Thursday, October 14, 2010


click on photos to enlarge
The morning temperatures are perfect.  I'll not waste a moment of this day.  The Gheenoe was hitched to the truck in a heart beat and I arrived at the Tennessee River twenty minutes later.  The wind was kicking up, 20 miles per hour, but would be of no concern.
It felt great to be in the Gheenoe again.  She sat for weeks waiting for me.  The ol girl started with one turn of the key, indicating her eagerness to be out on the water.  I wanted to idle down stream along the shoreline and photograph critters and other oddities as they appeared.  The fall colors are beginning to show but, Maw Nature has a lot of painting to do over the next couple weeks to stay on season schedule.
Wild flowers seem to take root in the oddest places.  A rock cliff or mud embankment, void of vegetation often times will find wild flowers flourishing on their barren faces.

Funny thing about how flowers will inhabit this desolate cliff face and nothing else will grow there.  That is a subject to stew over at a camp fire on Calderwood Lake.

These beauties seem to be placed in abstract areas of the cliff.  Without them the cliff sides would appear cold and desolate.  The wild flowers are getting a bit of help in the color department.
My old friend the Kingfisher flies just ahead of the boat.  Actually he is keeping well ahead.  He is almost out of camera range.  What a rascal!
The little imp is playing a "catch me if you can" game with me.
He remains just out of reach.  Clever little guy.
He is a Belted Kingfisher.  There are a couple different varieties in Tennessee but, this one has the obvious ring around the neck.  One last shot and I'll move on.
This Kingfisher proved to be a tuff study.  I turned the boat down a water channel that skirts an island on the left.  I had seen Wood Ducks in this side channel on previous trips down river.  Sure enough;  a group of ducks exploded from shrubbery that was overhanging the water.  I was ready for them this time.
You definitely need to click on these shots.  These ducks are the Ruffed Grouse of the lakes.  Their speed is amazing.  They rocket from zero to mach 3 in seconds and make sharp 90 degree turns in a flash.  I did my best to pan the camera with their flight pattern.  And they are not Wood Ducks.  I believe they are Blue Winged Teal..
The camera was preset with a shutter speed of 1/1300th of a second.  I felt that would be ample shutter speed to stop their motion in flight.  I would have been better served to have selected an even faster speed.

I panned the camera and took shot after shot hoping to collect at least one acceptable photograph of these little ducks.

I'm satisfied with the results
I took advantage of the moment and kept pressing the shutter button until they were out of camera range.
These ducks are every bit as quick as Wood Ducks and it was difficult to make an identification.  The beak is black and the tail appears pointed at the end.  I'll stick with Blue Winged Teal.
I heard a sudden crash of limbs and leaves and just had time to see a Red Tailed Hawk come screaming out of a tree directly toward the Gheenoe.  He flew directly over the point of the bow, the hand rail and my head all the while gaining altitude.  I'm watching ducks and almost became dinner for a huge hawk.  Man!  Lucky for me the big guy lingered in the sky over the Gheenoe and posed for a few photographs.
 It seems the river is the place to go if I want to find wildlife.  The big lakes just don't have it.  I think that is because of all the people and boat traffic on the lakes.  Wildlife needs space and water is their life source.  The big lakes are called recreation water by humans.   Recreation isn't in the vocabulary of any wildlife.  Even the fun things they appear to be doing is done for a survival purpose.
He passes over and looks directly at me.
A tiny head is bobbing above the surface of the water.  It is a Grebe.  It is a Pied Bill Grebe.  These tiny birds are delicate in appearance.  They also are Houdini s when pestered by would be photographers.  Grebes can dive with the best of the diving birds and are challenging to photograph.
Grebes dive for food and can stay beneath the surface for long periods of time.  They also tend to accompany Loons when Loons are in Tennessee.  The Loon is the all time champion when it comes to diving and staying beneath the surface.  They can actually fly under water.
While swimming, their head and neck are prominent above the surface while the body is mostly submerged.  Just the top of the back can be seen above the water line when they are under way.  Grebes are often mistaken for Loons by the uninformed observer.
Now, here is something special:  Turtles.  Yes turtles.  This is a surprise to me.  I thought they would be in their mud dens for Winter by now.  The water temperatures have dropped and the nights are cold on the lake.  But here they are sunning themselves on convenient logs and blow-downs.
These appear to be Eastern Box Turtles.  I can't imagine why they are in this environment.  I sure don't claim to know everything about turtles but, that certainly has all the markings of the Eastern Box Turtle.  If anyone can refute that identification, please email me or leave a message on this blog.  I would appreciate it.  Both turtles have the same markings.
I've never seen so many turtles sunning themselves.  It must be an effort to soak up as much heat as possible.  When the air becomes so chilled they can't find warmth, even in direct sun;  the mechanism located in their ancient brains will direct them to crawl deep into the mud until next season.


This would be a River Cooter.  Look how long his toes are on the front feet.
These appear to be box turtles also.  I need a good reptile book.  This is frustrating!
I've got to get back and shop for a tarp soon.  The dogs have to have their trip to the field also.  It will be a long week before they can get out of the yard again.  It's been a full day.  Hope you enjoyed the river trip today.
I hope you can get out and enjoy the Fall colors.  If not;  I can bring them to you through this blog.  Until next time;  be kind to those who can't speak for themselves.