Thursday, September 20, 2012

MAGNIFICENT DEER AND A LOT OF MUD

I first met the gentleman above a week ago on the French Broad River.  I liked him then and it was a delight to run into him today. His boat and equipment are average fare, he's retired and all he does is fish.  Sometimes he motors up the river to a pretty spot and just kicks back and drifts off to sleep.   He is simply a great guy to talk to, a genuine sportsman and a fellow I wouldn't mind spending a lot of time with.  He remembered me and I him.  Its people like him that help make the job I do so great.
I was on my favorite part of the lake today.  I will also be on it for the next two days.  I can't believe it.  The area was from the Leadvale boat ramp and upstream to above the Rankin boat ramp.  That entire area is the French Broad River.  The water was very shallow in that area last week but, we had some heavy rain over the past two days and I hoped the water may have gained some depth for at least today.


I told myself that I would pass up bald eagles today.  I think I'm wearing them out on this blog.  I wanted to see if I could actually drive past one without feeling the need to pull the camera out.  As it turned out I shot the pictures of the osprey above just after cruising past a bald eagle high in a tree just below Leadvale.  I need to learn to control the shutter finger and wait for the unique shot rather than fire away in earnest at a perched eagle or, maybe fire away and only publish the unique shots.  I'll work on it.

I decided to mix up the shots for the blog entry tonight.  I felt like being a bit cavalier with the pictures.  I didn't feel like following any scheme or making a production out of a simple trip up the river.  As it turned out, the morning was full of surprises as you'll soon see.
An enormous splash and then another occurred off to the left side of the boat.  What in the world?

Out from the other side of all this turmoil paddled a little duck.  One little duck.


This tiny duck made two splashes large enough to have been made by an osprey plunging into the water to grab a fish.  I laughed out loud because this tiny duck cruised out of the chaos and turmoil as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.  It was indeed humorous.  He saw me and I expected to get a nice shot of him taking to the sky.  He fooled me.  He paddled toward the shoreline.  That's unusual, I thought.


She paused at the near vertical cliff and climbed on up.  Its amazing how animals with only two legs can negotiate obstacles like vertical cliffs.  We humans have two legs and two hands and we grunt and slip while complaining the whole time.  The little duck simply walked up the cliff as if it were nothing.


All she had to do was fly away.  Instead she struggles up this cliff.  It made no sense.  Could she have young tucked away up there?  No, there should be no young this time of year.  I lingered here longer than I cared to but gave her five more minutes.



She climbed to a high spot on the cliff and stopped.  She remained still.  I couldn't figure it out.  Enough time was spent here.  I had to move on.  I glassed up and down the shoreline on both sides and not one fishing boat was on the water.  We experienced very heavy rain day and night over the past two days and the water was very stained in this area and was getting more stained the further up the river I went.  Fishermen probably expected today to be a bust as far as fishing was concerned and stayed home.  
The box above was just sitting on the mud, revealed by the receding water.  It has something to do with fish as it was under water until the lowering of the lake.  Possibly some sort of shad trap.  Its a human creation so it must have some evil intention.

The lake was littered with floating wood and trash.  A lot of water must have flowed down the Nolichucky and Pigeon Rivers.  The stained water turned to muddy water the further upstream I went.

The Old Bridge Support at Leadvale
At full pool, the water is clear up to the back of the truck you see parked on the ramp.  The pier in the picture has water clear up to the writing you see on it.  Last summer I watched kids diving off the top of that thing.  Look what they were diving toward.  All those rocks and posts were just waiting for them to hit.  I told them what was under the water there and they paid no attention to me.  I drove off thinking "Idiots!"  Its their lives.

I continued upstream past the mouth of the Nolichucky River and noticed the water was almost pure mud.  See above.  How much top soil from farmer's fields are in this water?  A fish would get stuck in the mud while trying to swim through this muck.  The  engine prop sliced through the thick, muddy water and I remember wondering why the sediment doesn't stay in the cooling system of the engine.
I checked upstream along the shoreline for fishing boats and saw none.  I did notice a patch of brown back off the shoreline in the lush green grass.
I could see through the binoculars that it was a doe.  She heard the motor and looked directly at me and walked briskly toward the trees.  I would glass the area when I got up there.  The piece of land she is on is a long island separated from the mainland by about a hundred yards of two to three feet deep water.  When I got closer to the spot I saw her I noticed another smaller splotch of brown.

It was a fawn.  He was tucked right in lush grass where mom put him.  He heard the boat engine and raised up to have a look.





He stood up and never took his eyes off the boat.  Cute little fella.

