Sunday, July 8, 2012

RIVERSCAPE - SCENES ALONG THE FRENCH BROAD RIVER

click photos to enlarge
Osprey

I was on the water very early this morning because the French Broad River was on the agenda for the morning.  I don't look at the French Broad as part of Douglas Dam even though on paper it is.  The French Broad is a river located at the uppermost end of the lake.  The Pigeon and Nolichucky flow into it and help supply water to the lake.  There are wild things up at that end of the reservoir.  People and fast boats abound on the lower lake.  A more natural environment filled with wild critters and native plants thrive up here.  Mammals are scarce due to the unreliable environment that exists due to the draining of the lake annually.  I don't think they have enough time to establish themselves in one summer only, when the lake is temporarily filled with water.  Therefore, water birds prevail as the resident dominant wild critter on the river systems.
Of all the water birds available on the lake - the wading birds are the predominant waterfowl.  I've never thought much about herons or cormorants because, like other folks, they seem to be available for viewing at just about any time.   I've read their tragic stories about making a come back after enduring years of DDT and unconscionable plume hunters in the early 1900's and started to focus attention on them.   I have learned their breeding habits and their day to day idiosyncrasies as they move about hunting and roosting. 


I have many photographs of the wading birds so I thought I might simply try to photograph interesting and unique places along the river.  Wading birds are included as well as a few other bird friends.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.
The shot above and below are good examples of what "soft light" looks like.  When this soft light is at the photographers back - excellent photographs will be the result.
I had talked to three fishermen on the way up here and the water was empty of humans.  I set the engine on idle and eased along the shoreline in hops of discovering interesting things to photograph.






The brown river bank is exposed to the sun as the water level of the lake is diminishing more each day.  Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA, is drawing against the reserves of water in the dam in order to operate the hydroelectric operation at the dam.  As the dam goes - so goes the rivers feeding it.  The problem is that more water is being taken out of the dam than is flowing into it.  In short we need rain and lots of it.
This little bird could be named Speedy Gonzalas.  He is very intolerant of human intrusion and will not only fly to the next limb but, will  rocket away long distances down the shoreline to escape observation. 
 He is a belted kingfisher.

Its delightful to see flowers along the shoreline among the natural grasses and button bushes and many trees.  They even grow on the rocky places.  I can't find the flower below in my National Audubon Society Eastern Wildflower field guide.  I'll look it up on the internet and title it later.  The Audubon field guides are about the worse guides available.  
 
 Above and below:  Trumpet Creeper. 


 Another little belted kingfisher suddenly appeared on a bare snag.


One of my favorite wading birds is the green heron.  I've grown to adore this little heron.  They are difficult to find sometimes but were prevalent today.  The flying critters are very active this morning because the temperatures are cool.  They all will disappear when the sun starts to cook the landscape.  They all will disappear, that is, except the great blue heron and the great egrets.


Some days I can't buy a green heron.  Today they are flying through the trees in groups or fishing near the water.




























The soft light was holding on for me.  I continued to idle along the shoreline.
 Now, what in the world is all this commotion about?

Its just a female mallard duck making all the noise and disturbance she can to try and make me, the perceived danger, follow her instead of harming her babies.  The babies are hidden in tall grass behind me.


A little head slowly rises in the tall grass.
 He just had to see what all the noise was about.  He thinks I can't see him.  Cute!
 He is a very young bird probably born this year.






They stood at the edge of the flooded forest that they call home.  That fringe of greenery between the main river and the flood plain is their safe haven.

They stand un-moving like silent sentinels keeping watch on the water corridor that carries humans into their domain.
Cormorants add their keen eyes to the cause and share the responsibility of voicing alarm at the appearance of human intrusion.

The softest light intensifies their beauty.  They bother nothing and only ask to be left alone.  Their beauty, at one time in history, was almost their demise.  They are back and deserve respect from the higher order of life known as human beings instead of being persecuted for their plumage and killed in the name of sport.



























 Even the great blue heron helps maintain watch with the great egret and the cormorants.


Some thick shrubbery grew close to the water behind flooded trees.  A green heron hunted intensely and evidently didn't notice the big white apparition, my boat, that glided slowly by.


 He's having a bad hair day in the shot below.




He was poised to make a catch on a fish and stood perfectly still while gazing into the water.  I held the heavy camera to my face and watched until I couldn't hold it steady.  He was still standing there when I left the area.






 The little rascal thinks he's hidden


Little Junior can be seen to the right of his mother.  What I don't understand is that I've seen two previous babies fledge from this nest a month ago.  I'll have to read up on the breeding habits of ospreys.
 There is evidence that beavers used to dwell here.

I noticed a little string of ducks paddling across the river.  I was going that way and swung the boat over toward them.  Their paddling speed increased.  Faster and faster they moved.  I wasn't here to disturb or alarm them so shut the engine off while I photographed them.  They are mallard teenagers born this spring.  They are almost ready to fly but, refrain from it.




A mallard duck flashes past the bow of the boat.  They fly remarkably fast.


I have driven as far as I can go on the river.  If the water continues to recede, I'll not be able to get up river this far in another couple days.  We need rain.
 Above:  The black pointer is my exact position on the river.


There wasn't even one boat up here on the French Broad.  I turned the boat down stream and idled back to the farthest edge of my assigned area and put the hammer down and ran to the boat launch at Walters Bridge.  Its been a great day for photography but, not so for finding fishermen.  The temperatures are mid nineties right now, 12 PM, and anglers probably will stay off the water until evening.  I hope you liked this entry as it contains a little bit of everything with continuity taking a back seat.  I'm off tomorrow and will no doubt be doing something on the water if the predicted storm holds off until afternoon.  Thanks for looking in.  Stay out of the heat and drink lots of water.