Thursday, March 3, 2011

ON THE LITTLE TENNESSEE RIVER--SPRING HAS SPRUNG

click photos to enlarge
The great blue heron croaks loudly as the golden dog and I approach in the Gheenoe.  The sight of this grand bird is stunning, standing there on the edge of a high rock as if keeping watch over the river.
It is good to see my old friends, the residence of the Little Tennessee.  Winter has been a long time passing and I've missed the company of all the creatures large and small.







I wonder where they all disappear to when the cold winds blow and the waters turn icy cold?  They all have their secrets.   The warmth of Spring seems to draw them all out like a seasonal magnet.  I smile at their sight and I am in awe at their perfection.  Today will be a good day.  I can already tell.  It's time to make a pass on the bald eagle nest.  I may be too early but, then maybe not.
Mom is on the nest.  I wonder if she is sitting on eggs?  I betcha she is.  This is the fifth year I have watched this pair of bald eagles produce offspring.  I am constantly amazed at their beauty and magnificence.  But then, I've said that before.  Bald Eagles mate for life and lay two to three eggs in March.  Usually one chick is destined for an early end.  But, two chicks have fledged from this nest every year I've kept vigil.
The nest keeps getting larger and larger with the passing of each year.  The mated pair continually add sticks and limbs to their fortress before egg laying begins.  The mature eagle in the photo seems dwarfed by the size of the nest she rests in.
Her size may be diminished by the enormity of the nest but, her fame and stature as representative of this country far exceeds the boundaries of a mere measurement in physical dimension.  Humm;  what did I just say?
The photos may all seem to be identical but, I assure you each is a bit different.    Mom eagle is alone and I haven't seen pop flying about.  I'm sure he is out hunting as good future father's do.  
I don't want to wear out my welcome so I'll take one more picture and float on down stream.  She is holding fast at the nest and I'll bet she is incubating eggs.
Heavy rains have churned the river water to the color of coffee.  Although the color is not pleasing to the eye;  it's still great to feel the warm sun on  my face as we slowly make our way down the river.  Being out here is more appealing than anything else I can think of.
The Gheenoe is going to have a brown tint to her hull after this run.  Douglas doesn't seem to care.  He's enjoying the ride and besides;  who knows what he's thinking.  Do dogs think?  Lots of unanswered questions and I got all Summer to figure out the answers.
There's an old friend who has come out of hiding.  He has a half eaten fish in his talons.
I wonder if this is the same osprey I photographed last year?  He's sitting in the same tree if it is.  I'd bet any money he's the same one.







The osprey needs to keep a sharp lookout because a bald eagle will steal his dinner if he isn't careful.  Bald Eagle's are known to be highwaymen when the opportunity arises.





Spring is definitely here.  These two Canadian geese have obviously paired up and will be permanently bonded together until after their chicks are reared.  Note the leg banding on the goose to the right.
They remain together even when the wake from the Gheenoe threatens to wash them off the rocks.
The first wake hits their rocky refuge but they cling to each other and won't budge off their perches.
Neither one will forsake the other and flee to a dryer, safer resting place.  They are bonded together.  Such is the way of parents, or I should say future parents,  in nature.


My old nemesis,  the wind is growing stronger and making it difficult to hold this heavy lens steady.  It's hard enough to handle on land but, the big camera and lens is a challenge to hold steady on this rocking boat.  Well, well;  what have we here?  An old, old friend has come out to welcome us to the river.  It's been a long time since I traveled this water in search of his home.
"Hello Mr. Kingfisher.  You are looking very dapper this afternoon.  It seems you have held up well against the cold of Winter."
"I believe you've gained a bit of weight since last we met.  I wonder if it has slowed your speed in flight."
"You used to fly away when the boat approached you but, now you sit idly by and allow us to come very near.  Are you feeling well old fellow?"
"We'll just float quietly by and let you sit in the warm sun."
The water temperature is only 48 degrees and I was amazed to see turtles basking in the sun on logs.  I really am in disbelief at that.
You know Spring is here when you see these fellows out and about.
Well;  its getting late in the day and I need to get back to the habitat to check if my windshield arrived for the KLR Kawasaki.  So we'll turn this vessel around and head back up river.  I want to see if the bald eagles are moving about.  I see the undertaker of the wild sitting in a tree on my right.
He's a stately looking fellow all dressed in his finest black garb.  The black vulture is a constant on the river banks.  He and his kind are the clean up crew for all the unfortunates in the wilds.  Too bad humans don't have a clean up crew to keep the river clean.
Actually the vulture is a very clean bird.  They even bath daily in the lake or river.  I know some humans who don't bathe daily and one particular individual is lucky to bathe once a week.  That's another story.
We are nearing the dock and Douglas is ready for some dry land romping.  I'll load the boat onto the trailer and take him across the road for a half hour.  There is a large tract of TVA property that ranges along Tellico Dam and on into the woods adjacent to the dam.  He can stretch his legs before the ride home.  It's back to work tomorrow but next week will provide new travels and, I hope, interesting adventures in the wilderness places of Tennessee.  Thanks for checking out the blog and I wish you well.