Friday, January 23, 2009

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Today was good.
Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
~Dr. Seuss

Finally a warm day for a paddle! When I got to the Wacissa there was a strong upstream wind, but it was not a chilly wind and so I didn't mind that at all. How great to be back on the water! Mine was the only car in the parking lot when I arrived and for much of the day I had the river to myself.

The path leading from the head spring is getting quite narrow, with surface growth closing in on both sides. There was a snowy egret fishing in the vegetation.



And a little farther along I saw the great blue heron that is always near the boat ramp. It left as I approached.



(Didn't quite get all of the feet in that one! It's a long bird when it stretches out in flight!)

I paddled on to Blue Spring. I haven't see the large gator that was often on the swim raft for a while now, but this is the third trip in a row on which I spotted this little one (probably not even 4 feet long). It was pretty well covered with green stuff from the surface, and just watched me paddle by.



On the way out of the spring inlet, I saw an egret standing at the edge. It also watched me drift by.



You can see in the photo how their eyes are on a little bit of a slant to face downward into the water (or bushes). They look so odd when they look right at you.

It left shortly after I took that photo and as I was drifting closer.



The little yellowlegs are still here and can be seen in groups all along the river. Very common sight right now.



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I passed a juvenile little blue heron. Two things have struck me as odd this year. First, we have been seeing these juveniles for months and in some numbers. It seems that in the past there have been seasons for seeing juveniles, and then you don't see them any more. But lately there are always juveniles on this river. The other odd thing is that although I often see several of these on every trip, I have yet to see any in the process of changing to their adult coloration, as I have in other years. Why are there so many young ones for so long a period of time, and why aren't there any maturing ones? This one seemed to have just a touch of the adult coloration on the tips of its wings.



I watched him (her?) for a while, hoping to get a photo of a successful catch. I don't think he liked me being quite so close and flew to a nearby patch of surface vegetation.



So, having nothing else to do, I drifted a few feet and continued watching him. He did the wing-spread thing that they do to try to lure fish to the shade created by their wings.



After a bit he must have gotten tired of having me watch his every move so he flew by me heading upstream.



At about this time I noticed a slightly smoky smell in the air. I continued downstream into the wind. After about 10 more minutes, the air got more smoky and occasionally a bit of ash would blow by. I decided it wasn't going to get any better downstream, so I turned around and let the wind take me back upstream.

Usually when I take photos of flying egrets, they are over the water, or heading out toward the water. I saw this one flying through the woods next to me (how very bird-like of it!).



It landed with a very impressive show of wings (behind me...wish I could have gotten a photo of it!). I saw breeding plumage blowing in the wind and so I turned around to see if I could get some pictures of it. It sat nicely for one photo.



After I took that, it hopped over to a nearby low bush, so I followed it and took more pictures.



I love these birds to begin with, but when they get that plumage, they are so impressive! Just gorgeous. I don't think it was that crazy about my being parked in the horticulture for so long directly facing it.



It took off somewhat unexpectedly and flew right by me.



I continued upstream. The air was getting very smoky now, with more ash drifting by.

There are several juvenile ibis on the river these days, including this one that passed by on its way downstream.



These two yellowlegs were standing side-by-side and so I stopped to photograph them.



There were two paddlers heading downstream toward me and it occurred to me that if they startled these two little birds, I might be able to get a good picture of them either taking off or flying. That didn't work out, but I did chat for a while with the other paddlers. They were from Panama City and eager to see Blue Spring for the first time. By this time it was very smoky in the downstream direction but very clear and sunny upstream. I mentioned the smoke. They said they had passed a large prescribed burn on a nearby road on their way to the river, which explained that. We talked a while and then they continued downstream and I continued back toward the boat ramp.

Now it was very smoky, and the smoke had caught up to me in the wind and was ahead of me upstream. I turned around to see what the river looked like behind me. Very eerie, with the sun filtered through all the smoke.



The wind was still pushing me upstream so I took advantage of not having to use the paddle; I decided that there would be no more photos today so I might as well take off the lens hood, replace the lens cap, and get ready to get out of the boat. I was approaching the island across from the boat ramp. The great blue heron was still there and flew through the smoke ahead of me. Might as well take one more photo, even if it's through smoke!



Kind of a shame to have the day cut short because of the smoke, but the wind probably would have prevented a long paddle anyway. It was great to get back to the birds! It looks like our weather may stay mild for a few more days, hopefully I can get back out on a clear day. Stand by.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Winter Discontent

Cold! If the thermometer had been
an inch longer, we'd have frozen to death.
~Mark Twain

Winter has finally come to north Florida. The new leaves that came out on our banana trees during our recent warm spell did not survive the recent overnight hard freezes. And it's way too cold for wimpy me to get out paddling these days! How fortunate for this blog that I always come home with so many more photos than I post, leaving me images to display when I don't have any new ones.

On a very recent trip, a flock of ibis flew overhead as I drifted downstream.



And speaking of flying birds, there are always extra photos of egrets gliding by the kayak.



Sometime around the middle of last year I took several photos of a juvenile night heron as I followed it downstream. This one wasn't posted when I wrote about that trip. I wonder where this bird is now?



I miss the many snowy egrets that line the upper portion of the Wacissa all summer. This one passed by the boat in a hurry to get somewhere.



In the summer when I am not seeing as many birds as I would like and my shutter finger gets twitchy, I resort to taking photos of moorhens, since there are always moorhens. In the winter, it's yellowlegs. Here's one of many that had not appeared here yet.



Finally, this was the third of a set of images I got of this juvenile little blue heron that flew right toward me one day. A slightly different perspective.



I doubt I will get out on the water this week, but every day brings spring closer. Perhaps we will have another warm spell soon. Stand by.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lake Talquin

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore...
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
~W. B. Yeats

I had to be in Tallahassee fairly early this morning so I decided to take the kayak along and, a bit nippy though it was, spend a short time on Lake Talquin. I haven't been there for a while.

I frightened a pair of scaups as I came around an outcropping of land and they flew off.



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The wind was still and the water was calm, but the air was a little colder than I (a Florida wimp) like it. This egret also looked a bit chilled, as it stood with one leg lifted into its chest to warm it.



I saw an osprey soaring overhead and watched it to see where it would land. This is a lot easier to do now that there are fewer leaves on the trees! I spotted it and paddled over. It seemed to be intent enough at watching the water that it did not mind my presence below it.



The great blue herons on this lake are very timid; I saw a few but they flew off before I could get any photos of them. The egrets are not quite as shy. This one fussed at me from a dock.



This was one of those mornings when it seemed odder to not see wildlife in the woods than it would have been to see some, whether a deer or a raccoon. With the leaves gone and much of the growth on the forest floor gone for the winter, the shoreline looks serene.



I didn't stay long; the air wasn't warming up fast enough. Still, it was a fun little outing.

I'll get back out again when it warms up just a tad. Stand by.