Sunday, September 30, 2012


Blue Winged Teal are really fast in flight.  They take off fast and they land just as fast.  Everything is done at hyper speed.  They are also gorgeous to see in flight.  When they all turn simultaneously - the sun reflects off their under wings and the blue primary's show brilliant blue color.  I was cruising on the lower lake when I spotted a large number of teal at the waters edge.  I thought to myself that when in the air they would cover all areas of the sky and different back lit situations would present themselves.  It would be a good exercise in photography to try and adjust to all the changing back lighted situations.  I soon found out that its impossible to make camera changes fast enough to capture these flying rockets.  These ducks are very wild.  I like that. They are totally intolerant and distrusting of man.

All I had to do was cut the boat toward them at a slow speed.  I knew they would fly quickly.  They instantly became agitated even before the boat  proceeded in their direction.  All I had to do was turn the vessel toward them and they were off at once.

They fly in such close proximity of each other its a wonder they don't collide.  I imagined flying with them, in that crowd, and looking left and right at the birds beside me, their eyes wide and seeing all, judging distances and maneuvering here and there to avoid touching the birds to the left and right.  I can see the wind fluffing the plumage on their throats and hear the whipping of their wings as they beat frantically to achieve the speed they are known for.  The tips of their primary feathers move up and down adjusting horizontal position of the bird as tail feathers lift and lower to control climb and decent as desired.  Mouths open gathering air to feed hungry lungs that power muscles that control fast beating wings.

We cut away from the shoreline and gain altitude.  I somehow know exactly what to do without thinking.  The birds beside me angle their bodies up, climbing higher and higher and I am with them.  We all turn as one and fly up into the sky - the endless sky.

Freedom knows no boundaries up here with my new friends.  We are unfettered and unchained from the gravity that binds mortal man to the earth.  We are totally free!
We circled out over the river ever climbing as one - friends gathered together in flight simply for the exhilaration of it.

They uttered not a sound.  Only that whipping noise could be heard.  The bird in front of me tilted the back of his wings and he slowed as if applying brakes.  The bird above him shot forward.  He applied power to his wings an instantly caught up and flew above the bird he had previously been beneath.  Amazing perfection in flight.

Everything looked small below.  I couldn't recognize anything that would otherwise be familiar if I were on the ground.  The group leveled off and flew straight for a short time.  Then, as one, they all turned in unison - and so did I.

We flew with total trust in each other's skills.  There was no doubt in everyone's ability.  We banked right and the sun was at our backs and on we went enjoying the thrill of being alive.

These guys did everything precisely at the same time as if they were governed by some secret communal computer.  We were heading down toward the water at full speed.  The expectation of the fast slow down required to make a safe landing was thrilling enough to cause loss of consciousness if I was not careful.  We skimmed over the surface as one at full speed.  

 Wings were tilted back to gather air and brake forward motion.  All performed the  action as one.  The speed slowed and extended feet touched down on water, the bodies gently fell after - and we all were down.  It was just a normal moment for all of them.  The time spent with these friends made me appreciate life just a little more and to value the precious gift of wildlife like never before.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


If you keep up with this blog you will understand how much I love interstate travel.  I guess this entry is more of what a blog is expected to be - a lot of talking mixed with griping and complaining and explaining.  I couldn't sleep in this morning.  I was to be on the lake at 1 PM and here I was lying awake with three dogs surrounding me snoring away.  (my sweet girls.)
I've got some things on my mind and when my eyes open in the morning I just have to get up.  I've got some serious dental issues coming up in the very near future and the dentist has given me some really strong antibiotics.  I had one tooth pulled two days ago and the pain medication he gave me is really powerful and affects sleep - sleep like a log.  An earth quake couldn't awaken me.  The residual effects are twitchy hands.  Instead of clicking the computer mouse once, the finger hits it three times.  The rest of the teeth are coming out in a week or two.  I've never been in a hospital in my life or ever had an operation so I'm a bit concerned about this whole thing.

So, there I was awake early this morning and nothing to do until I took the state boat to the lake for the afternoon.  I thought about a pair of eagles at point 18 on the lake and I wondered if they would be on the nest at daybreak.  I hitched my boat to my truck and took off for the lake. (The shot above is not from today & is only an example of this morning).  I got to Dandridge five miles down the road and they are having an Irish/Scotch celebration day and all the streets were closed off.  Scotch and Irish together - now, there's an interesting mix.  They ought to read history to see the relationship between those two nationalities back in the 13th century.  Anyway, I turned around and hit the interstate.  The world was on four wheels it seemed.  I also found out I was only half awake as I almost pulled back into the right lane into some kind of tiny, toy car that was blasting past me on the wrong side of the road.  I made it to the lake and I had it to myself.  I set the throttle for 20 mph and enjoyed the ride to the eagles nest.  They were there.  I just wanted to see them.  There is no photographic excellence involved with the shots.  I just wanted to see if they were still paired up.  They were and will remain so until their young fledge in the spring.  They have been nervous the past two times I visited their tree and they flew away quickly.  Today, I stayed far back from the shoreline.  They still were jumpy and would fly away shortly after my approach.
They were perched above the nest in their enormous, old tree.  There was hardly enough light to make a photograph.  I almost didn't take any.  But, I was there so gave it a try.  This tree is not back-lit so  when their babies are born I will be able to photograph them in the nest perfectly.  I can hardly wait.  These shots are taken at extreme distances and I am amazed they even came out at all.
The eagle with his back against the tree had his eyes locked on me and was getting nervous. He was going to fly.  I think they try to avoid being associated with the location of their nest.  That is probably why I never see them in the nest.  They are always above it or in the tree next to it.  The eagle against the tree appeared to simply fall to his left and extend his wings.  How cool!
 These birds are magnificent and I am constantly amazed at their grace and dignity.  They display character and elegance in all they do.  I tried to follow the eagle who leaped off the limb and lost track of the second one.
Below:  Nature's son silently soars through the very limited early morning light that is beginning to filter through the tree tops as he makes his way through the foliage to the open sky.
I returned to the truck and left.  The whole trip lasted only an hour and a half.  The girls were waiting at the door and acted as if they hadn't seen me for days.  Sweet dogs!

