Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tricolored Herons

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind
than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
~George Santayana

We are close to our best paddling season...but not quite there yet. To alleviate the cabin fever syndrome that had begun to set in, I recently took a short trip to Panama City (photos are posted on the Photo Miscellanea blog), but without the kayak. Given that it looks like it will be several days until the next possible paddling day, it is once again time to reach into the unposted-photos bag and pull out a few that are ready to see the light of day.

One of the birds I have missed the most on the river this winter is the tricolored heron. So I have decided to devote this post to photos I have taken of them over the past year. They are truly fantastic birds. Though smaller than the great blue herons, they look equally prehistoric. Their coloring is fantastic.

The photos don't require any explanations or captions. They were all taken on the Wacissa. And so without further ado, I give you.....The Tricolored Heron (imagine fanfare here):



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I eagerly await the arrival of these beautiful birds back on the river! In the meantime, I'll let you know when I get back out in the kayak. Stand by.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thinking Spring

Keep your face always toward the sunshine
-and shadows will fall behind you.
~Walt Whitman

What a gorgeous day! Warm weather at last! I headed out to the Wacissa, as usual.

We still have at least a few more weeks until the birds return in any number. It's still so odd to see so few on the river, but some of them call it home year-round.

I followed an egret for a while downstream. It would fly just a bit ahead of me and land in the grasses, and then fly a bit farther ahead as I approached. This made for a lot of landing and taking-off photos!



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At one point it let me pass it, and then came from behind and flew by.



The small gator was back at Blue Spring. There was a guy at the spring who had come to dive it, but he decided otherwise when he saw the gator...

I saw the large flock of ibis that were depicted in the previous post. And, as always lately, small groups of juveniles feeding on the little vegetation islands scattered throughout the river.



While I was parked in more vegetation photographing those ibis, who were to my right, I saw a yellowlegs coming in for a landing on my left.



I moved on past them, paddling back upstream at this point. I saw a most welcome river resident swimming along the edge.



Only one this time, no other otters were with him (her?).

A juvenile little blue heron was swooping around ahead of me, flitting from island to island.



It settled on one nearby so I stopped to watch it. It faced me and fluffed its feathers.



In an earlier post I was wondering why the juvenile little blue herons on this river have stayed white for so long. Perhaps their color change is dictated in some way by climate? At any rate, when this one turned to the side, I saw that it was showing signs of some color change!



I left it alone and continued upstream. This egret was perched in the middle of the river--it looks like it is squawking but in fact had apparently just eaten something a bit larger than it could easily swallow; mouth open, it repeatedly stretched its neck to try to get whatever it had eaten down. It flew away after I took this and I noticed it continued this behavior for a while.



I can't wait for the green herons and tricolored herons to return, and the wood ducks to emerge from the woods. But for now I am very grateful for nice weather! Hopefully the paddling trips will be more frequent. Stand by.

Friday, February 06, 2009

February

In the depths of winter I finally learned
there was in me an invincible summer.
~Albert Camus

Last night the predicted low temperature in a town in Minnesota was to be 27 degrees. Last night in north Florida our low temperature was 17 degrees.

Needless to say, it has been less than ideal paddling weather. I did get out a while back on a warmer day. I didn't get many photos and so I did not post that trip. However, I've decided to post it now, since it's been a while since I have updated this blog!

The first bird spotted was an osprey, in a very popular tree (for birds) near the boat ramp. I have seen many osprey perched there, as well as a juvenile bald eagle recently.



I drifted downstream into only a light breeze. Again there were very few snowy egrets but several juvenile little blue herons (and still none showing signs of adult coloring...). This one came in for a landing on a branch nearby.



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As I mentioned, I didn't get many photos; another problem was that most of the photos I did get were of the same thing. There was a very large flock of ibis, a mix of adults and juveniles, that was swooping around from tree to tree. It was very impressive to see, and I was just snapping away at them. While swooping around, they landed in a tree near me, but shortly after flew from that. Here is a sampling of the many images I came home with.



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As always, the yellowlegs were out and about. This one flew by in front of me.



It was a short trip that yielded only a few photos, but it was wonderfully quiet on the river. The small gator was at Blue Spring; still no sign of the big one.

It appears that warmer weather may be returning (at least warmer than in Minnesota) soon, and so perhaps I can get back out. I hope so, I am getting just a touch of cabin fever here...

Stand by.