Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lake Glenville (aka Thorpe Reservoir) near Cashiers, North Carolina

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing- absolutely 
nothing- half so much worth doing as 
simply messing about in boats. 
~Kenneth Grahame

What? A paddling post on this paddling blog? Inconceivable! 

Duke Power finished their new boat ramps, and we headed to Lake Glenville to try out the one (actually there are two) at the Pine Creek Boating Access Area.

It would seem that there wasn't a paddler to be found in the crew that designed and built these ramps, which consist solely of corrugated cement with very large rocks on either side. About as kayak/canoe-unfriendly as you can get. But once you have launched and torn a bit more of your hull, the lake is a joy. Here's the view right after launching:

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And looking back toward the ramp area--

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This part of this lake is a series of fingers and coves, which I like better than Chatuge, it's a more cozy feel even though the lake is large.

If you pass that boat ramp and continue on the road (coming from the Franklin direction), you will come to a park that has also been renovated. The park has a large picnic area and a sandy beach. This is how it looks from the water as you paddle by.

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There is no good place to launch from that park. The sandy beach area has a large floating tube-like thing going all the way around it, which you cannot get over or under in a kayak. This would have been an ideal place for a canoe or kayak launch area, simply moving the tube thing over 3' or so would have given us a sandy bottom. If you continue on the road, you will come to yet another ramp, also corrugated cement with no paddler accommodations. All three of these areas have restrooms.

Looking straight out from the beach area, you see an island with a sandy perimeter.

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More on this later.

We were paddling along, enjoying the scenery and the cool breeze coming off the water, when I spotted what seemed to be shallow shoreline up ahead. Most of this lake has deep edges with the greenery coming right down to the water. I thought this looked like a great area to pull the boat up to and maybe get out for a swim. But no..... what looked like a sandy bottom was actually solid rock, more of which came into sight as we paddled around a curve.

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I've never seen anything like that coming out of a lake, it was interesting. And the rock continued for quite some distance along the shore. No getting out there!

We followed the shoreline for another hour or so, with a stop on the water to have some lunch. It was a warm sunny day. We came to a house (there are far more houses along the shoreline here than where we launch on Lake Chatuge) with large For Sale signs both on the lawn and on the dock. And just beyond the dock, an actual sandy beach. There were no indications the house was inhabited, and no signs warning us to keep off the property, and the beach was TOO inviting....

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So we pulled up and DH got out to stretch his legs while I got out to loll around in the cool water for a little while. As we were getting ready to leave, a pontoon boat headed for the house. We were sure it was going to be the owners, asking us just what we were doing. But it didn't come all the way to the house. A woman in it was watching us with great interest; I imagine she knew the people who owned the house and was debating whether to investigate this trespassing further. But since we were clearly leaving, they moved on. BTW, I found the house on the realtor's website when we got home. The asking price is $2.4 mil. (Call now! Don't let this one get away!)

We decided to head back to the boat ramp. Remember that island? I wanted to get back in the water once more before we headed home, so we headed over to the island. DH is not the swimming type, so he paddled off to investigate a smaller island nearby, while I pulled up to this one.

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That water feels wonderful! If you get out of the kayak alongside Lake Santeetlah, near Robbinsville, you will have little minnows swimming around you. Oddly, no minnows in this water, at least not where we were.

I took the camera into the water (this is the waterproof camera, not the big one....) when I saw DH coming back.

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As I took that, he was saying "You brought a change of clothes, right?" Ah yes, we had made the trip in his beloved truck and he was concerned about the seats getting wet. (Not to worry, I had made sure we had a lot of towels for just such a situation.)

It was a good day, and we will be returning to that lake again. It's going to take me awhile to get used to paddling with no shorebirds to be seen, but having the mountain backdrop helps a lot. And no gators! I think I will pick up a swim noodle to take along next time.

Stand by.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Update on the Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), or TRES, are 
beautiful, acrobatic, brave birds.
(Sialis.org)


We decided to take a peek in the tree swallows' nest box. Eggs in a nice cozy nest! They spend a lot of time coming and going from the nest. 

