Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And Fall Arrives...

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would
have it otherwise would have high tide always
and a full moon every night.
~H. Borland

This is usually one of our prime paddling times of year here in north Florida, but not this week! Daytime temps in the low 60's with 15 mph winds, and overnight freezes. Brr! I am such a winter wimp that this is keeping me off the water! However, I don't like to think of this blog sitting on the web feeling neglected due to a lack of timely updates. So, since it looks like I am stuck on dry land for at least this week, join me in a short walk back in time to revisit some spots and look at photos you have not seen before (cue the music and swirly visual effect....).

When I went to Cedar Key back in July, it was very hot (short pause while I remember hot weather....) during the day and so my times outside were enjoyed in short bursts. It was a great trip, though, weather notwithstanding. That's my favorite place to see pelicans, such as this handsome fellow:



That was the trip when I discovered the boat tours of the nearby keys and took one of those tours on a day that started out stormy but then cleared up nicely. We passed this egret in the grass as we were approaching one of the islands.



Speaking of egrets (as we often do here), that was also the trip on which I met Spike, the great egret that hangs out near the fish-cleaning station. Spike is not overly timid around people, making for some great photo opportunities.



Earlier this fall I had some luck getting some great blue heron photos on the Wacissa. I think this is one of the first ones that I got of the heron that spends a lot of time near the boat ramp.



The subject of great blue herons reminds me of a photo I took one day while I was walking around St. Marks wildlife refuge. I don't think the phrase "birds of a feather" quite precisely describes these two that were perched on adjacent pilings, though they are both shorebirds...



On that same trip to the refuge, I saw this lone egret fishing in the great expanse of the Gulf.



Cedar Key, St. Marks, and the Wacissa--three of my favorite spots. I hope to get back to any one of them soon...if it will just warm up a bit...

Stand by.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back From NC, Back to the Wacissa

Happiness is a warm puppy.
~Charles M. Schulz

This was a very quick paddling trip, perhaps my on-purpose shortest! En route home from NC (photos are posted on the Photo Miscellanea blog), I stopped just south of Atlanta to pick up the puppy I had chosen on my way north. It's hard to leave her (and miss a moment of her puppyhood!), but after a busy trip and the process of getting her settled and accepted by the other dogs and the cats, I was ready for some peace, however brief.

The snowies were in their usual spots near the launch area.



I drifted toward Blue Spring, this time on the far side of the river, knowing I might see that great blue heron that hangs out over there.



They look very regal to me.

I saw a very welcome sight just before getting to Cassidy Spring!



I didn't make it as far as Blue Spring--turned out that I missed the puppy and even though I knew she was safe and secure in her pen in the living room, this was the first time I had left her. A worthy experiment but no need to go overboard (so to speak...). So I turned around.

How could I not raise the camera when this tricolored heron was posing so nicely for me, deep in concentration?



Needless to say, the puppy was fine. Next time I plan to overlap my leaving to go paddling with DH's time at home for lunch, which will give me more time on the river with no worries. And then we will get back to normal posts!

Stand by.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's that North Carolina Time of Year

Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting,
so... get on your way.

~Dr. Seuss

I had so hoped to get back out this past week, but assorted things kept me off the water. And now it is time to head back up to North Carolina for my fall trip to the mountains, sans kayak. I can't let this blog languish untended until my next paddling trip, and so I am dipping once again into some photos that didn't make it into their respective posts but that I liked too much to delete. I hope you like them, too.

While I was drifting downstream on a recent trip, an egret flew by me and landed in the grass just ahead. It lingered for a while but as I got closer, decided to go someplace less crowded.



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A few months ago I took some photos of a tricolored heron in somewhat unconventional lighting--I was facing right into the sun. I ended up liking the effect, though I won't be making it a habit. Here's another of that set.



And finally, back to white birds, I saw this juvenile little blue heron perched in a cypress tree this summer. They stand out like bright white lanterns when they do this.



And so off I go on another adventure. I think I will take my paddle and other accessories just in case the opportunity to rent a kayak comes up. That's not in my plans for this trip, but you never know.

Stand by.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cooler Day on the Wacissa

When thou seest an eagle,
thou seest a portion of genious;
lift up thy head!

~William Blake

We are finally coming into our prime paddling season, with cooler temps and lower humidity. What a joy! And each recent trip has me going farther downstream than I did during the heat of summer. I loaded up the boat yesterday morning and headed out.

I paddled into Blue Spring and saw a sight that is becoming familiar...



I don't know if that is the same one that has been in the area all along or a new one has taken its place. This is the second time in as many trips that I have encountered this guy.



I drifted downstream, thoroughly enjoying the day. There were very few snowy egrets near the top. I missed a photo of a green heron since it was concealed by reeds. No problem--this was a day to just enjoy paddling for the sake of paddling, not to pursue photos.

A little less than a mile or so past the house on the right, I spotted a bird high up in a cypress tree some distance ahead of me. Hmmmm...too high for most birds to perch. I took out the binoculars to see if my suspicions could be right...yep--there's that distinctive white head and curved beak. Problem was, I had a lot of water to cover to get there, and it was better to do so slowly and without much paddling movement. So I drifted on, keeping my eye on the tree. And I was lucky enough that the eagle stayed put until I was below it.



I couldn't get any closer since the leaves then obscured it. I did get a photo from the other side but the eagle was in the process of taking flight and so that came out less than sharp. And then it was gone. I looked for it when I was going back upstream but did not see it again.

It was still very comfortable outside (our afternoons do still get a tad toasty) and so I continued to drift down to the Calico Hill boat ramp. The surface growth is reclaiming the river and it is not as wide as it was right after Fay and Gustav. I discovered that the red flags and traffic cone no longer indicate where the ramp is--it now has its own sign!



Interestingly, despite the increased legitimacy brought by an actual sign, the ramp area itself was far more overgrown than it used to be; a very inconvenient stopping place, so I didn't get out. I turned around at that point and headed back upstream.

I came to this egret doing a fine swan imitation in the middle of the river.



I watched it as it fished below the surface,



and came up with what appears to be vegetation. Better luck next time...



It left at that point.



I heard a lot of woodpeckers on both sides of the river. A pileated was in a tree near the shoreline and so I paddled over that way. I waited for it to come out from behind the leaves...and then it flew away.



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On the way back upstream I decided to explore that lagoon-like inlet on the right a little past Blue Spring. The air was still and the water flat. I startled a few wood ducks--I imagine they spend a lot of time in here. The reflections were vivid.



I passed Duck Island, across from the boat ramp, on the far side. The paddling trip was ending, and even though I had been on the water almost four hours, I was sorry to be back at the ramp. And then I heard a familiar and most welcome chuffing sound from the shoreline. The eagle isn't the only thing that has been sorely missed on the river lately!



There were three of them, and after scolding me a bit they swam off downstream. Wow, two surprises in one day!

There's a great blue heron that has been hanging out near the boat ramp, and it was there again, nestled down in the leaves.



As I approached, it took off.



And then it really was time to load up the boat and head for home. This was a fantastic paddling day! I'm eager to get back again next week. Stand by.