Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Great Day for Paddling

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
~Henry Van Dyke

We have had a few days of lower humidity lately and it has been a joy to be outside! Our puppy can now be left at large in the house instead of in his pen, making me feel less guilty for leaving him. So off I went back to the Wacissa.

My first bird of the day was the great blue heron that hangs out near the boat ramp. This time it was doing a passable imitation of a swan...



Shortly after seeing him, I passed a green heron in an open area of surface greenery. This one's coloration was unusually subdued; I'm not sure if that is an indication of gender or age, or maybe just genetics.



Last time I was on this river I saw many, many female wood ducks (but no males). I spotted what I assumed was two more females at the edge of the river. However, when I had the photos in the computer and could take a closer look, they look more like males that don't have all of their adult coloring yet. The females don't have the red on the beak.



One of them turned to look at me as I passed.



Several of the birds that I saw were busy preening. This juvenile ibis was in a tree and hard at it,



while this tricolored heron was making himself presentable on the river.



I was thrilled later to see a limpkin....who was also preening.



That one stopped long enough to pose for me.



A friend of mine is coming down from Indiana in November to do some paddling and camping with me. Paddlers in Indiana never have to consider alligators when they cross surface growth in their boats or when they pull up to the shore to get out and stretch. Hopefully the gators will be staying warm off the water when she is here.... And speaking of gators, I think this is the same one that is in the previous post, on the same log.



I went as far as my usual warm-weather turning-around spot, around two miles downstream. There was little wind and the current was slow, so paddling back upstream was easy, as was stopping to take photos. This female woody was posing nicely on a stump protruding from the water.



I came to several all-white juvenile little blue herons on this trip. This one was very tolerant of my presence, even when I got quite close.



Shortly after I took that, but before I had left the area, it took off and flew a few feet in front of me. I managed to get a photo of the landing.



I saw many juvenile night herons on this trip, both in trees and flying by. Or fishing at the water level.



This female woody and her brood were in the same general area as the ones in the previous post, so it may be the same family. This time they were swimming, though.



When she saw me getting closer, she drew them together and headed for the safety of the shoreline (I'm harmless! Really!).



After passing Blue Spring, I came to a more typically bright-colored green heron fishing from a branch over the water.



It saw me and moved to a higher branch.



When I was almost back to the boat ramp I saw the resident great blue heron again. This time sticking its neck out....



I was out almost four hours and it was the most pleasant paddling trip of the summer so far. I hope to repeat it soon. Stand by.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rain-free on the Wacissa

I would not exchange my leisure hours
for all the wealth in the world.
~Comte de Mirabeau

I got an earlier start than usual this time, though the rain chance was predicted to be only 20%. I had been rained on within an hour of launching on my last two paddling trips. This one was much better! (The heavy downpour didn't begin until I pulled into our carport upon arriving home...that's more like it!)

The water level is very low right now, barely ankle-deep for some distance from the boat ramp.

This night heron was well-hidden in low branches of a tree near the ramp--I almost didn't see it.



I drifted slowly downstream. I spotted an egret on the west side of the river so I crossed over to see if I could get a photo of it. As I got closer, I noticed that it had something in its beak. It appeared to be a small salamander. Yum.



This was near where I got the great blue heron photos on my previous trip, and it was there once again this time.



In fact, it was standing in that same spot three hours later when I passed it going back upstream.

While I was taking the photos of the egret with its catch, two canoes passed me with very loud paddlers in them. I decided to wait until they were farther downstream to continue. They ended up going into Blue Spring, so I passed it by this time.

Turtles on this river are normally very shy, much more so than those on the Wakulla. These stayed on their perch while I went by, though.



When I got to the little dock just past Blue Spring, I found a juvenile night heron drying its wings on it.



It folded them in right after I took that photo but stayed put. I continued drifting downstream. As usual, there were many snowy egrets fishing in the surface vegetation on both sides. This one was flitting around from spot to spot, only going a few feet with each little flight.



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I moved on and left it alone to its flitting. There were a lot of female wood ducks on the water on this day. I was lucky to pass this female, sitting with its little ones:



The tricolored herons were also out, and of course I can't resist getting pictures of them when they stand there and pose so nicely for me as I drift by...



This wood duck was swimming all by herself in the middle of the river. I decided to process this as a black-and-white--seemed somehow appropriate for it.



In contrast to that one, a little later I came to these three woodies perched together on a log in front of a reedy tussock. I like this image because it so well represents the look of this river on a sunny day.



This black crowned night heron was very intent on something it saw in the water and ignored me as I sat there taking several photos of it.



