Thursday, September 6, 2012


click photos to enlarge

The weather forecasters were predicting a possible 40% chance of rain, heavy at times, with storms likely.   Whats that supposed to mean?  Possible 40% chance of rain?  How ridiculous!   I packed up the Gheenoe and headed for the Holston River and Beech Creek.

The above little boat has carried me over an awful lot of water here in Tennessee.  It's proven reliable and perfect for accessing the out of the way places I need to frequent.  Its downfall, if it really is one, is that its made of fiberglass and not aluminum.  Tennessee lakes, for the most part, have rocky shorelines and rocks and fiberglass don't mix well.  I have often wished I had an aluminum boat but, the Gheenoe is paid for and it will go almost anywhere in any depth of water.  It is perfect for photography.  I mentioned in the last post that I was upgrading the seat I use on the bow of the boat.  I did that.  Its the chair I use when I camp and its super comfortable.  Its called a Kermit Chair and they're made here in Tennessee.  Super quality built!

I couldn't wait to get up the right shoreline where I saw the otters a couple weeks ago.  I headed down Beech Creek for the Holston.

I dropped the electric motor when I got to the Holston river.  A sharp right turn and up the shoreline I went.

A hillside off to the the right is covered with black birds.

I had traveled half way up the side of the shoreline where good otter habitat exists.  I remember exactly where I saw and photographed them previously.  They weren't there.  They could show up at any time though.  This is their river bank and their den is here.

A little squirrel appeared running down the river bank keeping under the overhang.  He would take to the trees from time to time but really seemed to prefer hopping and running over the old snags and drift wood on the bank.  Today is almost a mirror of the last trip up here.  The squirrel from the last visit was larger and lived further down stream in a grove of trees near the water.

The squirrels who live along this river are very hard to photograph as the foliage is very dense and squirrels stay in it as much as possible.  The problem is that the auto focus on the camera focuses on twigs, leaves and limbs that are in front of the squirrel making it necessary to switch over to manual focus.  Squirrels are a challenge to put into the camera and fun to watch.

The little guy crawled up on a thick tree limb, laid down and closed his eyes.  Cute rascal.
 He didn't lay quiet for long though.

Its really interesting to get out here, be quiet and find animals to watch.  They do things that aren't shown in the field guides.  If one is quiet and still, the animals will go about their daily routines perform some really unique activities.  Have you ever seen a squirrel lay down on a limb, on his side and rest?  The on his side part is unique and unusual.  

We'll let this guy alone now and head down river to see if there might be an eagle to be found.  There were a few more ducks on the water than I saw last time.  I was able to sneak up on a wood duck who thought she was well hidden behind a wall of weeds.  Not so.

The water grasses and cat tails up here provide tremendously effective habitat for ducks and herons.  Its a shame the waters in the reservoirs aren't permitted to have grasses.  Grasses can't survive in these reservoirs due to the fact the water levels are dropped very low in the fall.  The water grasses would find themselves stranded on the dry shorelines and die in the sun.
I turned the Gheenoe downstream.  If there were any eagles out they would be on the lower end of this section of the river where the thick forest with huge trees grew.  

He was in a tall, dead tree that sat far back away from the water.  I couldn't get close.  I hoped the pictures would be satisfactory.  

I don't know why but, bald eagles always seem to sit in trees that are lighted poorly for photography.  They are either on a top limb of a tree that is back lit by the sky or they bury themselves into the limbs that have a lot of foliage with bright sun light shining straight down on the tree.   The above eagle is in sun that is shining straight down on top of him and the light appears to be reflected from the green leaves with a yellow tint.  The shots came out OK but I'd like to understand the yellow tint that appears to be yellow light.  

I parked the Gheenoe in the water and snapped away.  I had all the shots I wanted of the eagle sitting and was hoping he'd fly shortly.  He didn't.  He was waiting me out.  I love to get pictures of eagles and ospreys as they launch from their perches or land.  That's when they appear dynamic.  This guy was just sitting.  The camera was getting heavy and the very slow current was pushing the boat away and turning it at the same time.  Finally he jumped into the air, which I missed, and flew.

Bald eagles always get me going.  They are simply a dynamic presence on the lakes.
I consider a trip a success when I get to see a bald eagle.  I've been lucky over the years to be able to find so many.  I can turn a bald eagle up if I want to on any outing I go on anymore.  The photo above is not a bald eagle.  It is a damsel fly. 
I fired up the engine and turned downstream again.  After only five minutes I noticed the familiar white spots in the trees.  Good heavens!  There were two bald eagles side by side.  What luck!

These birds wouldn't fly either.  I'm not used to photographing them so far away.  Close-in birds get nervous and will fly quickly when I approach them.

They became airborne before I could squeeze the trigger.  Had they been closer I could have determined their departure from the limb much easier.

They were gone in a heartbeat.  The trip was worth it after seeing the eagles.  Those eagles were heart stopping.  If you haven't seen a bald eagle in the flesh - you need to.  There is nothing like sharing space with one of those guys.
I headed back up stream for another look for the otters.
 He's back!  Look at that crest of plumage on top his head.  

 The green heron.
I'm happy to have photographed the eagles.  I headed back to the little boat ramp but first I wanted to check a field for deer.  I'd have to go up Beech Creek a short way to get a view of the field.  I sat the bow of the boat on thick water grass to hold it steady.  I rode down the otter's shoreline after I took the photos of the green heron.  I was using the engine.  I looked to my left and there were three heads sticking above the surface.  It was my otters.  I should have shown more patience and used the electric motor.  They didn't show again.  There will be another day.

Look at that gorgeous little creek above.  It runs about five feet deep.  Sweet.  There weren't any deer in the field but, there was another resident on display.

It's been a super day, as usual.  This section of the Holston is a favorite spot of mine and I hope to return often.  It has never left me down in the wildlife department and its gorgeous even when the sun isn't out.  Hope you enjoyed the ride today.  I'll get the otters in the camera again.  Its just a matter of time.  See ya...