coming back from town, with my camera with me of course. There was an egret in the bushes right outside the condo office, very intent on hunting.



It quickly poked its head into the greenery and arose with a snack.



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Maybe the lizard got away. Let's say it did.

On the second day I drove to Homosassa Springs, where I spent some time at the wildlife park. A portion of the park includes the spring, which has a lot of manatees in it this time of year. I mentioned seeing manatees in the previous post on the Wakulla River; Beverly asked me if I had gotten any photos of them. I did not, but I made up for that this time, from both above the spring and while swimming in it. First the shots from above. They have a manatee treatment facility there for manatees that need minor attention. This gives you an idea of the size of these creatures:



I don't know what had happened to that one; the men were trying very hard to keep it from rolling over, which it seemed determined to do.

Here are two spotted at the spring.



Then it was time to get in the water with them and get some close-ups!



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Back at the condo I had dinner and went outside to watch the sun set.



The next morning I woke up to a day perfectly calm, with the water (at low tide) glassy smooth. I had breakfast on the balcony while I waited for the tide to come in. A seagull came by the railing looking for a handout so I lined up some bits of muffin for it to take.



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I also had several grackles join me, as shown in the corresponding post on the Photo Miscellanea blog.

The air stayed calm and so it was time to head out!



There were a lot of ospreys along the waterway. This one watched me approach below it:



It seemed to consider staying put,



but ended up flying away.



I couldn't resist taking a photo of the view while in the open Gulf area--I rarely see quite this expanse of water while on my usual rivers...



There were also many great blue herons in the inlet areas, which always managed to see me coming before I saw them. I was fortunate enough to have one fly right in front of me. This is the third recently-posted GBH flight photo so I gave this one a slightly different treatment.



I got up early the next morning and went out for a very short paddle--this is the kind of place where you can leave your boat by the water, so it was very convenient to just get in and go. This sailboat was heading out from the next property over.



I had a video I wanted to post here--nothing all that exciting, just some paddling with some birds flying and a fish jumping, and the view of paddling in the tidal flats and the Gulf of Mexico. It was short, maybe 5 minutes, if that. It has been uploading to YouTube now for over three hours. I checked their support area and they suggest that if your video is still uploading after eight hours, you might want to start it over again. Yeah....I'll be asleep in five hours..I think I will just bag the video plan for this post!

So....this was the Cedar Key trip!

I'll be back out locally. Stand by.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wakulla River

Listen to all, plucking a feather from every
passing goose, but follow no one absolutely.
~Chinese Proverb

I decided that this was the day to finally get back to the Wakulla. Last time I went it was like one big frat party filled with students on or by the water making bar-level noise. This time, with one exception, was much better. I encountered several paddlers and no power boats, which was nice. The river is still recovering from recent tropical storms and is silty in parts, but the shallower sections are clear.

I was surprised at how many manatees there were (maybe they also had been waiting for the students to go back to school...) this time. Two pairs of adult and baby, and a set of three. Seeing them is a definite plus for this river. The minus is that there are not many birds.

I got there when the tide was at the end of the outgoing phase, but the current was still fierce for almost the entire 4 hours I was on the water. Perhaps some of that was also storm-related.

I was nearly to the top of the river when I saw the first bird. I had ducked into a channel that runs parallel to the main river, hoping to escape some of the current. I saw a yellow crowned night heron fly to a low branch just upstream of me. If birds have any sense of humor, this one had to be laughing at me. I paddled to just past it and then put the paddle down and picked up the camera. And immediately was swept downstream to a point where a branch blocked my view of the bird. Ok, let's try that again. Went a bit farther past it, paddle down, camera up, and by the time I located the bird in the viewfinder....I was back downstream and the branch blocked it. (It just sat there all this time watching this.) One more time and I just managed to get the photo before being swept out of range again.



Just past that bird, an ibis sat on a branch sticking out of the water. It watched me approach.



This time I could park myself in some surface growth a little closer to it, and it sat there while I did that.



I knew it was heading out, though, so I just waited. Sure enough, time to go.



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I continued on and circled the island near the upper ramp. Now it was time for the wild downstream ride! I moved along at a good clip. I saw a few gators here and there but no other birds. I leaned back and enjoyed the scenery and peace and quiet. The reflections on this river have always been impressive; we don't get many reflections like this on the Wacissa because of all the surface growth along the edges. On this river, the water goes all the way to the shoreline in most places.



I was passing that large house on the left (from a downstream direction) near the boat ramp--the one with all the windows and the long porch. The woman who lives there was sitting on her downstairs porch with the two duck-looking birds that I photographed nearby early last spring. I asked if she would mind if I paddled over to get some pictures of them and she said that would be fine. This was a little easier said than done, since even in the best of conditions this wide part of the river has current. But I was able to position myself to get some photos. I asked her what they were, and she said she had determined from web searches that they were "rare Siberian swan geese." (I didn't confirm this when I got home, so I am just calling them geese.) They posed very nicely.



