Saturday, March 2, 2013


This update was posted at 3:40 AM on 3/7/13.  It suddenly struck me, as I lay in bed, that I didn't mention the impetus for the "curious/wonder" discussion in this post.  During a conversation with my friend Paul, via email, Paul made a profound statement to me stating: ya can't learn without curiosity, or something to that effect.  That idea never left me.  Coincidentally, the thought of that statement came to mind while on Beech Creek this morning.  Point is the thought was prompted by Paul's statement to me.  I just wanted to give credit where it is due.  That bothered me and I'm disappointed in myself for not mentioning it.  Sort of like ignoring a copyright.

It's cold up here at Beech Creek.  My fingers are frozen and the boat isn't in the water yet.  It must be the wind blowing through my gloves.  The sky is dark gray and snow flakes are swirling over the water proving that winter still has its clutches on East Tennessee.  Last week saw 65 degree sunny days and I thought for sure the cold was  in the past.  Not so, I guess.  Turtles were laying on logs in the sun last Sunday - a sure sign of spring.  They surely reburied themselves in the mud when this cold front emerged.

I watched a mutt duck swimming along while I launched the boat.  They aren't especially pretty but, he looked like he was having fun floating along with the current.  He's beautiful in his own way.  What the heck - he doesn't need a pedigree to have the right to be here.  After all, it's more his water than it is mine.
 I got to thinking about the old question of what came first - the chicken or the egg?  Well, not exactly.  Sort of.  Which "comes" first - curiosity or wondering?  Does one need to be curious about something in order to wonder about it or should one wonder about something to the extent that curiosity is instilled?  Mr. Webster has the definitions explained in his wondrous book but, the sequence of their application  to places, things and events, when they are applicable to discovery, is sometimes questionable.  If I saw an otter raising himself straight up out of the water, would I be "curious" as to how and why he is doing that or would I "wonder"  why and how he is doing it?  Does curiosity drive wonderment or does "to wonder" create one to be curious?  The two words do not mean the same thing.  It's the old chicken or the egg saying.  I think curiosity would be the proper selection here.  Example:  I'm curious why Davy Crockett went to the Alamo in Texas.  I wonder why Davy Crockett went to the Alamo in Texas.  The curiosity about why he went describes a sincere "interest" in one's mind why he went.  To "wonder" why he went expresses more of an emotional desire to know.  I wonder because I'm curious.  Fun, huh?  One thing for sure - the learning process can't evolve unless "we" express curiosity about something.  If one is not curious, then one will not attempt to figure it out.   To not be curious about an issue or entity will eliminate the ability to wonder about it.  Whew!  I wonder how I'll use those two words in this blog entry.  We'll see.
The warm weather last week has caused many of the water plants to turn from brown to green.  I wonder if they'll be wilted by the cold ambient temperatures and turn brown again.  I doubt it.  I am curious though.
It's a really interesting process to learn a river, or I should say the idiosyncrasies of a river.  I've not been on a new river yet that hasn't been an adventure about discovery.  I know where they are going to and from but, it's the unknowns about the shorelines, consistency of the bottom, coves, depths, current flow, islands, shoals and most importantly - wildlife habitat and residence.  Once I have the danger areas located and the bottom figured out I focus on the wildlife.  
 Oh, I check out the shorelines at all times both sides of the water but, I make note of really great habitat and focus on those places.  Sometimes I'll break the shorelines down into sections and really pay attention to those.  Over time I will beach the boat and walk the areas near the water noting mast (food), holes that appear some yards inland indicating a second den entrance, dead trees displaying holes created by woodpeckers, trees that show beaver sign and more.
Unlike lakes, rivers seem to hold an enormous quantity of diverse wildlife.  I think the reason is, at least for these parts, is that the lakes have such a preponderance of human intrusion that the wildlife will not tolerate them.  The river banks are usually, for the most part, desolate.  Oh, the rivers pass through towns eventually but they also cut through mountains and follow valleys that are for the most part uninhabited farm land and lots of it.  Most of this private land is posted.  Obviously that's a good thing for wildlife and the habitat they require.  The result is wild river banks and lots of critters.  I check the undercut banks closely for not only holes that make good dens for otters and beaver but, also for foot prints left in the mud at the den's entrance that settles my "curiosity" about what is using that hole.  Sometime I'll do a blog entry about critter foot prints.  That might be interesting.
Below is an otter den.  There are tracks on the river bank near it.  The trapper missed this otter family, thank heavens.  The rascals are safe now as the trapping season has ended.  This den will have another entrance above and back a bit from the shoreline in the field.  The den entrance below will be prone to flooding when the river rises.  It's not a big deal as otters usually have a subsurface den entrance anyway.  This hole was probably already in existence and otters simply moved in.  I doubt they created it.
A red tail hawk landed in a tree back from the water.  They are always far away when I come onto them.  This hawk is of the darker variation as opposed to the light variation usually found near the river.  The blond version of the red tail is easy to confuse with the coopers hawk at times when viewed at a distance.  The cooper's hawk is smaller.  The red shouldered hawk is almost identical to the red tail and often the two are misidentified.  

 I may have gone overboard with so many shots of this bird.  I wanted to make sure I captured a decent representation of him.  I often over-do the photography.  I just wish I could get one closer.  These shots are cropped larger than the original shots.

Hopefully one or two of these will be of acceptable quality.  This boat is rocking with the wind and waves which isn't helping at all.  There's always something trying to counter the photography.  Then, there's my frozen fingers.  It is cold!
He flew.

 I went nuts on the shutter button.  Well, it's the closest I've ever been to a red tail.

And there you have a study of the red tail hawk, darker version.  I wonder where they nest around here.  I've not seen a red tail hawk nest or any hawk nests along the river.  I imagine they stay more to the inland trees bordering the pastures.

So, there you have it - I've bored you with bald eagles, turkeys and now red tail hawks.  You think that's bad - wait until all the different varieties of baby ducks are born in spring.  See ya.