Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Click on photos to enlarge them

The TWA jet liner circled around the landing zone at Taun Son Nuit Air Base in Vietnam awaiting orders to land.  The PFC looked out the window of the civilian jet and stared in awe at the pock marked landscape below him.  The pock marks were shell holes and the results of constant shellings from the Viet Cong artillery positioned on the surrounding mountains sides.  The big jet circled four times and finally went down for a landing on the metal grate that was placed over the shell holes that were once the concrete landing strip for the air base.

As he disembarked, he watched the Huey choppers swooping here and there in the sky flying, seemingly in every direction.  There was much “to do” about the jet landing in this foreign land.  They constantly hovered near the jet and made mad dashes out toward the mountains only to swoop back again.  The chopper attention lasted until the jet was emptied of all occupants and it taxied down the make shift runway and disappeared into the skies of South East Asia .  The whole operation of landing and taking off again lasted only fifteen minutes.  The big jet never shut off it’s engines.  

Air Force personnel directed the young PFC and his companions to an area surrounded by sand bags.  They were to wait in this area for further instruction that would attach each of them to their permanent commands.  The sun was hot and sweat poured out of him.    He thought, “man, this is hotter than I thought it would be.!”

A 1st Sergeant from the  1st Army appeared with a clip board and yelled “assemble here in front of me.”

The PFC took a place in the first row of soldiers.  He waited and waited and finally heard his name called.  He responded “here Sergeant!” 

The sergeant then made the assignment by simply saying, “Special Ops Group, 1st battalion, Company C, 3rd Army.  Assemble to my right.”

The PFC moved to the position indicated.

The 1st SGT then directed the replacements to board two and a half ton personnel trucks for the drive to the top of Vung Tau Hill for an overnight stay and in-country orientation.  From there he would be driven to his assigned company, receive his weapon and be assigned orders that would dictate his actions over the course of the next year.  He was now in country and the realization of it all still had not struck home to him.

But, it soon would.

 I had a great fishing trip planned for today with a good friend from work.  All we heard for two days was how bad it was going to storm and rain on Sunday and Monday.  We decided to cancel the trip as it was to be at Apalacha Lake in North Carolina.  That isn't just around the corner.  As it turned out the entire day was clear with blue sky s and not a breeze.  What a let down.  My friend and I can never get a day off together.  The schedule is just that way.  I hitched the Gheenoe to the truck and went to see if the young eagles were still at the nest.  They were.  They are active and big enough to fly off.  I doubt I will see them again at the nest.  My heart pounds every time I visit the nest site and look upon these magnificent birds.
Mom and pop were close by keeping close watch on the juniors.
The adults would fly from tree to tree constantly watching the nest------------and me. It's sad to realize that today will probably be the last day I'll see them at the nest.  I can't get back down this week and they surely will be gone soon.  They are already flexing their wings and ponging up and down.
I am again shooting into the sun.  I'm using my hat to shield the glare from the lens.  There is a lens hood but I left it home.  That thing is just too big.
Some of these shots may appear to be duplicates but they are not.  Each is just a little bit different.

One of the siblings is testing his wings.  It won't be long before he is a totally free spirit.

