Saturday, May 26, 2012


click on photos to enlarge

The little bird above is a green heron.  These little guys are very difficult to photograph, let alone find.  They like to perch in very thick brush or pine trees.  Often times they appear as a shadow as they move deeper into the thick bushy tree at the encroachment of humans.  At other times they are quite visible.  This is when its dinner time.  They walk along the edge of the water until they see a minnow and then they stop, stretch out their necks and appear to stare at their quarry.  They actually seem to take aim with their beaks.  Then the lightning fast strike and the neck and head retract back onto the body with a minnow clenched in the beak.  I first became acquainted with this bird on Clouds Creek that flows into Cherokee Lake.  I saw the first one on Douglas Lake just two days ago.

The above photos are of the great blue heron.  This fellow is a common sight around the lakes and ponds of East Tennessee and he is distributed all over the United States.  I like the great blue heron.  I see him daily and he still amazes me with his elegant flight and precise landings. He never messes up a landing.  When is the last time you saw any bird mess up on a landing?  The great blue swan dives into the air and appears to float off the ground, his massive wings beating slowly as he lifts higher and higher with his long, long legs tucked back straight along his underside perfectly parallel with his body.  And, when he lands those long legs come forward and he gently sets down upon his feet as the big wings fold against his streamlined body.  The great blue is one of the most elegant and precision flying creatures on the planet.

The great blue heron is taken for granted by most folks because his presence is so common.  That doesn't make him any less important to the ecological factors of the lake or stream.  There aren't many birds that move with the finesse of the great blue.  He seems ungainly on land but, in the air he is masterful of his domain.  I came across a very old great blue heron yesterday.  I brought the boat up very close to him in an attempt to make him fly. He held his ground and wouldn't budge.

Note his long feathered beard that hangs down to his legs.  He appears proud and wise as he stands surveying his lake.  I wanted him to fly so I could get a shot or two of him looking elegant  in flight.  He wouldn't fly.  

He would look directly at me with those defiant eyes of his.  His body language got his point across.  He's right.  Who am I to come into his territory and try to force him to do something he's not willing to do?  I stood on the bow of the boat and admired him.  The boat drifted ever closer to him.  I could see his eyes riveted on me.

Still he would not fly away.  Instead he commenced to croak softly.  the croaks became louder and louder.  The amazing thing was that I was sharing the same space with this wild creature, a creature who was telling me to go away by standing his own ground.  I slowly backed away to the console of the boat and prepared to start the engine and back away.  It was then that he contorted his neck and upper body and voiced his dismay toward me.  I got the message and left.  See below.

Yikes!  "OK, OK, I get the message.  I'm outa here."  
He voiced the loudest croak I ever heard come from a heron.  And, he still didn't fly.  I did.  I saddled up and away I did ride.  One has to respect a critter who is a living prehistoric relic.
I noticed an osprey nest at the mouth of a cove.  I stopped to talk to a fisherman to see if he had fish on board his boat.  After all - I do have a job to maintain.  After a quick discussion I moved on toward the osprey's nest.  The future mother of the nest was home.  She wasn't happy with my interference either.  She stared at me over the side of the nest and made continuous shrill cries.  A mate answered her calls from the treeline a couple hundred yards down the edge of the lake.

She would not fly off the nest.  I believe she was sitting on eggs.  I would move away quickly after taking a few photos.  What a magnificent bird!  Note her eyes.  They are set far forward on her face.  They are the eyes of a huntress.  They are all seeing.

I swear those eyes could penetrate solid steel.  Its an amazing feeling to look a raptor straight in the eye knowing they can see every feature and hair on your face while you look back with feeble undeveloped vision capable of only seeing her image.  Whew!  Deep stuff here!

I am so fortunate to have a job that allows me to share the wild places with these wonderful creatures.  I wish they could know that I mean them no harm but only wish to enjoy their presence.  They are, however, under the hand of man and as man dictates, their futures follow. How precious these wild beings are!  How precious!!

I floated away from Mrs. Osprey as quietly as I could.  She stopped her incessant chirping and I knew she calmed down and all was well.  As I rounded the corner you see above I saw color back in the thick bushes.  I eased over to that very shallow water to investigate.  There could have been a boating accident and someone may be in dire straits.  

Tucked way back in the thickest parts of the shoreline sat a jet ski.  It had been out here for awhile.  I had hoped there wasn't a skeleton under water beside it.  I eased on over to it for a better look.

The engine had been removed.  I called it in to dispatch and people were dispatched to tow it in.  The thing was stolen and the engine removed, probably for resale, and the jet ski remains hidden away back in this eddy.
  Above:  The engine is gone.  All that is left are water hoses.

And, so ends another day.  Each one is different.  Wildlife, thieves, broken boats that need towed in and now - the holiday with the jet skis, water skiers and upset fishermen who can't fish due to the wakes produced by the jet skis and ski boats.  I love it.  See you next time.