Thursday, March 14, 2013

GONNA BE A BIRDIE SPRING THIS YEAR

I enjoy the winter months in the outdoors but I've had it up to here this year with winter.  It would be great to just pull on a sweatshirt and head on out to the woods or lake instead of worrying about the things that can dash a good outing.  I thought spring was on the river a couple weeks ago and after today - I guarantee it's here.  The sky was overcast this morning with a light, cold breeze and I didn't think I'd see any wildlife at all.


A little friend greeted me at the juncture of Beech Creek and the Holston River.

The beaver was just cruising along near the shore with a destination obviously in mind as he headed for a large dead-fall laying in the water.


 Well now - this is the way to start the day.  It's nice to see a swimming beaver first thing in the morning within ten minutes of launching.  I headed up stream.  The sun would get very bright and then darken rapidly.  The change was constant the whole time I was on the water.  I have put a lot of canada goose shots on the blog because I like the critter.  They are graceful in flight and sometimes act like bulls in china closets when on the ground.  Geese are tactful, graceful fliers though and it's neat to see them hoist that large body into the air from the surface.


I did mention they were graceful, I believe and, they are precision fliers.



And, I did elude to the fact that they are like bulls in china closets.
That is one big ass bird to get airborne!
But, once in the sky they are graceful, powerful fliers and good representatives for the idea of what freedom really is.
The sun was up but the warmth didn't appear with it.  I was bundled to the max.  I keep forgetting that it's only 8 AM and about 34 degrees.  I wondered, while driving up here, if I'd see another white faced fox squirrel today.  That squirrel I saw yesterday was very oddly trimmed in white.   While cruising near the shore I saw a movement on the ground next to the water.  It was a fox squirrel.

He was foraging around the wood and rock on the shoreline.  I had the engine shut down and I whistled once.  He perked up and tried to find the source of the shrill noise I made.


I whistled softly, which is hard to do with dentures.


Eventually he became comfortable with his situation and gave my whistling no further concern.



He went about his business and my boat was drifting further and further away from him.  That was a nice little interlude, watching him.  The river was coming alive with critters.  A mallard blasted out from the shoreline heading across the lake in front of me.  Beautiful!

Where were all these wild, crazy birds coming from?  This is like a wildlife classroom out here today.
My binoculars picked up some ducks with strange markings on their beaks.  It looked like the bills had a circle around them.  What strange duck is this now.  They were nervous and I cut the engine and tried photographing them at great distance.  I'm so glad I put the big 500 mm lens back on the camera yesterday.


They are ring neck ducks.  Notice the red eyes and the circles (rings) around their bills.  They were very nervous too.

Gone!
I went as far as beaver island and banked the boat around to return on the opposite shoreline.  I saw a deer on the small island.  I allowed the boat to coast into fallen wood and stop so I could look around with the glasses.  This island was tiny and I thought I would be able to easily photograph the deer.  He was gone.  Amazing!  I took a photo of a swamp sparrow and moved out.


I hadn't photographed a turkey vulture in a while and this guy was posing very nicely.  
What the heck?  Click, click.
He became agitated and flew shortly after I took the above shot.  He's a big boy for sure.

Wow!  Where were all these guys during winter?
Just a little farther down the river I noticed tiny splashes along the shoreline.  The binoculars indicated wood ducks, my favorite duck.  Wood ducks are very colorful and I think  one of the most beautiful ducks we have in this country.  They are ultra fast in flight too.  



Wood ducks will not tolerate intrusion either.  They shot into the air like miniature rockets at my distant approach.


I watched them until they were too small to see.  This lake is covered up with wood ducks it seems.  I can't wait until they have young.  Wood duck peeps are about the size of silver dollar and they're really sweet all lined up following mom as she swims tight against the shore.  I'll get the shots for ya when the eggs hatch.
I wasn't ready for the mallard shot above.  The camera was set up to take a shot of a tree.  Had to do some pretty wild adjustments fast.  It's not the best shot but it's not the worse either.  What else could possibly come up to photograph?  I mean, this has been some great morning for critter photography.
A huge bird sliced its way through the trees and a crow was chasing it.  Crows and many other birds constantly harass birds of prey on a constant basis.  The hawk swooped upward and gained altitude quickly but, the crow was right on it's tail.  That big black crow wasn't giving up.  He wanted to chase that hawk clear out of the area.





The big raptor couldn't shake his pursuer.  The crow actually touched the hawk twice but I couldn't get the shutter button pushed in time.



I watched until the crow was finally satisfied that he had chased the dangerous predator away.  I sat back down in the seat of the boat when more wood ducks screamed off the shore into the air.

How sweet are those shots?

Surely nothing more could happen.  Well, there was this one little bufflehead.
And, and oh, ya - almost forgot the pied billed grebe.  How could I forget him?
The morning was about over and it was time to head for the ramp.  I noticed that both bald eagles were on the nest down by the dam.  I guess there will be immature s to photograph this summer.  It's been a great morning and -  its not even springtime yet.  Think what lies in wait.  I appreciate you looking in.  See ya bye.