Friday, October 26, 2012

SPECTACULAR AUTUMN DAY AT BEECH CREEK

Hi !

It wasn't until 4 AM this morning that I decided to go to Beech Creek.  I have today off, on tomorrow and off the next three.  With two boats and a bike, it can be challenging to decide what to do or where to go.  Bet you'd like to have my problems.  I tossed the canoe on top the truck as soon as I could see this morning and was off.  I even had my brand new chompers in.  I  was dying for  donuts and stopped at the convenience store on the way.  I opened the package and pulled one of those babies out and pinched off about an inch of donut and popped it in my mouth.  When I closed and opened my mouth to chew,  the lower dentures came off my gums and flopped around in my mouth.  I spat the whole mess onto the truck floor, passenger side - then pulled the upper out and pitched it down there on the floor with its partner and I gave it not another thought the rest of the day.   I have limited patience with such things.


Every single aspect related to good canoeing was present here at Beech Creek.  The sky, water, breeze and lack of any humans was perfect.  The canoe operator was in stellar condition also.  A quick look around found a big red tailed hawk in a tree up on a hill.  It was a very far shot for even this 500 mm lens.  What the heck!
 




I decided to run Beech Creek upstream and stay on it's narrow waterway.  There isn't a sound up here.
















If you look closely you'll see that many trees have lost most of their leaves already.

I was half way up here when I discovered that I had forgotten to bring my binoculars.  Wow!  This would put me at a tremendous disadvantage searching for wildlife.  The trick to this game is seeing the critters way out there - way, way out there.  An avenue of approach is then planned where the subject can't see the boat coming.  Without the binoculars I would have to just move as stealthy as possible and hope I see them before they see me.  So far it ain't working with wood ducks.  Two flocks took off far ahead of the canoe.  I'm paddling in super stealth mode leaving not a track on the water and they still detected my presence.
 As you can see above - this is a lot of work.
I could see tiny birds all about and thought I might try to sneak up on one and at least see if I could identify it.



I'm going to guess and say its a juvenile wood - pewee.  The black beak indicates juvenile and the lack of white edging on the feathers tells me it isn't a flycatcher.  Lets do another one.
 Easy one.  Cedar Waxwing

How about this little guy









 I'm going to say chipping sparrow because it is the only sparrow with that black line behind its eye.  After posting this entry, I checked with the state ornithologist and he says its a swamp sparrow and not rare.  Hey - I'm learning.  Sparrows are real tough to identify.  There are many, many species.





 The scenery is gorgeous.  I'm paddling as slow as I can letting the glide of the canoe carry me quietly along. Its just a tremendous day!  There are no shore birds here at all. Wood ducks and mallards are the only ducks I've seen yet.  Later - green winged teals will make an appearance out on the river.




I was on the way back down stream at this point.  Canoe's are slow and I wanted to do some paddling on the French Broad River.  Might find an otter.  Never know.


The grass along the waterway gets heaviest the further down stream one goes.


















Now, who's this?

I turned right and went upstream on the French Broad. 
I saw a movement far up the shoreline.  It was a couple splashes.  I was hoping for otters but, it was ducks.  
The mallards took to the sky and four wood ducks followed.  I wasn't ready for them and missed the shot.  The binoculars would have shown me all these birds a quarter mile away.
Ah ha!  One little wood duck remained behind.  There may be another one or two back under the bank.  Its dark under there and I doubt I can get a good shot of them.
 He really came out of there fast.  I barely got him in the view finder.  These birds are so fast that I can't make the necessary adjustments quick enough.  Its no big deal.  We're not shooting for National Geographic here.
I would continue down this side of the lake to see if the bald eagle was on his perch.  Without the binoculars I would have to look very closely and move the boat slowly.
No eagle today.  But, wait.  He's on the wing and just left his special tree that he perches in.  I'm too late.  I got a fleeting view of him as he disappeared behind the tree line.

 I just missed the bald eagle.  Another 20 minutes and I'd have had him.  No big deal though.  I can always find him when I want.  I headed directly across the river and through the river grass to the channel that lay beyond.  The water was dead calm there and I noticed a lot of waterfowl swimming there.

 Above and below.  Pied bill grebes constantly dive totally under water and pluck the occasional minnow or insect from the surface.
I saw a small duck swimming.  He joined up with a few more ducks.  I couldn't determine what brand they were.   I couldn't until they flew.  These are green winged teals as opposed to blue winged teals.  Look closely at the pictures for the green on their wings.




I know you saw the first picture on this entry and wondered what's up with that.  Right after I took the duck picture above I decided to continue up along the wooded shoreline and cut across the river to Beech Creek and close up shop for the day.  Remember the binoculars?  I didn't see them until I was on top of them.  Two otters were playing on the shoreline.  One swam off and disappeared.  The other one swam close to shore and just stayed in the vicinity.  I turned the canoe into the overhanging limbs of the trees and grabbed a hanging limb to stop the canoe so I could operate the camera.  Otters get me stirred up as you can see.  As I was shooting the one in the water - I saw a bush move.  Then the bush became opaque.  An otter was sleeping in the bush and stood up.  Anyway - here's the best I could do with the situation.  I could have gotten closer with binoculars.  I'm happy though.




















These two guys were putting on a show.  They were just having a good time swimming together.  I wish I could have been closer for better pictures but, any movement from me would send them in panic.  And then they saw the canoe and all swimming instantly stopped.  Very cute.

And then they really, really saw me.  "What's that over there?"
  
Their little heads went below the surface and they were gone.  What a day!  What a day!  I hope you enjoyed it with me.  It's TWRA tomorrow and off the following three days.  I'll be into something for sure.  See ya later.  A last note - In my estimation this is the finest canoeing water in East Tennessee.  There are probably other hidden creeks I haven't found yet but, until I do - this is the ultimate flat water paddling.