I decided to take the camera out and see if I could have any luck getting more photos of them. I did catch this one as it flew to the nest:

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And getting closer...

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They are such striking-looking birds!

We plan to keep an eye (and ear) on that house, hopefully the babies will hatch and then fledge without incident.

Stand by!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Making Baby Tree Swallows

Everyone likes birds. What wild creature
is more accessible to our eyes and
ears, as close to us and everyone
in the world, as universal as a bird?
~David Attenborough

About six weeks ago or so we put up a bluebird nest box, after seeing a pair flitting around the yard. Less than 60 seconds after finishing getting it set up, a bluebird landed on it.

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We watched the pair move in, carry nesting materials into the box. They don't seem to mind our presence or the sound of the lawnmower.

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Since that was such a success, a couple weeks later we set up another nest box far away at the other side of the front yard. The bluebirds in the first box showed interest in that one as well, occasionally going into it. But they quit doing that, apparently settling for their first choice. We named them Pete and Gladys.

We are now hearing peeping sounds coming from the first nest box, so it seems that a family has been started!

Another week or so went by with no activity at the new nest box, until a pair of birds we had never seen before started landing on top of it and going inside. We pulled out all my bird ID books and discovered that they are tree swallows. They are really striking birds. They swoop around, and have been seen carrying nesting material into the house.

They are difficult to photograph, they never seem to hold still at all. I went out again today to try to capture them with the camera. We named them Ruby and Richard. One of them spent a great deal of time in the box, poking its head out the door and checking out the new neighborhood.

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There is a large wire that runs across the yard, over the house (I think it's the phone line). Many birds use that wire as a resting place; it's also over a couple of bird feeders that are popular. While I was sitting outside with the camera, I noticed that Ruby and Richard were both on the wire just a short distance above and in front of me. One of them was flip-flapping over the other. I sat there (camera on my lap) wondering what they were doing. Oh! Wait! Making little tree swallows! So I whipped the camera up and was able to get some pictures. 

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IMAGES CONTAIN GRAPHIC MATERIAL THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR SMALL CHILDREN. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

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And then off Richard goes, with a cheery "See ya!" I'm sure.

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So! Maybe we will soon be hearing peeping sounds from that nest as well.

I am writing this on a computer next to a window with a clear view of that phone line and Ruby and Richard's house. As I was writing that last paragraph, they had another session of procreating. Randy little birds, aren't they?

It's getting close to paddling time here, and we found some new lakes last year that we want to try out.

Stand by.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Huntington Beach State Park near Murrells Inlet, SC

Happiness is when what you think, 
what you say, and what you do
are in harmony.
~Mahatma Gandhi

We have been in NC for almost a year now, and I don't think I have seen an egret since we got here. Unthinkable! I have also missed the beach, so I planned a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC (not camping this time) with the idea of visiting Huntington Beach SP, which was said to have shorebirds.

It did not disappoint!! I can't tell you the joy I felt at finally pointing my camera at a long-legged wader again! Felt very natural and right.

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Shortly after you enter the park, you drive across a causeway, with water on either side. That's where the birds were on this day. After crossing the water, there is a parking lot, making it simple to walk back along the bridge to see and photograph the birds.

This egret was flying toward my general area, where there was another egret.

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Uh oh, he spots me!

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I really like that image because it shows the great expanse of their wings. I guess I was considered harmless, as he went on flying by. Note the green nares (area around the eyes), an indication that it is breeding season for them.

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A little farther down the causeway I came to a great blue heron stalking fish along the edge of the water.

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It's fairly easy to tell when they spot something and are ready to snatch it out of the water.

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I noticed that despite all these gorgeous birds flying around, the majority of people were pointing their cameras at something else in the water. As you know if you have read much of this blog, this subject is very "been there, done that" for me, but for old time's sake I did the same.

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That's something I don't miss at all from Florida....

I hope I can get back around the big birds again before another year has passed. If not, I can focus on the small ones. A pair of tree swallows has just taken up residence in one of the nest boxes in our front yard, and we have bluebirds with hatched babies in the other one. I plan to aim the camera at them soon.

Stand by.