Here's a closer portrait of the male:



And the female:



There was a cormorant swimming around in the area; the woman told me that whenever the geese saw it, they went flying into the water after it, and indeed that's what happened this time. The male went so fast I missed it completely, and the female was something of a blur.



After splashdown, she swam over to where the male was already chasing the cormorant.



You know that part in Office Space (or maybe you don't) where the dweeby guy is telling someone about the squirrels outside his window that are "married"? Well, er...these two geese were clearly married, too (this is, after all, a family blog).



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The woman and I talked about how great, if problematic, it would be if they had babies. There are a lot of gators on the river....

It was getting late so I said goodbye and continued on down to the ramp, where I loaded up the boat.

I took a photo on this river about a year ago and posted it in this blog. I then filed it away with the rest of my photos. I recently took it back out and re-processed it for a different look. I posted the new version on some photography sites and it was well-received, and so I have decided that since it was taken on this river and has had a lot of exposure (haha, get it?) elsewhere, I will post the new version here as well:



Thanks to Beverly at Lacoochee Kid for the link and kind words--back at ya! And that's all for this time. Stand by.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Peaceful Paddling

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
~Mark Twain

Another sunny morning so I headed back to the Wacissa. This turned out to be more of a paddling trip than a photo trip. I was hoping to see a great blue heron or green heron but didn't see even one (where were they?). While the day was very hot with almost no breeze, there were no rain clouds or even overcast areas and so I went about a half mile farther downstream than I have for months. Even though the water level has gone down a bit since the rise after Fay, it's still much higher than it was this time last year. It was nice to not have to worry about scraping over rocks.

One bird that I saw that has been absent from this blog for a while was a limpkin. I really like these birds.



I came also to many juvenile little blue herons, which were featured in the last post. It's just about impossible to resist photographing them; while I don't think they are quite as appealing as snowy egrets, since their beaks and legs are more muted in color, their eyes are impressive. I caught this one taking off,



and followed it till it landed. I like these photos taken from the back since they show the layers of feathers on their wings.



A flock of ibis (is "flock" the right word?) flew across the river ahead of me as I drifted downstream.



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Last time I was on this river I didn't see a single gator. I saw a few this time. This is such a familiar sight as you get farther downstream.



The paddle upstream was easy. I parked under the shade of a tree and spotted these pretty white flowers across the surface of the water.



This was a longer trip than usual, I was on the river for four hours or so. I look forward to paddling in cooler weather...cooler weather is coming, right?

Stand by.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Wacissa Wednesday

The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.
~Francis Bacon Sr.

I took a chance on the weather and headed out early yesterday morning for a Wacissa paddle.

The birds were curiously absent from the top part of the river. The water is down a bit and I only saw a few gators this time.

At the turn into Blue Spring I came to a snowy egret that let me get rather close.

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There were a few tricolored herons near the entrance,

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but otherwise it was bird-free as well.

The gray clouds had drifted by and the sun came out, so I continued downstream. I came to several juvenile little blue herons, some more skittish than others. This one stood watching me for a while,

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and then flew off.

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It flew a short distance ahead of me and stopped again. I continued drifting and eventually reached it, at which point it flew off again (really! I didn't do anything! I was just sitting there in my little boat!).

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Although the day was as hot as any day has been this summer, I went a little farther than usual this time. There was a nice upstream wind blowing and I counted on that to offset the heat for the trip back to the ramp. This tricolored heron flew across the river in front of me.

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I turned around shortly after that. While I was passing a group of reeds I saw this family of moorhens paddling around. The little ones are so fuzzy.

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I came to this egret striking an odd pose:

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I couldn't figure out why it was standing like that or what it was looking at...until this snowy flew in (maybe the egret saw it coming before I did...).

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They stood together for a while as I took pictures of them. It wasn't until I got home and looked at the images on the computer screen that I noticed there was a third bird in the photo--a little moorhen in front!

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I went through all the photos I had gotten of the two egrets and the moorhen is not anywhere in any of them...not sure where it came from.

Speaking of moorhens, this one ran across the water (literally) in front of me.

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There were many turtles sunning on logs and branches, most of which slid or jumped into the water as I passed by. I guess this one decided it was too much effort to get back up so it would take its chances with me.

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I made my way slowly back to the ramp. I had only seen two canoes in the water and no other boats. The last bird I saw was another tricolored heron, who left as I approached.

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A good paddling day; I was out a little over three hours. The heat can be a little draining; I look forward to cooler temperatures. I'm curious about how the Wakulla fared through the recent storms and the rainfall since and hope to get there soon. Stand by.