Sunday, March 10, 2013

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER

Beech Creek was glorious and gorgeous this morning just as the sun was waking up the river.  I glanced at the water as I released a hold down strap on the boat and just caught a long, thick serpent tail disappear beneath the surface just out from the parking lot.  Otter.
The river hides many secrets in the grasses and wood that line the shoreline.
A fox squirrel made me smile as he scampered about and stopped abruptly when he saw me.  I turned the key and the engine started and down stream I slowly went.  The sun was tricky this morning.  It put a rusty tint on the water and the trees.  This was odd to say the least.  Sometimes the water appeared to be rich, dark blue and at other times it looked green.  

The air was filled with the sounds of Canada Geese honking out their displeasure with each other as they vie for the best nesting spots.  Small flocks pass overhead constantly.  They've split up into these small groups to select mates and nesting sites.  Actually, most of the geese have already selected mates and I can see many have claimed select spots on the shoreline to lay eggs upon.  A pair of geese will defend their selected, choice spots vigorously. 

Look how intently they are staring at me.  Normally they would fly off or flap across the water but, not now - it's breeding season and this is their spot.  They look like they're ready to flap me to death at any moment with little provocation on my part.















I was just idling up the river at a slow 5 mile per hour speed.  The big two stroke engine is a clanky thing and I doubted I would run across anything worth photographing.  Was I ever wrong!
At first I saw the streak of silver tailing water he was leaving - a grebe or maybe a teal duck.  No, it was a beaver.  He was making his way along the shoreline.





The first thing that entered my mind was how happy I was that trapping season was over.  This little guy made it to enjoy summer.  The thought of these critters struggling in a trap sickens me.
The sun was rising fast and that yellow tint started to show on the water.  I set the white balance on the camera to auto as I didn't have time to mess with it.  This little fellow was full aware of my presence and was keeping close to the old, dead, brown water grasses at the shoreline.
Then he just sunk below the surface.  No splash.
I gave the engine some throttle and shut off the key to let glide carry me over the water quietly.  Glide - that's funny.  This old boat glides about like a water logged cow.







It was interesting to watch him move effortlessly through his world.  Speaking of his world - just imagine the wonderful things he sees and swims through and around both on top of and under the water.  Look closely at his world when you look at these pictures.  They, highly intelligent people, say that animals don't feel or show emotion.  I am not very smart but I'll tell you right here and now that animals, especially on the level of the beaver and otter, do have emotions.  And they can feel the clamp of a trap upon their legs and they do feel the terror and panic while in the jaws of a steel trap  as they helplessly await their fates at the hand of man.







I'll relate a story to you now that I'm thinking emotional.   Years ago I was in the Gheenoe on the river below Tellico Dam back west of here.  I was making my way downstream to a tall tree where a pair of bald eagles had their babies.  I heard the clucking of a canada goose.  Just around the corner of a rock cliff I saw three goose eggs sitting on a rock.  Geese do that.  In the water was the mother and in front of her was one of her eggs.  It was floating along slowly and she was following it a foot behind.  It was heart breaking to watch her helplessly paddle behind the egg.  Her head was held low and the sounds she was making sounded like she was in misery.  She was.  I watched for twenty minutes and photographed this ordeal.  She kept behind the egg, following and emitting single clucks spaced far apart.  Finally she stopped dead.  She didn't turn away but, she stared at her egg as it slowly floated further and further away from her.  She didn't follow.  Finally she very slowly turned around and paddled back the way she came.  She stopped and turned again toward her egg as if some miracle would pluck it from the water and sit it upon the rocks.  Then once again she turned and slowly swam back with her head almost touching the water.  She had other unborn children that needed her.  This one was forsaken.  Now - don't anybody tell me that animals do not feel emotion.  They deserve better than they get from humanity - that's for certain.





And then he was gone.


A hundred yards upstream sat the beaver lodge I have photographed many times through the winter.  An enormous beaver was nibbling on grasses just beside the old lodge.  He is enormous!  This is the biggest beaver I ever saw.  He must be ancient.  You can see how fat he is.   I'd hate to have Shade run onto this character.  She'd be in trouble. These pictures are poor and I'm sorry.  I didn't expect to run into another beaver and wasn't ready for him.  I did get a perfect shot of his face after I collected myself.



The experiences so far made the day.  If nothing else came up all morning I'd not be disappointed.  But, more did come my way.  I continued up around the bend in the river and saw water birds everywhere.  Many flew and many held their positions.



They wouldn't wait on me.  They were green winged teal.  One little guy did wait.  He is a bufflehead duck.











This is tough photography for sure.  He's far away and his black head contrasts with the meter setting on the camera and I'm too feeble minded to set the camera to spot metering.  Dumb!!  Buffleheads take off in flight at instant top speed.  They remind me of a grouse.  This one just bobbed about on the water and cruised on down the shoreline the opposite direction I was travelling.  He watched me closely though.

Canada's were flying overhead announcing their arrival and their intentions to land.


Then, in a few moments I caught sight of a very strange duck.  I have never seen the like in my life.
He is a surf scotter.




Strange.  He doesn't belong here.  Well, I guess he has more ownership on this water than I do.  But, he isn't an eastern bird.  He's a salt water bird.  Migration routes?  I don't know.  He has a bright white patch of plumage on the back of his neck and wait until you see his bill.  There's a great shot of him in flight that shows his bill.  It follows:




This section of river is amazing!  It's a wonder world of wildlife.  I told you that I bored you with bald eagles.  Then I bored you with turkeys.  I guess I'll be boring you with beavers too.  Yep - I ran onto another one.  How great is this?!



He had a destination as this boy was making some time on the water.  




And, with a loud crash of his tail against the water he dove.  This is great!  They can't fool me now.  I know about how far they will swim under water before they surface again.  I was right on him when he came to the surface.









I left him alone.  I'm not here to upset and stress them out.  This morning has been a spectacular time on the water the likes of which I can't remember.  The river is an amazing habitat for Tennessee's critters.
Some geese blasted off the shoreline screaming at the top of their lungs and scaring the, well, startling me.




They can be very noisy when they want to be.  It's their river so I guess they can do as they want.  What a morning!


Water grasses will grow out into the river from the shoreline in April.  This rich, green, thick grass will provide much needed cover and even more great habitat for the river critters.  I have pictures else-ware on this blog showing the beauty of these grasses.  For now I'll just enjoy the pre-summer spectacle provided by the river.





Aren't these scenes gorgeous?  

An old wood duck box hangs at the ready to accept new occupants.  Spring is an exciting time of the year.  

Yes indeed - the grasses at the rivers edge hold secrets.  I'm learning them too but, I'll never tell.

So that ends another high adventure outing. :)   There are many photos in this entry and there's a reason for it.  I have thousands of photos on the computer or external hard drives and I sometimes search for hours to find the one I want.  When they are on the blog, all I have to do is type in the entry title and I'm with the photographs I want.  The other reason I post so many is that it isn't often one can be so lucky to be able to view so much wonder at one time.  I post only a few and throw away far too little.  I guess I appreciate the kindness shown by nature in allowing me to wonder through her kingdom to photograph her children and it would be sacrilegious to be indiscreet with the delete button.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures.