Monday, May 13, 2013

ON THE FRENCH BROAD RIVER

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I finally was able to get away from Shade and leave for the French Broad River at Rankin.  It's not that I didn't want to take shade but, there is no place in that area where I can let her off the boat.  I can't expect her to sit for hours in place without some off time.  That's just the way things are over here.  The wind was up and I felt that the river would be sheltered somewhat from its effects.  As it turned out the water conditions were not bad at all.  I wanted to see if the ospreys had young yet and if I could find any bald eagles in the upper river area..  I made a few little videos and discovered, when I got home, that the sound of the wind is amplified on the videos.  I had to discard one clip.  Oh well.  By the way the videos can be viewed on U Tube by clicking on the U Tube box in the lower right corner.
Mouth of the Nolichucky
Douglas Lake is totally full and that makes the river very manageable by boat.  A large quantity of drifting logs was present that washed down stream due to the recent heavy rains to the north.  I didn’t notice any wildlife at all during the first hour of the drive upstream to the floodplain but, it felt good to be back on the river again.
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The scenery is gorgeous on the river.  The wind would come and go and for the most part kept the surface covered with heavy chop.  Critters started appearing the closer I got to the flood plain at Rankin.  The first to show were the cormorants.  They were flocking in the trees lining the river’s edge.
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The birds in the trees created artistic images.  The cormorants were silhouetted against the sky blacking out their colors and detail definition.
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The first osprey appeared as I neared the flood plain.  I could see a nest with a tiny head bobbing up and down.  The tiny peep wasn’t big enough to stick his head up high enough to peer out over the side of the nest.  The results of that are no photograph of the babies.
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When they stare at me I can feel it all the way through.  They don’t just look – they peer with a penetrating, intense gaze.
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These are such beautiful, dynamic birds!
On the flood plain
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I have to look up and stare in disbelief at the bottom of the old, dilapidated railroad bridge that spans the river.  Huge pieces of wood and steel dangle from the bridge daring someone to park a boat beneath.  If one of those boards would fall down on my boat and me – I’ll demonstrate how to become rich real fast.
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TWRA works hard to maintain habitat for the critters along the river.  Above and below are new wood duck boxes recently installed.  They are first class as are the people who installed them.
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 Another osprey appeared high in an old tree.  This is definitely osprey country up here. 
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As usual all these birds are backlighted against the sky.  I should have selected a faster shutter speed on that last shot.  It’s a bit blurred but not ruined.  I’ve been looking for wading birds but have only seen one green heron, a black crowned heron and cormorants.  The great egrets are totally missing.  They should show up by the end of the month as will the various species of ducks.
On the flood plain 2
We who spend much of our time and lives on the great reservoirs and river systems of Tennessee are very familiar with the ospreys that frequent those places and often times overlook the grandeur of this amazing bird.  I guess if one lived on the edge of the Grand Canyon, one would become complacent about the area.  Its important that we do not allow this complacency to occur where our wildlife is concerned.  The Grand Canyon will last until the end of time.  Not so our wildlife.  At the current rate many species will disappear from view in a few short years unless the human element wises up and cares enough to preserve more habitat instead of building parking lots on top of it.  East Tennessee realtors are eating up wild properties at an amazing rate of speed and it seems the wild places are the preferred and most desired places to build houses on.  Houses, in my view, are nothing more than expensive litter that destroys what little is left of “our” wild places.  When it’s all gone – it’s gone forever.  Huge swaths of habitat are being eaten up at an alarming rate of speed.   Look how the beautiful Tennessee River and associated valley has been destroyed.  No less than 8 huge dams have been built on that single river in the name of affordable power for the residence of East Tennessee and flood control.  Actually, two dams would handle the flood control.  Oh – and then there is the small issue of the economics associated with the hydroelectric power produced by TVA on those 8 dams for TVA.  Shame on all of us for allowing this situation to occur.  I may do a little article about TVA and the land grab someday.  But, back to the floodplain for now. 
On the flood plain 3
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And, yet another osprey.  Wow!
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On the flood plain 4
Ah ha!  A canoe.  I would have liked to talk to those folks.  They’re in a Mad River Canoe.  Looks like about a 14 footer.  I watched them paddle across the river and they know what they’re doing.  Nice boat.
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 I drove back into the trees on the flood plain.  This area is normally dry land during the summer months.  It’s beautiful when its dry and beautiful when flooded.
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There are uncountable little waterways within this major water system that has flooded the trees.  These are perfect paths for canoes to float upon.  Much discovery and beauty lies back in this green, watery area.  Its made for canoes and kayaks.
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I needed to get back to the truck as I want to take Shade up to the island on Cherokee Lake that has the inland pond.  It’s a pretty place and she needs the exercise.  As it worked out – we drove up to Oak Grove boat ramp and couldn’t get on the water due to an inconsiderate boater.  I won’t get into it here.  The drive was 20 miles there and 20 miles back and we didn’t get on the water.  A shame for Shade and a great disappointment for me.  I’m developing a great dislike for people in general.  Anyway, I will take Shade with me to work on Tuesday as I’ll be working in the area of the island pond and we can take our break there.  I hope the weather holds and there is no rain.
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Flood plain 6
The wind was starting to blow harder and the water was splashing over the front deck of the boat.  It was time to go anyway.  I loved being on the Gheenoe.   It’s a heck of a boat for river work.  I would recommend it to anyone who is into exploration.
It was time to load the boat onto the trailer and get on home.  I sure miss my girls who are waiting patiently to hear my truck pulling into the driveway.
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Loading the Boat
Its back onto the Holston River at Beech Creek tomorrow.  That’s always good for some wildlife photos.  See you then.  And, thanks.

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