Friday, March 22, 2013

THIS RIVER IS FOR THE BIRDS

all shots taken with Sigma 150 - 500 mm tele


I was excited when I pulled into the boat ramp at Beech Creek at sun-up.  Even though it was only 29 degrees - I knew the sun would be bright and the morning would warm up quickly.  The water was as pretty as I've ever seen it.
The parking lots were empty and I would just make my rounds up one shoreline and down the other.  Good Grief, it was pretty!
Ice clung tenaciously to the shoreline adding a white border separating earth from the water.
The turkeys were out in the field across the river.  They are always there.  It's their morning place to commune with each other and squabble with mates.  The gobbling sounds were constant.  They came from the flock above and from other points on both sides of the river.  I have never, ever in all my years heard that many turkeys gobbling at one time.

The gobblers have their tails fanned out to impress the ladies and the gobbling sounds go on and on and on.  This is only one flock of seven that I see constantly along the ten miles of shorelines on the Holston River in this area.
I can only imagine the hundreds of turkey chicks that will be scurrying about, chasing mothers all over these fields in the Spring.
A colorful movement made me look to the right.  Sudden movements always catch my eye but, a sudden red movement can not go un-noticed.

He was hopping around all over the wood - pecking frequently.  I see a lot of insects already hovering close to the surface of the soil and gnat sized, black, flying bugs buzzing about the rotten wood.  Maybe he was scratching up breakfast.

Short, narrow little coves appear along the shore here and there and wood ducks usually hide out in there.  I was bundled up like the Goodyear Blimp with those lobster style gloves on my hands.  I would be hard pressed to be able to photograph wood ducks, especially with the gloves on.  And wouldn't you know it - the first little cove I passed contained wood ducks.  They took flight in an instant and I did my best with them.  Gloves flew off, camera found my hand, or visa verse, and I just had time to crank the shutter speed to a thousandth of a second.  I needed more shutter speed but the moment wouldn't allow it.
 


They are so quick and, beautiful!
A flock of blue winged teal blasted from the shore and flashed high in front of me.  These were taken with the gloves on.  Like the wood ducks - I needed more shutter speed.  Panning the camera with the birds makes the shots acceptable.





I crossed the lake and followed the heavily wooded shoreline downstream.  There were ducks tucked in and hidden all along the thick foliage along the water's edge.  It's breeding time and everyone is paired up for mating.  It's Springtime, even though the temperatures don't reinforce that fact.  The gloves were off for the shots below and I could push buttons and turn wheels on the camera.
 There is a single flying goose in the shot below:

 This red winged black bird was particularly noisy at my passing.  Loud mouth!
I looked to my right and there he was sitting up pretty on a log.  These guys are sweet with their pretty faces trimmed in white.  Another fox squirrel.



He saw me right about here and was watching me from cover.  He didn't run but, he was very aware of my position in relation to his.


He then just went about his business with quick glances my way.







I left him in peace and drifted on.  A drake mallard was swimming close to an old snag. He wouldn't fly as I approached which means he has a lady friend on a nest against the shoreline under the scrub.  He will fly though.  They all do eventually when humans approach.  Good thing they do!




This male is the prettiest mallard I have ever seen.  His colors were vibrant and he carried his head higher than usual.  Shortly he would fly off and his mate would leave her hiding place to fly away with him creating the highest quality "mallards in flight" shots I ever took.



Their flight is an effort in precision and they are gorgeous to watch!


That's a tough act to follow but, well, look below.  He's not large.  He's not the smallest but, he's a handsome fellow:  Also, his pictures are an example of the best I can do with the equipment I have.  He's a rough-winged swallow.


Notice the purple tinge on his white breast.  He's so cute I'd like to stick him in my shirt pocket.



This little guy was all alone.  I didn't see even one more like him.  He looked half frozen with his tiny head drawn down into the downy plumage of his neck.  A pretty little rascal.


These birds are cormorants and great blue herons and they are sharing the trees, using them as a combined species rookery.  That's something I've not seen.  I've seen cormorant rookeries alongside heron rookeries but, never together in the same trees.  The cormorants are the birds standing alone and the herons are standing on nests for the most part.

The birds above are all great blue herons.  One on the lower right is standing on a heron nest. 
Above:  Notice the long, straight tuft of straight plumage extending down from the back of his head.  He stands as a sentry would ever watching.


I was ready to leave the river.  The boat slowly floated back up Beech Creek to the tiny boat ramp.

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This has been, as usual, a wonderful morning on this water.   I need to get the canoe back up here very soon.  I wish it were not surrounded by private land as I would love to camp against these waters.  I hope you liked this entry and I'll see you soon.  We're heading west to Cherokee National Forest, Tellico, Chilhowee and Calderwood Lakes very soon.  A lake camp out will happen in the very new future.  Stay on board and thanks for visiting this magic place with me.