Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WHERE EAGLES FLY; AND OTHER BIRDS

click on photos to enlarge them
It's 5:00 PM and I'm out in the woods with all three of the kids.  It's a perfect day and a nice fallen log presented itself for my repose.  The guys finally got tired after running, swimming and blasting up and down the trail full speed.  They needed a rest break as did I.

Every now and then a day happens along that turns out to be special.  Today has been one of those days.  The morning met me with warm sunshine.  The boat was still hooked to the truck from yesterday so, I thought I might go to the Little Tennessee River and check on the Bald Eagle nest.
I launched the Gheenoe at Tellico Dam and idled out of the cove and down the side of the river.  The water became very shallow and I had to steer hard right to avoid an enormous mud flat.
This would keep me about a hundred and fifty feet away from the tree that held the eagles nest.
Something made me glance up and to my delight and surprise, an adult Bald Eagle was perched on a limb staring down at me.

I realize that everyone has seen pictures and movies of Bald Eagles but, one gains an entirely new appreciation for that bird when face to face and eye to eye with one.
I snapped picture after picture and floated directly into the mud.
Fortunately I carry a seven foot long push pole for just such emergencies.  I needed to float further down stream to put the sun at a greater distance from behind the eagles.  This is tricky business steering a boat and trying to position it properly for good photography.
I don't have a polarizer for this lens yet as they are very expensive so I have to continuously move my vantage point to keep the sun at bay.
The adult eagle I'm photographing here was magnificent.  He totally ignored me.  I posed no threat to him.  I wish the mud flat was not in front of me or I could have closed the distance between us another fifty feet.
The current took the Gheenoe slowly down stream toward but in front of the eagles tree and nest.
He bows his head to me.  Or, maybe he knows what's happening to our country and he is apologizing. 
Stand proud my friend and hold your head high.  You have nothing to apologies for.  It is we who owe you a debt of gratitude for instilling pride in this great country you represent.
That's the spirit old fellow.  I've watched you sire four sets of youngsters to carry on your blood line.   They will continue to inspire the American people and represent the cause of freedom when you are no more.
That's it great one.  Lift your head up.  You bow to no one.
Stay aloft and continue to be the beacon of freedom that so many have suffered for.  Your strength and noble presence inspires us to struggle on and maintain the hard won freedom that so many were willing to lay down their lives for.
The current took the Gheenoe slowly downstream toward and in front of the eagle's tree and nest.  I stared intently at the nest as it came into view.  There was no indication that it contained babies.  But, wait!  As the boat moved further past the nest and tree;  a little tiny head appeared above the edge of the nest.
Junior was there.  I took photo after photo.
He was such a small target even for the 500 mm lens.
I could see only one baby.  Another was probably nestled down in the bottom of the snug nest.  Mother and father were both keeping an eye on me.  At times they would circle me and shriek loudly.
Suddenly Junior stretched his neck up and looked directly at me.  What a sweetie!
I hope this little guy has a brother or sister.  I've never seen less than two emerge from this nest over the years.  But then, it's a dangerous world for them.
I could sense the adults becoming nervous and I decided to let the boat float on down stream and away.
I had to take a few parting shots.

Take care majestic one.  You are held in the highest esteem by those who know what the bell of freedom sounds like.
Good luck to you my friend.  Stay safe.  There are many who will watch over you and yours.  I know I will.  I promise.
Fly away great one.  Fly proud.  You are our symbol of freedom.  Stay strong and be safe, my friend.
I could sense the adults becoming nervous and I decided to let the boat float on down stream and away.  At a save distance I fired up the motor and sped down stream.  There was another place of interest I wanted to check on.
It appears the Heron rookery is healthy and full, to say the least.  The mated pairs were in the midst of performing their mating dances for one and other over their selected nests.
The birds appear ungainly standing in the water along the shoreline but, today they are displaying all the elegance and grace they can muster.
Last year I saw the Herons in the nests with their young.  This year, now, I am witnessing a ritual they perform prior mating.  At least, it seems so.  They are certainly trying to impress each other.
They press their cheeks together and rub beaks and even lay their necks upon their mate's neck.  Both face each other and stretch their bodies as tall as possible and step about on the tree limb and nest occasionally touching their chests together.
These are very intimate moments for these folks;  I'm sure.
They display almost human characteristics.
These great birds are so often taken for granted due to their propensity for habituating the large impoundments created by man and appearing as common sights.  They are majestic remnants from a long gone age and should be admired for their fortitude and ability to adjust to the intrusion of the human element into their environment.
Above;  Heron love.  Ain't it grand?!
There are a lot of photos here on this blog entry.  Some may seem to be repetitive.  But, they are not.  It is a unique privilege to have the opportunity to view and observe these magnificent birds in their natural environment.  Pictures are simply pictures.  But, these pictures are documentaries of actual first hand observations of creatures that many people have heard about but have never seen.  The photos are many but they are each unique in their content.  My desire is not only to inform but to impress upon the viewer that there is another world out there that is as important as the one we live in.  That world, at one time, was understood and shared by an earlier human element who appreciated and revered it as an essential part of the early American way of life.  They understood it but did not have the understanding of the ecological fundamentals to protect it.  However, we do.  And protect it we must.  To not do so would be a shame on mankind.

I decided to motor back toward the dam.  I would hug the Eastern shoreline looking for photographic opportunities.  A huge rock cliff appeared on my right.  I adjusted course to follow the embankment staying close at approximately fifty feet off land.  Whew!  That is close considering the mud flats that suddenly appear.
And what is this?   A pretty girl indeed.
A  beautiful turkey vulture.  Wow!  She's a sweet thing for sure.
 
Bet every male vulture is after this girl. Wow;  she's beautiful!
 
Actually she has a mate.  He was hidden behind the rock cliff.  They evidently have a nest site in the fissures of the rocks.  Spring is an awesome time to watch wildlife on the lakes.
 
 
 They, like the eagle, are magnificent in their own way.  They sometimes are viewed as repulsive due to their habit of diet which is dictated by nature and not by mortal man.

 

 As I motored along the shoreline I kept watch for one of my favorite birds.  The Kingfisher has been an elusive subject for a long time.  I am never in the right place at the right time.   I set the camera at 1/500th of a second and watched each tree intently for my little speedy friend.


 
A bit of advise to photographers who wish to capture the Kingfisher on film or data card;  do not underestimate this little rascal.  He is a fast little guy for certain.  I thought that 1/600th would handle him.  When in flight;  I would suggest 1/1000th of a second if photographing off the deck of a tossing boat.
 
Isn't he a handsome little guy?


These shots of the Kingfisher may seem to be just pictures of a bird.  But I assure you that there is much preparation and thought given the subject to achieve the goal of capturing this fast little rascal on film.  He is a dragster with feathers.  



  And off he goes.

     What would a trip to the lake or river be without a mention of the Canadian Goose.
They soon will be with chicks.  And they are darling things.
They move with grace and poise.  Common they are.  But, they are children of nature and to be admired and cherished. 
Well;  there you have it.  A great day on the lakes of Tennessee.   It cost a lot of money to have the Gheenoe built and it takes a lot of effort to gather the photos I put on this blog.  But it is what I do.  I have heard the term "labor of love."  I guess it is.  I have spent my life using the bounty of nature for my enjoyment and now I feel I have the opportunity to make others aware of the natural world.  In actuality, the human involvement has reshaped the natural world to a degree of misunderstanding of it.  My efforts to enlighten are meager at best.  I can do what I can and no more.  I hope you have enjoyed this blog entry.