Sunday, April 17, 2011


click photos to enlarge
What a gorgeous day!  I'm feeling good too.  I've got to get down the river to check on the young bald eagle eaglets.  It's been about a week since I last saw them.  The river was very smooth but the water was off colored due to all the torrential downpours we've had this past week.  It is Sunday and I'm happy to say that I beat all the folks to the water this morning.  There were only a few vehicles parked with boat trailers attached to them.  I launched the Gheenoe and got on board for a quiet, slow jaunt down the left side of the river to the eagle tree.  Oh;  its find the animal time.  Can you see the red tail hawk in this picture?
When I got to the eagle's tree I couldn't see any babies peering out of the nest but, mom was keeping vigil from a nearby tree.
I shut the motor off and just sat there very still and quiet to see if a baby would peek over the side of the nest.  Mom kept a keen eye on me.
Animals are interesting to watch.  They always look the other way when I'm near, acting as if they don't care about my presence.  In reality;  my presence is all they really care about.  Am I dangerous and a threat to their babies?

Mom grew impatient with me and took flight only to land in another tree near by.  I don't want to make her nervous so I'll go on down river and let things calm down a bit.  Maybe the babies will appear upon my return.

Some movement catches my eye over on the river bank.
It is a tiny Sandpiper.  He is picking up very small insects from the rocks
These little birds are very interesting to watch.  Their heads bob back and forth with each step they take.   I wonder if that helps them with their balance?
Sandpipers can usually be seen on rocks that have mosses growing on them.  I believe the moss holds tiny insects and worms just the right size for this little sandpiper.
Now, here's something!  I'm sure there's a story behind this.
A flock of fast flying ducks are circling around me in an arc.  They are really far away and I can't determine what they are.  Then they turn just right in the sky where the sun is shining on them instead of back lighting them.  Their colors show perfectly even at that great distance.  They are Wood Ducks.  They first fly directly toward me and are back lighted.
Then they arc around below me and the sun shines directly on them showing their colors.
Definitely click on the pictures to enlarge.  The colors are beautiful on these birds.
I'm truly amazed the colors show so well.  These are long shots even for the 500mm lens
There are a lot of herons on the river, the most common the Great Blue Heron.  There are really neat smaller herons called Night Herons that are interesting to watch.  They are secretive and usually will take cover inside the most dense foliage of trees when disturbed.  Most people simply pass the Great Blue Heron without giving it a second look.  But, if you really look at this gorgeous bird you will see a unique creature that is a hold over from the prehistoric past.  They wear gorgeous, bright colors and are elegant to watch in flight.  I never pass up an opportunity to photograph at least one of these great birds when I'm out gallivanting around in a boat.
A fishing boat is passing behind me and I'm anticipating the wake from his boat before I get done shooting.
The wake arrives just as the heron launches into the air.  I almost missed the next picture.
A rather large wave of water struck suddenly as I was pressing the shutter button for this next shot.
See what I mean.  I almost missed him.  The picture is ruined but, so what!  I like the shot..
Oh well;  it is what it is.  Ya just have to go with the flow so to speak.  They're fair shots I'd say.  They're good enough to bring back a memory of today, and this bird in a couple years when I look through this blog.
Now, what have we here?  These are the first turtles I've seen today:
I've got to be quick or they'll slip into the water.  I believe I've caught them napping.
A little head peers over the top of the shell and ancient eyes look directly at me.  They are gone in a wink.
The river is full of activity today.  Birds are going across as well as up and down the water.  Everyone seems to have some task they must hurry off to.  In reality;  they do.  It's called survival.
More turtles appear lying on logs catching the warm sun.  They are wary but not wary enough.  I cut the engine and let the current carry the boat close to them.  Eventually they caught on to my game and skedaddled. 
I hear him but, can't lay my eyes on him.  Constant chattering and chirping.  It is a Kingfisher.  I've never seen so many Kingfishers as on the Little Tennessee River.  Now, just where is he?
There's the little guy.
The only way to come up on one of these little birds is to cut the engine and sit perfectly still.  They appear curious when approached in such a fashion.  If the engine is allowed to run, they become very skittish and will fly away in alarm.
When approached silently;  they may fly but, they will not fly away in terror.  Most times they will move away a tree or two and watch.
The best method of approaching kingfishers is while in a canoe.  Total silence.  Canoe's make no more noise than the wind itself.
An Osprey floats above near the shore and prompts two Canada Geese to take flight.  I don't know if the Osprey prompted their hurried flight or if I did.  They certainly became airborne quickly and reached top speed in a flash.
I fed a little more throttle to the engine and headed to the Great Blue Heron rookery to see if the babies were born yet.
Still no babies.  There were no skinny, long snake like necks with little heads on top weaving back and forth in the nests.  I was still too  early.  Another week would guarantee two to three babies to each nest.
There were an unusually large number of Osprey in the air today.  Many of them have babies in the nest now.  In another week they all will have babies.  Some circle and circle the boat.  Of course;  I can hear the shrill shree, shree peeping cry from back in the woods.  The male is doing his protective act out here above me while mom is complaining about my presence from back at the nest.
This particular Osprey kept coming closer and closer.  I was too near his nest for his comfort.  And then he really came at me.  I almost hit the throttle in a knee jerk thoughtless reaction to his advances.
You gotta click on the photo above.  I thought he was coming in the boat with me.
Then, I passed under him and he seemed contented that I was moving away.  He flew to a limb and relaxed.
Wild animals, especially raptors, will do almost anything to protect their young.  I guess it is true for all mothers and fathers with young.  It is good to remember to always tread softly when in the wilds at Springtime.  One never knows who or what he will anger with his presence.
It is time to turn around and head back toward the eagle tree.  I want to see if junior is awake.  A flock of geese pass overhead.  They are back lighted against the sky making them appear black.  I like the shot.  It's nothing special but, I just like the nothingness of it.
I swung the boat over to the cliffs at the opposite side of the river to check on a certain goose I saw last week.  She was tucked back under a ledge in a crag on a nest of feathers.  Was she still there?
She was.  No doubt she is sitting on eggs.  She will not be moved in the slightest.  Not a feather is moving, or a muscle.  She is as if part of the rock she leans against.  Her mate, however, went into the injured goose routine and flapped upon the water and swam noisily away from his mate.  He was trying to get my attention.  He succeeded.
There will be babies on this ledge by the end of the week.  I know there will.  I can imagine them as they plop down into the water from that high crag.  I'd love to be here for that little display.
"See ya later mom and good luck to you."
The eagle tree came in sight on my right and mom was sitting on her favorite limb where she could look down upon her babies and still watch up and down the river.
Junior was awake and appeared to be eating.  Wonder what mom or dad brought for lunch.  Probably better not to know.
 His head is bent down while eating.  You can see the base of his wings, one on each side of his body, prominently displayed.
Mom moves a couple limbs closer.
And here's a good look at Junior.
He's doubled his size in one week.  Amazing!
He is definitely tearing something apart up there.  I can see him tugging away on his meal.
He finally succeeded in pulling a healthy mouthful off of whatever it is he is eating.  Yum!
I haven't seen sister yet.  I can't imagine she could stay hidden all this time.  The tree is of large diameter and she may be behind it.  It is possible she has met her demise;  I hope that is not the case.
Smile for the camera!
Still no little sister.
 The pictures that follow will be the last I'll have a chance to acquire before their final days in the nest.  I will try very hard to be at the nest for their departure but, that's a chancy affair.  My only hope is that two babies will fly away to be free to join their brethren in the sky's.

Another great day comes to an end.  Life on the Little Tennessee goes on.  Every creature there continues in the struggle for survival,  as we all must do.