Sunday, November 04, 2012

Not Paddling at the Wildlife Refuge

I had in mind a message, although I
hope it doesn't intrude too badly, persuading
Americans, and especially Southerners,
of the critical importance of land and our
vanishing natural environment and wildlife.
~E. O. Wilson

We just love coming to this place, there's always stuff to see. The water level in the wetlands area of the refuge is very low now--an in fact, one of the ponds is now just a grassy area. But the water level is fine nearer to the Gulf (I think they can control some of the inland water levels). This grebe had a lot of water to swim around in!

We usually walk over past the lighthouse to the shoreline beyond it first. There were little sand crabs running all over the beach area. I noticed these two little boys in the grass, probably in a muddy area, probably looking for more crabs. I wonder what the older one is saying to the younger...

We next walked around the big pond on the other side of the lighthouse. There were a few pelicans on the pilings in the Gulf, as usual, and several egrets and herons in the pond. And these ducks.

We continued on around, passing the boat ramp and heading back to the road to complete the circle. This great blue heron was standing in the grass near the water. I'm not sure if I like the bird better in this photo or the texture of the grass around him.

As we were nearing the lighthouse again, I spotted this egret on a little patch of grass in the middle of a channel.

I was able to get closer to it a little farther up the road. It was getting a bit breezy by this time.

Time for a little feather-fluffing....

...and maybe a bit more...

And then we were back to the car; time to go. This is a wonderful spot--if you live near it or will be traveling or camping near it, it's worth taking the time to visit.

Speaking of camping, I am finally getting back to it this week, without the kayak on this trip. I'll be out paddling again when I get back. Stand by.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Paddling Again! Back to the Wacissa

Wherever a man may happen to turn,
whatever a man may undertake,
he will always end up by returning to that path
which nature has marked out for him.

Anybody still out there reading this blog? I've been gone from it forever, it seems. I hope you had a good summer! Ours was sweltering hot, although that is no longer a condition reserved for Florida. I had an interesting summer; DH and I bought a house in the mountains of North Carolina, where we plan to retire sometime between next week and two years from now (depends). The purchase was a long process, but we are very happy with it and plan to visit our new house often until we make the Big Move out of Florida.

I took a long break from paddling because I had been going so often that there was a sameness to it--in large part, of course, because I don't have a lot of destination choices close to home. So I end up mostly paddling the Wacissa, which is a wonderful river, but too much of even the best things is still too much.

But now I've been away long enough that I'm back to wanting to get on the water. And so I did.

I was astounded at the low water level. It seems like we have had a lot of rain this summer, but apparently not enough to raise the water. While it was low, it was still beautifully crystal clear. There were a lot of paddlers on the water for a midweek day.

And it was strangely bird-free. I recall this happening once before--a period of paddling trips with no birds, and then they were all back. We must be close to migration time.

Given the lack of shorebirds, my first photo was of a little bird that was flitting around the branches next to the river.

I rarely take scenic photos on the river, but took this one of a spot near the head spring where there is usually some sort of heron or duck hanging out.

And the turtles were out and about! They have always been shy on this river, but this one was so far above the water that it just opted to take its chances and stay up while I drifted by.

I came to these two little cuties. At first I thought they were grebes, but now I think maybe they are young moorhens. 

I did see a juvenile little blue heron but it was very shy and I couldn't get close enough for a photo. I was excited to see a great blue heron shortly before I turned around to head back to the boat ramp, but it was even more skittish.

And then when I got close to Duck Island I saw another heron. I approached this one very slowly and it stayed still. The breeze had picked up and so I had to do some maneuvering to stay in position for a photo.

I was sure it was going to fly at any time, which would be fine, I could get some photos of it in flight. Except it didn't leave. And the wind was blowing me toward it. I took a close-up of it,

and at that point was about to run into the shoreline. I had hoped it would stay there long enough for me to back up and still get a flight photo if it took off, but while I was paddling away from it, off it went. I thanked it for the photo and continued on to the boat ramp.

I had a fun surprise when I met a blog reader at the ramp; that's only happened once before (they have to somehow figure out who I am, since it doesn't work the other way around). We chatted for quite a while. Great ending for my return to paddling!

And now I can't resist a very brief foray into shameless promotion (ok, boasting). National Geographic has just published another large hardback book of photographs. The book is called Life In Color. One of my photographs is in it (with credit to me, of course)! It's an egret image--it's in the "white" section. I probably don't have to tell you how thrilling it was for me to see it in such a book.

When this pesky Sandy storm is out of the way, I will get back to the river; maybe the birds will be back. Stand by.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Rookery at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, FL

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water
exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or
an evening saunter... to be thrilled by
the stars at night; to be elated over
a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring -
these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
~John Burroughs

This was my third trip to the rookery; I missed last year. I was lucky for the first time to make this visit after eggs had hatched in one of the nests (I'll probably get back again later to see more hatchlings). Since these little egrets are the main difference between this post and others from the rookery, let's start with them.



And then it was feeding time, you can see the adult's beak coming down at the top of the photo.

I don't know if it shows up in the photos at this size, but I was so interested to see that the babies' bodies were pretty much green! Camouflage?

The rookery was filled with birds--many egrets in addition to wood storks, roseate spoonbills, tricolored herons, and snowy egrets. I didn't see any night herons or green herons on this trip, perhaps they will show up later. The ones without hatchlings were busy building nests and putting on mating displays. This snowy was very busy flying back and forth getting sticks for its nest:



And he gets back to his nest area with it.

This wood stork watched me watching them.

An egret returns to its mate in its nest,

and gets the usual fussy reception when it gets there.

On both of my previous trips, the spoonbills were nesting far on the other side of the water and mostly out of view. I was pleasantly surprised to find this time that they were building their nests all along the boardwalk, within a few feet of arm's reach.



This one watched from high in a tree:

Of course the egrets all have their breeding plumage, long wispy feathers extending down their backs. They are all absolutely stunning.


This one was doing the mating dance:

As was this one:

This snowy was perched looking very fluffy.

Here comes a snowy walking down the branch --

It's so great to be so close to them! I took quite a few photos that are basically portraits of the birds.



The tricolored herons were mostly sitting on nests obscured by leaves and branches. This one was very displeased about another heron that was getting a little too close.

It was another great trip to the rookery, and hopefully not my last for this spring. Stand by.