Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hanging with the Alligators on the Wakulla

Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is
everywhere and the circumference nowhere.
~Blaise Pascal

I haven't been to the Wakulla for quite a while so it was time to return. I have always liked this river; I wish I lived closer to it.

This was a hot day (summer is still in full swing here in Florida!) and the gators were out and about. This one kept pace with me as I paddled upstream.

This fat gator was enjoying the sun on a log.

And then there was this one, peering at me through the leaves. Big tough guy...with a dainty little damselfly sitting on his head.

One major difference between this river and the Wacissa, as I have mentioned before, is that when you go to the Wacissa, it is a given that you will see a variety of birds. It's not a certainty at all on the Wakulla. I paddled nearly 2 miles upstream before I saw the first one, a cute little grebe.

But the Wakulla has something the Wacissa doesn't: manatees. The current was very strong on this day, which made it a challenge to watch them without either drifting on top of them or away from them. This youngster was staying close to its mother.

I was surprised to see a tricolored heron, a bird I rarely see on this river. And a very unskittish one. I parked in the surface vegetation to halt the flow of the current against the boat and watched it for a while. It was hopping from spot to spot in search of food.

And then posed nicely for me. (I smile as I write that since, in fact, as I was taking the picture, someone passed me in a fishing boat and hollered out "He's posing nicely for you!")

I turned around before getting to the top bridge; a bit too much current to keep paddling against. After turning I was moved at a good clip back downstream. I saw a great blue heron long before I got to it, giving me time to find a place to pull over and stop to get some photos. This was an unusually striking bird.

While I was sitting watching it, it dipped its head in the water and then fluffed itself up.


I continued my drift downstream.

Cormorants are so common on our waterways that, as with adult little blue herons, I rarely photograph them. But they actually are cute birds. This one had been bathing noisily before I got to it, at which time it was drying in the sun.

And doing a little preening.

As any bird photographer will attest to, one of the most difficult birds to photograph is the belted kingfisher. Sure, they will land in easy reach of almost any lens....but they never sit still for more than about one second, and then they are off, swooping away, making a laughing, chipping sound. I had several of them swirling around me on this trip, but I didn't bother raising the camera. Until, that is, this one landed on a light post on a dock close to the ramp. I never expected it to linger, but I couldn't resist trying for a photo.

It flew from there to a tree a little farther downstream. I kept the camera up and turned on. Too bad its beak is obscured by the branch...

And that had me back at the ramp. It was a good day! I'll get out again soon. Stand by.


Sandra said...

Peggy, these are wonderful alligator photos. I can almost feel the water and their eyes looking at me. very different veiw point, Kayak Eyes, so to speak. I really, really like them. a work of art.

Kimberlee said...

Wow! Even with a zoom lens, I can't imagine kayaking so close to such LARGE animals as those gators and even the gentle manatees. Kayaks seem to place the paddler so much closer to the water than, say, a canoe or rowboat. I think I'd be nervous about the proximity, but you have certainly captured some amazing glimpses of nature from that perspective! I applaud your bravery as well as your skill!

Dave said...

Alligator,schmalligator. I'm impressed with the closeup of the belted kingfisher. Very impressed.

Nature Girl said...

WOW Peggy! These are all awsome!!! I love the 3rd gator pic (with the damsel fly on his head) the manatee's are awsome and that kingfisher! Wow! Great pics!

S N B said...

Wow! I have given up ever expecting to catch a picture of a kingfisher.

You are not usually so long between posts. Hope all is well.