Sunday, April 18, 2010


Click on images to enlarge
Like overzealous undertakers;  they await their opportunity to gain at the misfortunes of others.
I'm a little late posting the adventures from last Friday but things have been a bit hectic with the forced domestication of wild grasses (MOWING),  combined with a rigorous work schedule.  I just haven't had time to get things done.  I took a boat ride down the Little Tennessee to see how the eagles were doing and enjoyed the opportunity to photograph a variety of river and river bank inhabitants.  The camera was very active to say the least.  I feel that many of these shots are some of the best I have ever taken.  It was a grand morning.  The vultures above and below are black vultures.  They sit in trees and along the banks of the river waiting for carrion to appear.  Life and death on and near the river is frequent and these winged undertakers are at the ready to capitalize on it.  Once in awhile they enjoy the benefit of fishermen cleaning fish at the rivers edge;  a real treat for them.
They act like sentinels on the watch.   There appears to be a sinister side to them but in reality they are just part of nature's clean up crew awaiting work to do.  They are really a good bunch of guys.
The real reason for the visit to the river today was to check on the baby bald eagles.  I have made two previous trips past the nest and only observed one baby.  Today proved that there are two.  I am relieved.  Junior has a sister.
The sun was behind the nesting tree and it was difficult to get a good exposure for pictures.  I did the best I could with the situation.  There isn't many positions I could get the boat in that would eliminate the sun's glare.  But, there are two little heads popping up over the edge of the nest.  It won't be long before they are bouncing up and down trying their wings.
Mother and father were voicing their displeasure at my appearance so close to the nest.  I took my pictures and pushed the boat off the mud flat with a pole and allowed the current to sweep the Gheenoe away.

Oh, that sun!  I shielded the lens with my hat as best I could but I fear glare will affect the picture quality.  Next time I won't come to the water as early and the sun will be in better position.
I kept watch for river critters as the boat floated slowly down stream close to the river bank.  I saw a cormorant resting on a dead tree that had fallen into the water.  He seemed relaxed and paid little attention to the strange apparition floating near him.
Cormorants are beautiful birds.  They are strong swimmers and have very powerful flight muscles.  It's amazing to watch this rather large bird reach mach 1 speeds in less than a heart beat.  I tried to capture the power of the bird as it takes flight.
And away!
A cardinal landed near the water.  What the heck;  he's fair  game for the camera too.  A handsome fellow he is.
One of my favorite birds on the river and lakes is the Osprey.  They are kings of the water, except when bald eagles are present.  This end of the river is bald eagle country so I guess Mr. Osprey must take second in command.  But, he is a formidable contender for king of the roost in these parts.  Ospreys are magnificent in all ways.  Their elegance in flight is unsurpassed.  They are quick when hunting and they rarely miss, although I have seen them drop fish and swoop down to catch it again.  This osprey was adding structure to his nest.  They build strong nests, usually on the tops of day markers on lakes and rivers.

This osprey flew off and disappeared around the bend in the river.
It wasn't long before he came flying back.  He had a large piece of tree limb clutched in his talons. 
He was coming straight at me.  Wow!  What a wonderful opportunity this will be.
Whoa!  Easy boy.  I'm a friend. 
That's better.  Whew!
He flew over to a half dead tree and landed while holding onto the stick.  What a treat to watch this bird.  He made chirping sounds the whole time.
I am so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.  I am awed by these great birds.
After a brief rest, he took flight once again holding onto his precious stick.
He would soon be out of sight.  I am grateful for his presence.  He made my morning.  The eagles are cake and the osprey is icing. 
Below are some pretty fair pictures of an osprey that seemed to be paired up with the one carrying the stick.  They are probably mated.
Another cormorant.  Look at the power this bird displays.  Pure power.
I can't believe all the photographic opportunities I've had this morning.  Spring brings life to the river and surrounding areas.  Then I really got lucky.  Below are tree swallows.  They are almost impossible to photograph sitting let alone in flight.  Lucky morning I guess.
Some were rolling mud balls around and a few were catching insects on the wing.  Their aerobatic expertise was amazing.  It seems they can change direction in a heart beat.
Ah;  look at the little guy above, and below.  Is he not sweet?
Then the rush started.  They flew in all directions at the same time, it seemed grabbing small insects from the air while in flight.  They are quicker than lightning.
How great was that!?  What a morning!  Thats not all.  The boat rounded a bend in the river and there ahead were some ducks.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I came up on the skittish wood ducks.  They really are impossible to photograph;  I thought.  Well, I proved myself wrong.  Look closely at their heads and you will see all the color that makes them one of the most beautiful ducks on water.
It appears they are pairing up.  The female is the gray duck.  Look at that handsome fellow in his tuxedo.
They won't be tolerant of me for long.
Fun while it lasted.  Not enough shutter speed.  This would have been a great shot with 1/1000th of a second
And there they go.  Straight into the sun too.
It's late and I had to be getting back.  After all;  I had MOWING to do.  Can't miss that.  That takes priority.  I did run across a little kingfisher on the drive back up the river.  He was sitting on a limb.  I snapped a quick shot of him and he dropped off the limb and didn't open his wings until after he fell about a foot.  I think birds enjoy the moments of flight.  It must be fun.
He dropped and took flight
Spring colors along the river are beautiful and they made the ride back to the boat ramp relaxing.  I just kicked back in the seat and idled the boat upstream.
I noticed a goose sitting on a ledge acting as if she were a rock.  She was preparing to build a nest where she stood and was acting as if she already had young.  She would not move a feather or attempt to run or fly.  Notice the band attached to her leg.
This mated pair swam together quietly and paid little attention to the boat, although they were aware of it.
I noticed a heron flanked by two black vultures as I approached the ramp.  This was an unlikely trio.  Then before my eyes the heron caught a fish and before he could swallow it the vulture snatched it from his mouth and ran away with it.  What a thief.  I waited for a re-enactment but it didn't happen.   I had to leave.  They appeared like a comedy team.  What a morning!  I guess I already said that.
Other vultures saw the good fortune of their pals with the heron and decided to sneak over for their share.
The heron had all he could stand and flew away leaving the vultures to their own company.  I soon broke up the party when the boat touched down onto the boat ramp. 
I hope you enjoyed the photos from the morning.   I'm really into this activity and get excited when I see the critters about doing what they do naturally in life.  Sometimes I make more of it than I should.  But,  each sighting of wild creatures teaches me a new lesson about them..  I'm learning first hand from the school of nature and I have the best teachers imaginable;  and the education is free.   See you next time.  I have four days off next weekend and you can count on another adventure or two.  Stay safe and be kind to a dog.