I could write and write but a picture is worth a thousand words.
These shots of young eagles are not common.  I want to gather as many pictures as I can of these friends.  I know of no other nests that are assessable for pictures like these.
 If you look back a couple weeks in the blog entries, you can see the eaglet I call junior.  He is small and the pictures are of him peering over the side of the nest.  Look at him only seven or eight days later.  He is magnificent, as is his sibling.  And so I slowly pull away from the eagle tree and go on down stream.  This is where our roads go their separate ways.  I wish them well and hope to see them flying over the steep cliffs along the river.  It is difficult to turn away from them;  I've stood a vigil over them for a long time.
 I knew where there was a den of tree swallows along the river and made a course straight to them.  I knew they would be nesting there soon.  As you can see;  they were.  I noticed one bird carrying sticks to the hole in the bank and another carrying insects.  Are they building the nest or feeding chicks?  I can't see inside.
The bird above has the stick.  The picture prier shows a bird with an insect.
These little guys are lightning fast and it's difficult to photograph them on the wing.
Below is one of the best shots I have ever taken with a camera.  It's a tough shot to do.
Above is a Carolina Wren exiting a hole in the bank inhabited by Swallows.  Don't figure!
This little boat I have is perfect for wildlife photography.  It idles quietly and is highly maneuverable.  I've talked about it before in blog entries.  It is a totally enjoyable experience to be on the water in this craft.  She's a great fishing machine too, if one is inclined to use her that way.
I continued on down the river taking shot after shot at opportune moments.  The water and air are filled with activity, much unlike Winter.
I thought I'd toss out a few more tree swallow shots while I'm on the subject.
I noticed a couple geese swimming near the cliffs.  The geese are all paired together and soon will have tiny chicks following behind them on land or water.
Very stately indeed!
They almost look like a painting.  Very beautiful, and proud looking.  The lady below is poised in a curious position:
I know I have lots of photos of Herons but I like em.  Here's a few more.
I swung the boat close to the shore line so I could sneak up on the day marker with the Osprey nest on top of it.  Mom Osprey seems to be sitting on eggs.  The male is circling above keeping watch.  I won't stay long as I hate to disturb any wild critter, especially when they have young.  I'll make the visit quick as possible.
She just had to fly directly overhead to see what I was up to.  "Thanks for the pose old girl."
Finally she flew around to the right side of the boat and returned back to her nest.
I saw a long log ahead and gently steered to the right of it.  The closer I got the more it didn't look like a log.  And, it wasn't.   See below:

  These are Mallard Duck chicks
Mom and dad lead the way.
It's too bad but, statistics show that only a third of these chicks will survive to adult.  It's natures way.  There are some big fish under the surface and some hawks and eagles that will prey upon them.  It is known that even Herons will take a baby duck if it is not too large.
I'll leave them in peace and move off to the opposite shore.  I see cormorants splashing about and I really like that bird a lot.
The gang was hanging out on an old dead fall.  I noticed a couple of what appeared to be juveniles.  All birds do not mate and bear young simultaneously.  I'm not sure about Cormorants but, the two birds I notice in particular appeared not to be able to fly.  I noticed the wispy, whisker like, long tuft of fluff dangling from the sides of their heads indicating a very young bird.  They probably are relatively new to the world.  One thing for sure;  they couldn't fly.  But, they could run across the top of the water create great disturbances on the surface.  I didn't hang around long as I didn't want to upset the youngsters.

This indeed is a young bird.  He can not fly.  The others left him.  He did certainly try to fly as can be seen below.  All he could do is thrash about.
He just can't get airborne
Nope;  just can't get the hang of it.
I figured I better get away before he gets all stressed out.  He'll be on the wing pretty quickly.
Now what do we have here?
Above:  A tree swallow practically flew in front of the camera so I took the lucky shot
This sandpiper is a secretive little fellow.  Look closely.
They are fun to watch.  They sort of bob their heads up and down as they quickly walk about.  Their bodies rock in the opposite direction that their heads bob in.  Hey;  that's hard to explain.
Can you find him in the shot above?
Now we're getting someplace.  Some pretty large logs should hold turtles.  Lets have a look.
The above would be a Slider Turtle.  They are common on the rivers in the South.  They range as far North as Maryland.
  Below are map turtles.  The exact species of map turtle escapes me.  I can't make out the markings on the shell.  They are quick as lightning to escape to the water.
Above and below are soft shell turtles.  I think they are called mud turtles by the folks here in the South.  Again, I can't determine the species of soft shell turtle with these shots.  Note the pointy nose.
I think its a Spiny Soft Shell Turtle
He's a beaut!
On the way back to the boat ramp I noticed a lady having a great time in a kayak with her dog.  I instantly missed my guys.  Look at this fellow on point.
That about sums it up for this blog entry.  I missed a great fishing trip but the alternative was very satisfying.  I had a great, great morning in the Gheenoe doing what I love to do.  Only thing missing was Douglas.  The critters are hard to find with him on the nose of the boat.  But he will be there tomorrow afternoon and maybe Shade will be with him.  By the way;  Douglas is getting a grooming tomorrow.  It will be his first professional hair cut.  This ought to be good.  I hope you enjoyed this blog entry.  See you soon.