Rain was falling when I left with the state boat.  I like rain when I'm on this boat.  I like to hear it pelting off the roof.  It reminds me of being in a tent.  I can keep quite dry unless the wind is blowing the rain from the side.  When that happens it's rain suite time.  There were fishing boats in my area for a change.  There weren't a lot of them but a nice smattering of them.  One here and two there.  They were separated nicely.  I met a couple guys who were retired game wardens from Mississippi, I think they said.  "Guys, if I got the state wrong - I apologize."   Of course, a lengthy conversation resulted.  I've met some great folks recently on the water.
Vultures were flying over an area of shoreline just ahead.  One particular vulture was circling down slowly and the temptation to photograph him was irresistible.  He was the largest turkey vulture I think I've ever seen.  Handsome bugger he was.
   He knew exactly where he was going.  He landed right near a dead fish that had washed up on the bank.

Well, he's doing what vultures do.  Vultures play one of the most important duties in nature.  If it weren't for vultures, the shorelines and forests would be littered with rotting caucuses.  Diseases would run rampant infecting creatures large and small.  They are an essential player in natures survival game.

 Funny thing - I've never seen a dead vulture.  I guess they take care of their own.

I went home to listen to some classical music and all I could get was sports.  Sports or church stuff.  Oh ya, Dr. Pinkus and his miracle vitamin potions.  The radio stations in East Tennessee are sadly lacking in informative material.  I'm really sick of listening to, "Hickelvich goes out for a pass, blasted into the end zone, NFL this or that,  Harkem goes into the Hall of Fame, bad call, touchdown.  Then there is the after game rundown by the professional commentators who know why the team lost or won and what should have been done or what was done wrong.  Every station I can get on the radio is carrying some ball game.   Come to church and be saved is another one that is getting a lot of air.  Baptist this or that,  walk in the light, ask for forgiveness and give to thy neighbor are popular today.  Dave Ramsey seems to be the savior to all those who don't have any money with his 5 point plan that he sells in his schools on financial freedom."  I ended up listening to the state of Tennessee highway frequency.  I found out that interstate 81 will have a slow down due to road work at the White Pine exit on Monday.  I need to go on a hike and would be doing just that if I lived in Greenback.  But, I'll just sit here on the porch and watch the new neighbors flounder about in the yard of the house they just bought down the road.  The bird feeders are empty so I have to fill them.  Yep - a relaxing, enlightening evening.  One thing for sure - I ain't a domestic person.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I have not had the good fortune to photograph an immature bald eagle with good success, ever.  That all changed today.  At least, I've done my best with it.  I adjusted the camera and lens for minimum ISO and the lowest shutter speed I could use without suffering shake.  The goal was to be able to crop the shots later with minimal picture distortion.  I am satisfied with the results, at least on my computer.  This was difficult as I was on the water and the slightest wave would "rock the boat" and ruin the shot.  I had to press the shutter between "boat rocks," so to speak.  I would guess this eagle to be between two and three years old with another two or two and a half years to go before he is awarded his white head, neck and tail feathers.  He is a large eagle and I have not previously seen him in the area I was working in today.  I will not comment much throughout this presentation of photos.  There are a lot of pictures.  I hope you enjoy them.  It's rare to be able to collect shots of an immature - at least it has been so for me over the years.


The boat is turning sideways and the eagle is being back lighted by the sky now.  This is exactly what I didn't want to happen.  I had to adjust the camera brightness setting down a third stop.

I'm hoping these shots crop decently.  Even now, as I upload them, I can't tell what the finished images will look like posted on the blog.  Its too much work to remove them if they aren't satisfactory, re-size them and re post them.  Fingers crossed.

I'm posting these early in the day as the satellite is used less by the world.  Now, however, a storm is brewing and clouds can ruin the effort.  I gotta move fast.

All of these shots are crystal clear at their "as taken" sizes.  Cropped sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.  The clouds are moving over the satellite dish and I suspect problems uploading shortly.

That's enough.  I'm happy with these shots.  This eagle is mine forever now.  I can pull up these shots and remember the moment of our meeting.  I hope you weren't bored with so many pictures of this bird.  As I stated before - this is the first opportunity I've had to get shots of an immature bald eagle up until now.  I can't explain it but that's how the cards were dealt me.  I wish I could use a tripod effectively on a boat but, it just doesn't work.  If I could hook this camera and lens outfit onto a tripod I could really get some fabulous shots.  There is too much movement in a boat for that to work.  These shots were taken resting the camera and lens on the seat of the boat.  The lens itself is about 4 pounds so you have an idea what I have to hold on a subject free-hand.  That's it for today, I think.  I can't wait to see these shots myself.  We'll be going to the flood plain on the French Broad River soon with a blind and a "tripod" for some on land photography.  It ought to be fun.  See you then.