Monday, January 25, 2010

Not Paddling at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (again)

Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and follow.

Yes, another non-paddling post! This would have been a fine paddling day but I need to replace the electrical connection on the kayak trailer before I use it again (involving a long drive to civilization to find such an exotic item); therefore, I decided to take a drive out to the refuge to see what I could see.

There were ducks of various kinds. Lots and lots of ducks. This bufflehead was very striking in the blue water, and swimming alone.

I walked around the inland pond near the lighthouse. This widgeon was in with a few coots.

Then I came to a larger gathering of ducks.

And then, at the first bend in the trail as it circles the pond, I came to a very large gathering of mostly coots, with others mixed in.

I continued walking along the trail between the pond and the channel that leads to the boat ramp. When I got about halfway along it, I saw a large bird swooping over the grasses at the far side. That is the side next to the park road. The large bird was an eagle. I was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time, whereas some lucky person walking on the road had a wonderful view.

I watched the eagle as it hovered over the grass and dove in, repeating this process several times.



It then circled over the water.

I walked a little farther and then turned to see if the eagle was still in the area looking for lunch. I saw it coming toward me, carrying what I assumed was a fish that it had plucked from the pond. It flew nearly directly overhead and I took a number of photos of it. After it had gone, I reviewed the photos in the camera's LCD screen. Hmmm...the eagle had been successful indeed....unfortunately it was not a fish it had been going after, but rather one of the hundreds of coots in the pond. While I got a vivid photo of it in flight with its catch, it's not a photo I want to post here. Funny how I would have been fine if the eagle was returning to its nest to feed on a fish but I'm not fine when it is a duck....

So I walked on.

A few ducks flew overhead.

Then a few more.

Then a lot more.

I reached the park road and began walking along it back to the parking lot. This egret was perched near the water on the other side from the pond.

I got back to my car and began slowly driving out of the refuge. There was a guy taking photos of something at a little grassy picnic spot near one of the many small ponds along the road. Of course I stopped to see what had interested him. Turned out that a gator was sunning itself in the grass near the water.

The guy (David, I believe he said his name was) asked if I had gotten the photo I wanted, since he wanted to get closer. I said great! I'll get him getting you! And he went in for a closer photo. I thought it might be better to just invest in a bigger lens...

Then a woman (Priscilla) showed up, and there were three of us and the gator. She set up her tripod and we talked while she took a few photos. Then David decided he wanted to get even closer. I think at this point the gator was feeling seriously outnumbered by annoying humans and it dove into the water. We talked for a while more, and Priscilla left. The gator swam out and then back, and then got out of the water again and lay on the grass right at the edge. When I left, David was going in for more photos of it. I guess we would have heard by now if he didn't survive the second session.

I made one more stop on my way out, unable to resist this great blue heron standing in the sun.

I'm off on a camping (but not paddling) trip tomorrow and so won't be paddling this week. Hopefully I can get my replacement part for the trailer soon and get back out next week. Stand by.


SophieMae said...

DAWG! I am in total AWE of those eagle shots! And DS so wants to see the captured coot shot. We've seen one snatch a gull off an oyster bed. They're definitely opportunists.

It's been way too long since I've visited the refuge. Cold and rain kinda sapped my gumption. It's pretty nice out today, though, so maybe this week.

S N B said...

Great eagle shots. There was some footage last night on TV of an eagle getting a coot. (So are they like "sitting ducks," or what?) I know. Coots are not ducks. The ducks in your third shot are redheads. You can see why they are so named.

Peggy said...

I will gladly share the captured coot shot with anyone who wants to see it, just send me your email and I'll send it along! Good capture but a little too much raw nature for me to want to post!

Yes, coots are not ducks, they are actually rails...but close enough for me to call it a duck!

Sandra said...

i have been out for a couple of days so almost missed this one. I am back bloggin
the gator is NEAT. the man is a nut. the water in the first 2 pictures looks like i could put my hand in and get it wet. great shots once again. i doubt you ever get a bad shot.

SophieMae said...

Hey, DS says thanks ever so for offering to share. The email is
And may God bless!

Robert V. Sobczak said...

I flew over two eagle's nests today. One of them had two eggs, and both had eagles in them.

katney said...

You get such incredible shots--paddle or no paddle. (And you inspired me to get a better camera than what I had.)

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