Monday, July 27, 2009

Short But Sweet Time On The Water

When you realize how perfect everything is,
you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

Things are finally getting back on an even keel, so to speak, and the new puppy does not object too much to being penned for a short time. So I was ready to get back to the Wacissa!

It turned out to be a very short trip, though. Gray storm clouds were mixed in with white clouds on the way to the river, and when I launched, the downstream sky did not look too bright and cheery. Thunder started booming after less than an hour and so I had to turn around and paddle quickly back to the ramp.

But! That short time was fantastic (I have missed paddling) and I got several images to show you.

The tricolored herons are everywhere now, and so the first photo was of this one, which watched me float by behind it.

As always, there are lots of snowy egrets scattered here and there, and it wasn't long before I was pointing the camera at one.

As I drifted downstream, I spotted this bird and at first wasn't sure what I was seeing. It turned out to be a juvenile night heron. I think the reason it was puzzling was that I so rarely see these guys on the move--they are always just perched on a branch, statue-like. This one was fishing.

A snowy egret was using the wing-spread method of fishing in the surface growth at the opening to Cassidy Spring. I parked and watched it and got several photos.



This yellow crowned night heron was watching all this from a limb nearby.

The first rumble of thunder came up at this point. It was distant, but where there's thunder, there's lightning, so I knew I wasn't even going to make it to Blue Spring. I was going to turn around then and there, but spotted what looked like a green heron in some branches just ahead. So I paddled to it.

It sat there preening for a while.

I couldn't stay any longer; the sky was darkening and the thunder was louder. So I headed back upstream, along with the other boaters.

I could hear an air boat approaching from behind me. I find these boats to be a nuisance on this river in every sense of the word except one. While it is nuisance-y that they invariably startle the birds and disrupt their nesting and feeding environment....this behavior does offer a small benefit to the photographer. You can be completely certain that when an air boat passes a bird, the bird will fly. Since you can hear an air boat coming from a mile away (and there are always birds on the river), a photographer in a kayak has plenty of time to prepare for the photo you are certain to get. Time to adjust the exposure if you want to get that egret when it takes off, or time to set the zoom amount if you want the heron. You have time to find someplace to park so that you won't be moving when you are trying to get the photo(s). No need to sit for a long time waiting for a bird to decide to fly away. And so I was able to get a long series of this snowy egret fleeing from the cacophony of noise when it arrived.

A short trip today, and it seems the rain will be hanging around for the remainder of the week, but hope springs eternal that I'll get back out soon. Stand by.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Non-Paddling Post...

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you,
they will be there long before any of us.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

There have been a few reasons that I have not been able to get to the water lately. As usual, weather concerns. In addition, we had a dog-related tragedy here, which was followed by the acquisition of a new puppy. I'm not a fan of tossing a puppy in a crate for hours at a time, as would be necessary for a paddling trip, so for the time being I am staying home and enjoying some quality bonding time with the new family member. Meanwhile, this blog is once again in danger of growing toxic mold from lack of activity. So it is time to reach into the bag o' unposted photos and let them see the light of day.

If I were out on the river now, I would likely be seeing some juvenile purple gallinules, as it is about time for them to be present and maturing. Sort of like this one from last year:

I took so many photos when I made my trip to the rookery last spring (I had plans to return last week but the dog crisis took precedence so I did not make it back) that they will be fodder for these non-paddling posts for a long time to come. I was there during breeding season, which is why the nares (area in front of the eye) on this egret is bright green--part of their breeding display.

This snowy egret was also taken at the rookery:

I was lucky enough to see baby wood ducks on my last few paddling trips. This photo did not make the cut to those posts.

On one trip on the Wacissa several months ago, I was surprised to see a wood stork in the trees (not as surprised as when the pelican showed up, but still surprised). Here's another photo from that trip:

I have had this image of a great blue heron taking off from the water for a long time (it actually predates my present camera). I'm not sure if I like the bird or the water color better...

And speaking of great blue herons, one time I came back from the Wacissa pleased with this photo of the one that hangs around the boat ramp. Well, until I discovered that it was remarkably similar to a photo I had included in the previous (at that time) post. Different day, different photo, but they looked the same. So I tucked it away to include at a later now.

And finally, another snowy egret, this one from the Wacissa.

I miss paddling, but just don't want to abandon this puppy to a lengthy stay alone in a pen just yet. But I will get out again as soon as I can! Stand by.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Two Trips in One Post

It's time to start living the life you've imagined.
~Henry James

As I may have mentioned in the previous post, DH was on vacation this past week. We went paddling to the Wakulla on Wednesday; however, with our busy week of doing this, that, and the other thing, I had no time to process the photos. And then we went paddling on the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers yesterday. So I am combining the two trips into one post. The Wakulla is a wonderful river but lacks the wildlife of the Wacissa, and the Suwannee and Withlacoochee have even less, so there are not many photos (but there's a video!).

The turtles on the Wakulla are far more complacent than those on the Wacissa. These guys just sit there and watch you go by, unless you get very close.

There are usually more gators to be seen on this river (which is interesting since people swim in all sections of this river, unlike the Wacissa where the swimming is limited to the spring areas), but we only saw a couple, and those only because we were looking for them. They were well camouflaged and small.

We didn't paddle all the way to the top bridge but only a little more than halfway. On the way back downstream we saw this cormorant that had caught a fish that was proving to be a challenge for it, size-wise.




Cormorants were the only birds we saw on this trip. This one let us pass by behind it fairly closely.

We saw many manatees, including a baby one. The reflections on the water make photos problematic. I had my underwater camera, which is difficult to use from the kayak since there is no way to see what the lens is pointing at. The water was murky on that day. Nonetheless, I have a very short (murky) video of some manatees that we spent some time with. In the first very short section you may be able to make out the baby manatee swimming above an adult. Also note the white scars on the back of the large one--that's what happens when people in power boats don't bother to slow down in areas known to contain manatees. Sorry about the muffled talking--I didn't think the microphone would pick that up!

So that was the Wakulla trip. Despite the lack of birds, I enjoy that river and plan to get back there again soon.

Yesterday we decided to go to Suwannee River State Park with the kayaks and paddle the rivers. This park has a boat ramp that puts you in the Suwannee. If you paddle to the left from the ramp, you soon reach the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers. We prefer the Withlachoochee--it's a beautiful green color (the Suwannee is tea-colored due to the tannins in the water) and very clear. So we headed up that way.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are very familiar with the shoreline of the Wacissa, my usual destination. The edge of the river water is lost in vegetation, and in fact often extends, swamp-like, far into the woods at the shoreline. The edges are lined with leafy greenery. The Withlacoochee is very different! It is lined with limestone rocks in front of, in most places, towering high banks. There is no surface vegetation whatsoever in the part near where the rivers meet (making for even less wildlife than the Wakulla!). It's more stark, but no less beautiful for it.


If one needs to answer the call of nature while paddling the Wacissa, and to nearly the same extent on the Wakulla, one is basically out of luck. The shoreline is not conducive to getting out of the boat. This is one area where the Withlacoochee has a great advantage. And not just in terms of getting out of the boat due to necessity but for quick dips in the river to cool off!

Since we were there on July 4th, we came to several large groups of people enjoying the river water at areas of wide sandy edges. We found a deserted spot at our turnaround point. Submerging in that cool water felt wonderful!

I hope to get back to the Wacissa again this coming week--I miss my birds! Stand by.