The river's current was really strong.  Muddy water pushed against the boat and I found a need to actually push the throttle forward to increase rpms to overcome the resistance of the fast, oncoming water as it pushed back against the bow.

Water rushed over rocks on the opposite side of the river.  No boat would navigate over there until next summer.  Only about two hundred feet of water off the shoreline is navigable on this side of the river.
The cormorant's nests are empty but are ready for the return of the transients in the spring.
An osprey startles me as it flashes from a tree limb.  




The boat has been floating over water two to three feet deep for the last half hour.  The depth under the boat suddenly is one and a half feet to two feet.  This is as far as I go.  Time to turn it down stream.






I've never been on a narrow fast moving river before.  This might be a trick to go down stream with current pushing against the boat from the rear.  Normally it wouldn't be an issue but the water depth is shallow and I don't have a desire to be thrust over rocks and logs by fast moving current from behind.  We'll see what happens.  The binoculars allowed me to see past the Rankin boat ramp and no fishermen were on the river or on the shoreline at the ramp.  No one could fish in this river today.  I checked on the little fawn as I floated by.  Mom was there with junior.



I shut the engine off and let the current take the boat.  This was working out fine.  I was delighted.  No fuel needed.  All I could hear was the water lapping against the side of the boat and birds.  I love it out here.  Love isn't powerful enough.  This is truly - life as it should be, at least for me.


I saw a truck on the shoreline with a canoe on the back of it.  I thought someone may be fishing from the shore.  I fired up the engine and idled over.  I met a guy who I had a lot in common with.  He is a canoeist and a photographer.  I tied the boat off and we talked photography for awhile.  I meet the nicest people out here.   We exchanged email addresses and I gave him the blog address.  He had a photo album full of great wildlife shots he had taken.  I was really impressed with the quality of the pictures.  I suggested he send some shots to Watchable Wildlife - the TWRA wildlife site.
I had to find a fisherman somewhere.  The binoculars came out again and I checked the Leadvale boat ramp and all the shoreline adjacent to it.  No one anywhere.  My area ended at the Leadvale bridge and the morning on the job was over here.  I tried.  There was a truck and boat trailer in the Leadvale parking lot but it must have gone downstream out of my area.  Oh well...
I motored back toward Walters Bridge, where I put-in, slowly to conserve fuel.  The area I was cruising in was bald eagle territory.  There was no one home however.
I was coming up on a very short cove on my right and I kicked it into neutral.  The water flow here on the wide part of the river was slow and the boat slowly moved across the mouth of the little cove and, wow!



It was dark back in there.  I instantly changed the camera from average to spot metering and fired away.  The scenery and the deer were perfectly married into what one's mind would envision as the perfect outdoor picture.  It all flowed together and portrayed nature at her best.




Don't forget to check out the horns.  That boy is a heavy deer.  Hang in there.  Wait until you see who shows up in a minute.


Wild scenes like this don't come along often out here.  Deer and bear make themselves available to the tourist's cameras often in the national park but, out here it's an infrequent experience to find tremendous photo opportunities like this.


They were aware of the big white boat's presence and kept glancing at it but didn't seem alarmed.  The buck in the shoots above kept watching the forest to his right between glances my way.


Does kept passing in front and behind him.  He would turn his head toward the boat and then turn back to resume his vigilance of the forest.  I had the feeling he expected something to happen.  Perhaps a human floundered about back in the woods.
Then a deer stepped out of the forest and stopped.  He was huge.  This is what the buck was watching for.  This new actor was "THE" leader of this pack.


All the deer reacted to his presence.  They gathered together and milled about in close proximity to each other as if expecting some orders or direction.

He moved slowly, unhurriedly.  He surveyed all around him and showed no concern but, appeared to have an awareness about him.  He was guarded but unafraid.


The bow of the boat gently touched against the shoreline at the mouth of the cove and stuck there.  Thank heaven!

 I was suddenly very happy that I had familiarized myself with my camera to the point of being able to make adjustments while holding it to my face.  These images were very important to me.


They were getting ready to move out.  It was plain that everyone was waiting on the big guy to arrive.  Its amazing how he stimulated them into activity at his arrival.  


In a flash, everyone moved toward the forest to their left.  I lost sight of the big buck.  He evaporated before my eyes.  I wish I had watched him more closely.  It has been a wonderful experience photographing these beautiful deer.  Chances like this don't happen often and I felt confident that I had the camera set the way it should be.  Time to leave.  It's been an absolutely fantastic morning - one I won't soon forget.