Thursday, July 26, 2012


Green Heron
I think I have found and photographed all the species of birds that are represented on the French Broad River.  I find myself driving by many of them without reaching for the camera.  The green heron has forever eluded me and now I can find many whenever I desire.  Even the black crowned heron, an evening and night time bird, can not hide from me for long.  I learned how to find them by watching them and noticing where they land.  Each time I worked an area repetitively, I would check the places where I previously saw them and eventually I pinned down the areas they habitually visited.  The juvenile bald eagle was easy to locate.  He perched within a one hundred yard area high in the trees along the left shoreline of the river.  He was there each day I passed by.  He would fly directly across the river/lake to the opposite shoreline and turn right to fly downstream about a thousand feet and land in tall trees at that point.  Often times I would jump him on that side and he would fly back across the river to the tall trees well below the first place I saw him early in the morning.  In reality he was flying in a rectangular pattern at all times.  He covered huge expanses of lake but he followed the same flight plan daily.  Eventually I found his nest.

Osprey landing

Osprey in flight

A special challenge would be to discover the nesting places for the green and night crowned herons.  That would be very special.  No one ever talks about where they nest.  Its all about seeing and counting the birds.  I have a good idea where a group of green herons nest but I can't walk to the site as water has created a swamp in the area.  Its just as well as human intrusion is thwarted.  

Great Egret

I don't find one species of bird any more or less important than another.  I do have my favorites and there are some birds that make ones heart beat faster due to their dynamic, spectacular aerial gymnastics.  The bald eagle for instance exudes power and the fact he is our countries representative makes it a privilege to be able to gaze at him.  His legs are thick and tipped with needle sharp talons.  He wears a face that makes a statement.  "Don't cross me!"  He is a lion with wings.

The Osprey is the raptor's version of the cheetah.  He is very quick and makes lightning quick maneuvers when in flight.  He is fearless and will protect his young with his life.

The great egret is the white butterfly that gently floats above the water.  He is elegant and moves his great wings with precision as he moves from perch to perch.  Harmless and withdrawn - he adds the white detail to the green and brown shorelines that border the river.
There is one bird that reminds me of a little, old, cranky man who continually complains at the slightest cause.
He is the great blue heron.
He will stand for long periods of time as straight and still as the tree beside him.  His patience is endless in his search for food.  When the prey presents itself, he strikes quick as lightning with deadly accuracy.
However, he has very limited patience when it comes to human intrusion.  He will bolt into the air with powerful wing beats croaking loudly the whole time.  The croaks continue at times until he is well out of sight.
He is magnificent, albeit common but, his commonality does not in any way diminish his beauty and importance in the bird community.  The bird below is undergoing the molting process.  Notice the missing primary feathers on the back of his wings.  New feathers will be along shortly.
Below:  Why are all those black vultures hovering above me?  Do they know something I don't?

They soar endlessly on the thermal currents without flapping a wing.  All they have to do is hold their arms out to the side.  Pretty neat, huh?
Black vultures are the clean-up crew for the lakes.  They will eat any carrion they can find.  They are gregarious and are always found in the company of others.
This bird has a poor sense of smell and finds his dinner using sight only.  Without them the shorelines would be a stinking mess and disease would run rampant.  They are a tremendous asset not only to the lakes but to the wild places in general.
I love the bald eagle, my favorite bird and the osprey is a flashy fellow to say the least but, I am being won over by the little green heron.  He is "Mack the Knife" in my life.  His appearance is sinister looking as he stands in a semi crouched position with his neck withdrawn down between his shoulders.  His face appears borderline angry and at times super inquisitive.  When something of interest grabs his attention he snaps out of his little old man act and transforms into the all seeing, Mr fingers on the pulse of the action wonder bird.
He can stand for long periods of time, walk ultra slow or run at surprising speed for whatever reason.  His accuracy is unparalleled as he jabs his beak at prey.  He rarely misses.  His croaks are sharp and short as he flies off into the greenery. 

The heron below is watching a flying bug that insists on flying too near him. 
His head and neck extend from between his shoulders as his eyes track the offending flying bug.
 Above:  Look to the left of the heron's beak and you will see the dragon fly.  It is blue in color.  The bird is ready.  In a move faster than my eyes could follow, he snatched the fly while it was in mid flight.  The action was faster than I could push the camera shutter.  I heard the heron's beak click shut upon the dragon fly.  Look closely at the shot below and you will see the abdomen of the dragon fly hanging from the side of the heron's beak.  Amazing.

The flood plain at Rankin on the French Broad River is a marvelous habitat for all the shore birds represented in Tennessee.  There is nowhere in the state that has the populations of the various species of these wild inhabitants.  I wish this particular section of river could be deemed a preserve for these creatures with stipulations toward motorized boats..  The ecology here is delicate at best when one considers the constant lowering of the lake in water depth and yet, these creatures flourish in the face of noise, changing habitat and human intrusion.  Its a marvelous area to travel over by canoe, unobtrusive and practically invisible to the inhabitants.

 Double Crested Cormorants

I have a day off tomorrow and storms are to move in.  I would like to take the canoe out but that's probably not wise.  Maybe the Gheenoe will see service.  I hope you enjoyed this entry and I'll try to diversify a little more in the future.  See ya....