Similarly, this juvenile night heron never even looked up at me as I passed by, just kept its eyes on its prey.



I turned around after a couple of hours and headed back upstream at a slow pace. I was pleasantly surprised to see this ibis perched on a weathered stump at the edge of the water--these are somewhat scarce this time of year.



I have posted several images here over the past few months of juvenile little blue herons getting their adult coloration. They start out white and slowly turn to the mature blue-gray color. The photos I have posted have shown them with just the earliest dark feathers--this one depicts the other end of the process. Only a little of the white color remains here:



I came to a couple of juvenile purple gallinules on a small vegetation island in the middle of the river. As happened last time I encountered these, they were not shy at all.



More woodies were swimming together along the river's edge.



It's always fun to find different species of birds hanging out together, like this ibis and snowy egret. If they were comparing beak lengths, the ibis wins.



As I was approaching Duck Island, which is near the boat ramp, I saw this little gator half-hidden as it soaked up the sunshine.



And then I was at the boat ramp. I'm guessing that school must be back in session, since the crowd that is usually on the grass and in the water on a sunny, warm day like this was absent. That makes it a lot easier to get out of the boat and get it to the car....

It was so great to have so much time on the water with no threat from the sky. Hurricane season is upon us and so paddle trip planning is a day-to-day exercise, but hopefully I will be able to get back out again soon. Stand by.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

August Paddling

I'm singing in the rain,
Just singing in the rain;
What a wonderful feeling,
I'm happy again.
~Arthur Freed

I rarely go to the Wacissa on Saturdays, but puppy times call for puppy measures. On Saturdays DH can stay with Sawyer, the new puppy, so he doesn't have to be penned while we are both away. So off I went.

I left home under blue skies with a few white puffy clouds. I arrived at the river 35 minutes later under a sky totally obscured by slate-gray clouds. The rain started after slightly less than an hour on the water...but! This was not a thunderstorm, this was a summer shower. Paddling under lightning is scary; paddling in a silent summer shower is wonderful. I haven't felt that cool (weather-wise) for a long time. It only lasted about 10 minutes, if that, and the sun poked through the clouds for a while after the rain stopped. More threatening skies were visible to the south, and so I did not get much past Blue Spring yet again, and my paddling time was only 2 hours. But it was a great 2 hours!

The snowy egrets are still plentiful near the boat ramp. This one posed nicely for me as I passed by.



I drifted downstream on the left side of the river. Soon, though, I spotted a great blue heron on the other side and so I paddled over that way. There was a nice group over there--the heron and a juvenile little blue heron and a snowy egret. The great blue heron caught my attention first.



The young little blue heron (they are white as juveniles and get their darker feathers as they mature) was walking in the water behind the great blue heron.



There was a snowy egret at the end of the log that the great blue was on. While I was focusing the camera on that one to get a photo, I noticed another snowy coming in from the right and I turned to watch it approach. It seemed very upset at the presence of the first, and swooped in, scaring my subject away and staying quite puffed up about it. I sat there taking a lot of photos as it kept its crest extended while claiming that spot.



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When it settled down, I continued on downstream. Along with the snowies, there are a lot of tricolored herons on the river now. I post many photos of them here, but I can't resist taking more when I see them.



A great egret was fishing on the right side of the river.



It left as I approached,



and soared away.



I turned around right after that and headed back upstream.

I came to what I think was that same great blue heron (he was a big guy), though in a different spot. This time he was preening. I stopped to watch.



This was a very impressive bird.



Nearby was another snowy, in a sort of odd pose.



I left them and continued upstream. Thunder had started to rumble and the dark clouds were nudging aside clearer sky so it was time to get back to the boat ramp.

I had missed several juvenile night herons when they flew out of the trees before I had spotted them. This one was down near the water and held very still as I went by.



I was approaching another snowy that was fishing in some surface greenery. I decided I had enough snowy images for the day and so I was not going to take the camera out for this one. But it sat there so placidly as I got closer and closer that I had to take its picture.



After taking that, I continued passing it slowly. It never flew away.

As I got closer to the ramp, I finally (finally!) saw a family of common moorhens--two adults and several little fuzzy babies. I had been afraid I would miss them entirely this year.



And that was it for this trip. Paddling in August in Florida is similar to paddling in January in Ohio--the weather just isn't conducive to such an activity. In our case, we have a strong chance of thunderstorms every day (and they can come up fast),and it's also just so hot now. So bear with me if this blog does not get updated as regularly during this month and the first part of September. It's temporary. And I will be back out. Stand by.