Friday, January 01, 2010

On the Water Again....

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Ah, finally! The weather cooperated and there was only a minor glitch at home with the endless kitchen counter/sink project, so I dusted off the kayak, topped off the air in the trailer tires, and headed to the Wacissa.

There were not many others at the river; two canoes, a kayak, and a fishing boat were the only other vessels on the water. Unfortunately, as often happens this time of year, the birds were also scarce.

Egrets usually look very large and imposing when they stand in the shallows at the river's edge. This one, flying by me as I drifted downstream, seems dwarfed by the large cypress and hanging Spanish moss.

That same egret circled around behind me and went back downstream, landing nearby in a patch of surface greenery.

I continued on to Blue Spring. The water level is remarkably high now, no doubt the result of our recent rainfall. I noticed this when I launched, but didn't realize the extent of it until I was in the Blue Spring inlet. I think it is conservative to estimate the rise at 6 to 8 inches. The water at the spring itself was dark, not blue but not particularly murky. Very odd.

As I was leaving the spring, I was watching the shoreline to the right, hoping to spot a raccoon. What I did see was something that was motionless and was either a juvenile night heron or part of a tree stump. Turned out to be a well-camouflaged heron, sound asleep. I took two photos; the shutter sound must have alerted it to my presence and it opened its eyes. So I took a third photo of it and then left it in peace.

I continued drifting downstream, listening to the hawks screeching overhead and the belted kingfishers chipping from the trees. I spotted yet another egret ahead. My first thought was that I had enough egret photos, but I decided to take this one anyway. This is such a typical sight on this river no matter what the time of year. The surface leaves, the grassy tussocks, the cypress trees along the bank, the flat, still water.

The bird left, probably in search of solitude.

I turned around and let the breeze carry me slowly back upstream. I like to paddle close to the shoreline, since that gives you a chance, particularly at this time of year, to peer into the woods (while still having all of the river to your other side). I was moving very slowly along the east bank past the Blue Spring inlet when I saw a lot of bird activity in the trees over the water. The first birds that caught my eye were two pileated woodpeckers, their red, white, and black coloring standing out vividly. There was another bird moving about in the green leaves of a berry bush, and some smaller birds flitting through the branches. I watched the pileated woodpeckers and moved in to try to get some photos of them. In a moment, though, those woodpeckers were forgotten when I caught a brief glimpse of the bird in the berry bush. What was that? I had never seen a bird like that before. I wedged the bow of the boat into some surface growth and kept the camera focused on the bits and pieces of the bird that occasionally popped out amongst the leaves and branches. I kept taking pictures but could not get one of the bird in its entirety since the bush was so thick and it was staying well within in. It was an absolutely stunning bird. When I got home, I looked it up and discovered that it was a northern flicker. This is apparently a fairly common bird to see, but not to me! So that was fun. I got this picture of its dotted chest through an opening in the branches:

Later it popped up at the top of the bush and I got this:

I really like this bird; it may be my new favorite non-wader. It's one of those creatures that looks like it was made by a committee.

It eventually flew off and so I continued upstream to the boat ramp. As I approached the head spring area, this egret flew by and I couldn't resist getting just one more photo of a white bird.

Paddling trips are few and far between, as you have noticed. For now, camping is taking the place of paddling most weeks--hopefully soon the two can be done together. Predictions for next week have the overnight lows in the mid-twenties and daytime highs in the mid-forties, so paddling is definitely on hold until that cold front passes.

Stand by.


Beverly said...

Beautiful, as usual.

Cowboygrrl said...

Incredible photos. I started my first blog today, and yours is one that was an inspiration for me to start.

Sandra said...

the flicker is just beautiful, I have never seen one either. love the comment about made by a committee. ha ha perfect landing should be the title for the egret. looks like a perfect day to me. hope you were not to cold

Dave said...

Love the night heron's eye. Has a "you woke me for this?" look

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Wow! I love the first one of the great egret (?) flying behind the cypress. I'd love to have that one framed on my wall. All of them are great actually.