Sunday, May 1, 2011

BALD EAGLE SHOTS AND DAMAGE AT THE RUINS

click photos to enlarge
I awakened this morning excited about getting on the water and checking up on the eagles on the Little Tennessee River.  I made one mistake.  I left home too soon.  I need light to shoot with this 500mm lens and there wasn't much light at 8AM.  I would have to push the ISO to at least 1000 to make the big lens work.  It is what it is. 
Actually the whole idea was to get to the boat ramp and on the water before a line formed at the boat ramp to launch boats.  I was lucky being only the third boat in the parking lot. 

It looked like I would have to wash the Gheenoe today after the run.  The water was dirty looking but, smooth.  I hate a dirty boat.
As I approached the tree I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw both parents together.  It had been weeks since I saw both adult eagles together and I had feared the worse.  The babies, however, were keeping a low profile.  I could just see the back of one and a frontal profile of the other occasionally.
The young eaglets would not pose for me today.  That's alright.  I know they made it through the night of the tornado.
The other baby eagle popped his head up just long enough for a quick picture.  The eaglet disappeared as fast as it appeared.

Mom was putting on quite a display.  It was as if she were saying "photograph me, photograph me."  I did so.
I kept thinking "I hope these turn out good with this high ISO setting.  I was shooting at 1/1000th sec.
Then she was gone
I am tempted to take video down at the nest but, I fear it would be lacking.  I can't shoot digital and video at the same time.  Video is risky.  I believe I'll stick with the long lens.  I pulled away from the eagle nest and took off down stream to look for photo opportunities.  I wanted to check on the goose on the rock ledge again also.
The shot above is a snap shot with the 500mm lens.  I'm getting pretty accurate at picking up the subject through that magnification.  By snap shot I mean quickly reacting to a target by raising the camera to my eye quickly and hitting the shutter.   I preset the camera with these fast possibilities in mind.
A cormorant explodes from his woody perch and runs across the water while flapping his wings.
Cormorants are pretty to look at and powerful in flight.
Another cormorant is perched high in a tree.  I find this an unusual perch for him.  Maybe not.  I don't know that much about cormorants but I usually see them near the water's surface.
He's a handsome fellow!
He soon had enough of me and launched from the limb.  Note the webbed toes wrapped around the branch.  Cool!  I caught him in flight as he left the limb and created one of my over exposed, black images.  I like those. 
I headed for the heron rookery to see if I could notice long baby necks protruding from the nests.  Unfortunately there were none.  A concerned parent stood vigil at each nest while the mate was out hunting.
I next headed for a quiet little channel that splits the river in two for about a quarter mile.  There are always water birds there do to the calmness of the place.  Off to my left I see a Osprey nest high upon a power tower at the edge of the lake.
I would think this a precarious place for a nest, especially with the weather we have been having lately.  I guess those birds know what they're doing.
A turtle is catching some sun.  I've caught him asleep but, his eyes open quickly and he plops into the stained water.
I entered the channel very slowly.  Often times I would cut the engine entirely and float along with the current.  I noticed movement on the water's surface and thought it was a muskrat or a beaver.  Would you believe it was a goose?  She flattened herself as close to the water as possible and moved silently as a snake toward the shore.  There is no doubt she has babies hidden there.  I let her think I didn't see her.
Isn't this an amazing thing?
This activity cries out of thought process.  Did evolution teach her this?
She moves through the branches in the water without making a ripple on the water's surface.
I did not linger here long, nor did I try to discover where the baby's were.  I respect wildlife's private space and I didn't want to stress this old girl in the least.  She has enough problems without dealing with a curious guy with a camera.  I left her thinking she got away with something and continued on down the channel.
This was going to be a Mallard Duck kind of day.  Last week I couldn't buy a Mallard.  It was all about Wood ducks.  This week its all Mallards.
Mallard Ducks were everywhere.
Tree Swallows were jetting past constantly.  These little guys are super sonic with turning capabilities that are unbelievable.  Look closely at the next two photos.  You have to enlarge them to see the bird.  Yep;  another snap shot.
I have to admit that the above shot is pure luck.  Pure luck. 
A cormorant blasts across the water putting a scare in me.  He took me by surprise and I wasn't ready for him.  He was really moving.
How could anyone be Bord out here?
Don't worry old girl;  I'm just drifting by.  The Osprey in that nest is no doubt sitting on eggs.  All I can see is her head as she watches my every move.
I think I've found my answer to the housing problem for me.  I noticed this great cave in the cliff side across the river.  Heck;  that's all I need.
I've got to wind up this Gheenoe ride and get back home to take the dogs to the old state park.  It will be 2PM till I get the boat washed and covered with the tarp.  The dogs are impatiently waiting for me.  See you at the old park and ruins area.
FIRST VISIT TO THE PARK SINCE THE NIGHT OF THE TORNADO'S

The dogs were anticipating the ride to somewhere;  anywhere.  They don't care where they go, just so they go somewhere.  We loaded into the truck and headed for the old state park and ruins area.  It was apparent from the second I turned onto the park road that the tornado's did not pass this forest without leaving marks of devastation.
Even the area I park in was a mess.  Click on the photo and follow the road.  You will see trees blocking the road.






It's as if someone reached into a bag of large trees and just tossed them out and let them lay where they fell.






I haven't even left the truck yet to get out and walk.  We're still in the park area.  This is amazing.  These trees aren't small saplings.

I walked around this mess and picked up the old road that goes into the lake.  It is the path to the ruins.  It was blocked.
Trees were uprooted all along this old road.  The winds had to be amazing!


The old roadway is blocked.  I mean blocked!  It will take a bulldozer and chainsaws to open this up.  There are trees laying across this old road for the next two hundred yards.  We walked through the woods to go around them to the ruins.


The road is totally barricaded.  Trees are down all through the woods.  I wonder if the tornado actually came through here.  This old park is very near Route 411 and that's where the tornado's seem to gravitate to.
The ruins area itself took a pretty good beating.  There wasn't a tree that did not show damage.
The next couple shots will show the power of the wind.  The brick foundation wall of the ruins were neat and in tact last week.  Look at the wall now.  What kind of power could dismantle those bricks?
The wall in the rear of the picture was near perfect last week before the tornado's.  Look how crumbled it is now.  I wonder what will become of this old place now that it is reduced to rubble?
The dogs needed water.  Even the roadway to the lake is blocked.  Heavy trees span the road behind the blockage you see in the following picture.  We will go around through the woods to the lake.
Ah;  heat relief!
Even through all the devastation there is beauty to be found.  Nature is amazing!
The old state park and ruins will be a monumental task to clean up.  I doubt it will happen this year.
I guess we'll just have to climb around and over the fallen trees until the way is cleared.  What a day!  I'm beat and the dogs are beat.  Time to go home and do a tick check on the dogs and myself.  A hot shower and some sleep is in order.   The next blog will be about a canoe camp out if the weather doesn't pull any tricks.