Wednesday, April 3, 2013


A very brisk start on the lake in almost darkness changed to bright sun quickly that cast a brilliant orange reflection on the entire river.  Mornings are amazing out here and no two are the same.  This strange orange light required constant camera adjustments to suit the brightness and subtleties of the photographic conditions.  Add to that a rocking, noisy, clunky, rattly boat and you get the picture.

But oh, what a gorgeous time to be on the water!

The Holston River was more picturesque than I've ever seen it.  This water is truly a gift - a gift that I hope is protected for all time.  The many ducks moved slowly as if savoring the moments before full sunlight.

The land and water features became more clear as the sun climbed in the sky.  Wisps of fog clung tightly to the surface, reluctant to relax it's clutches on the water.

It's fun to enjoy the moments just prior the sun's rising, pretending I'm on the water that time forgot.  But, eventually old Sol shines brightly illuminating the water and land, casting his warmth upon the creatures so dependant upon him.
I look and see into every crevice of the shoreline as I pass by.  Tiny ripples on the surface are indicative of critters coming to life in the early morning.  The many species of ducks are awakening from their "vigilant" half sleep.  I'm not sure that ducks ever really sleep.  I try to miss nothing.  Old snags in the water and boulders along the shore all receive my scrutiny.  

The ever cautious wood duck is vulnerable to the camera at this early hour.  They are so secretive!
Above:  Blue winged teal paddle slowly along the shoreline searching for breakfast.  What a beautiful face the males have!
And - oh my gosh!  I've never seen them here on this river before.  They are migrating North for sure.  The common loon is right there in front of me.  I've never seen groups of males together in such close proximity before.  They are one of the most glamorous, luxurious birds on the planet!  Luxurious might be the wrong adjective but, I don't care.  They are the mink coat of the bird world.

These loons seem to belong here.  Its the kind of water one would expect them to be on.  The enormous lakes in the valley are occupied by too many humans and the loon is a back country bird.  He is the epitome of wilderness.  This river reflects those wilderness qualities - in the early mornings.

And, they plop - disappear - only to surface a hundred yards away.

They swim fast as lightning under the surface.  How can they hold their breath for such a long period of time?    And plop - gone again!
Well, look at this.  A juvenile bald eagle is making his debut on the river.  Hes a newcomer to the area. 

He is far, far away from me and I doubted the photos would be acceptable.  They just make it through my personal quality control inspection.  Yea - right!  he is molting.  Notice the missing primaries and the rough appearance of his overall plumage.  Eagles molt in bits and pieces because if they were to molt all at once - they wouldn't be able to hunt.  Raptors all molt very slowly.
I wonder if he'll stay on the river or migrate back up to the far North.  Time will tell.  Notice how the strange orange, early morning light affects the pictures of the eagle.  This is strange light for sure.
I noticed a large black blob in a tree directly in front of me.  It is the largest black vulture I've ever seen.

He is enormous!  This bird looked very formidable.

I tried to get him when he flew but he was too close.  This is the only downfall of a powerful camera lens.  Its difficult to get the whole subject in the lens when one is close to it.  I almost got him but - well - see for yourself.  Almost.
There's a spot along this shoreline where water grasses grow thick and there are deadfalls that create tiny, little inlets from the main river to the shore that resemble little miniature coves.  It's a wood duck paradise and they are always there.  Always!

I shut the engine off well before reaching this area.  I was going past anyhow so why not just drift past silently?  A male and a female wood duck were lazing away the early morning hours in their little, quiet pond off to the side of the main river.  Beautiful!

It didn't take them long to notice my intrusion.  They miss nothing.  both became antsy and moved apart putting their backs to the shore, facing the open water - their escape avenue.  They were about to fly.

They are simply gorgeous!
I stopped for a peanut butter sandwich.  Yep - I can deal with peanut butter now.  I caught a slight movement at the water's edge.

A tiny song sparrow was picking through the twigs and wet leaves at the water's edge.  He was almost invisible there among the brown colored debris.

And, here's an old friend.  I've not seen his kind since being on this river.  He is a welcomed sight.  Belted Kingfisher.

Kingfishers always seem to need a comb run through their hair or, at the least a haircut.
Wood ducks take to the sky startling me.
The noisy boat's engine causes blue winged teal to flush from cover and take to the sky in great haste.

They somehow appear like butterflies, delicate and wispy as they urge themselves toward the clear sky.

A particularly beautiful mallard duck lulled away his morning in a little quiet space along the cattails.  That special orange morning light made his colors jump out.  I've never seen a mallard as beautiful and colorful as this one.

He soon tired of my presence and exited the scene with a flurry and great commotion.
It was time to leave and I made my way back to the boat ramp.  Pretty boring morning - huh?  How did your's go?  Just kidding.
I thought today would be an easy day with the camera but, I had to make many adjustments throughout the morning.  Shadows and bright sun created challenging photographic situations.  Oh well - that's what makes it fun.  
I've got a powerful urge to put the canoe in Calderwood Lake and paddle the entire lake in one day.  Nuts, I know but, I just want to.  The shoreline of Calderwood is beautiful and well worth photographing.  I'm certain you'd find it an interesting blog entry.  It's supposed to rain hard for the next two days, as usual on my days off, so I can't promise an entry in that time.  I'll have to see.  Thanks again for watching.  Hope I didn't bore you with too much of one thing.