Friday, May 24, 2013

SKY, ROUGH WATER & a black vulture

Well, here's the sky part of this entry.  I was up early and took off for the lake and arrived before sunup.  The boat ramp is surrounded by mountains and the clouds made an awesome spectacle as the sun started to come into view.
Moments like this are why I like to be at the water's edge just before sunup.  Each sunrise is different.  The clouds, which I couldn't see in the dark, turned out to be very dense and thick.  The sun sort of outlining them as it climbed higher into the sky.  Some of the clouds over the peaks to the North weren't illuminated by the coming sun and appeared as smoke.

Oh, it wasn't a big deal,  but it was a pretty start to a morning.  The start was prettier than the finish.  I was beat up by the time I got off the lake due to the wind and high rollers on the lake.  May as well throw a little bit of rain in there somewhere too.

Great blue herons were flying past the front of the boat in unusual numbers and a quick look about with the binoculars showed a heron rookery very high up on the side of a cliff.  Great blue herons don't usually select sites for rookeries so high.  This is unusual.  I'll have to report this one to our bird people in Nashville.  Yes, I look for great blue heron rookeries also and report their coordinates.
An hour into the run I saw what I thought was an osprey dive toward the water and land feet first on the surface.  He extended his wings straight up to keep them dry.  The boat was rocking wildly from the waves and I missed that shot.  The bird lifted off the water and flew toward the bow of my boat.  It was then I knew that this was no osprey.  Believe it or not it was a black crowned night heron.  I couldn't believe I was seeing what I was seeing.  I never knew they would alight onto the surface of the water.  Didn't know they could.  The waves were tossing the boat around like a cork and it was all I could do to keep the bird in the lens.  I shot over 25 pictures of him and could only salvage the ones posted here.  The shutter speed was ridiculously low.

Black crowned night herons are generally difficult to find in the first place, but to actually photograph one on the wing is unheard of.  That's me talking there and "I" have never heard of one photo'd on the wing.  Luck!
 I really didn't expect any of the shots to work out.  That boat was a rocking chair in those waves.

I got a cell phone call and after hanging up I noticed some swallows flying near the boat.  What the heck - I'll try.

Now, if you want to get an idea of how difficult it is to keep one of these little guys in a camera lens - curl your index finger down and touch the tip of your thumb.  Then, find a swallow and try to keep him in the circle formed by your thumb and index finger.  Then imagine reducing that hole your looking through to the size of a dime.  Now keep the swallow in that hole. Now, get on a rocking boat and do it. That's about what you see through a 500 milimeter camera lens.

As I made the turn to start my return run to the boat ramp - I drove past a rock cliff wall.  There were holes in the cliff side and many were caves.  I caught a movement in one cave near the top of the wall.
If you look hard, you can see -- something just inside the opening keeping to the dark.
I had discovered the lair of a vulture.  How about that?  There no doubt are babies back in the cave.  Again, I'm fighting to keep the boat on course and shoot these pictures at the same time.  Darned that wind.
He was coming out.
Is that shot not cool?  He, or she took off after climbing out onto a ledge in front of the cave.

I couldn't keep the camera steady.  The bird launched and I did my best to follow with the lens, but to no avail.  When I looked back at the cave opening, I saw a second vulture standing in the entrance.  

His wings hung down in such a way to give him a dracula-ish appearance.  Wonder what it's like back in that cave.
I know I said I would be back to Beech Creek today, but I was in error.  Today was another Cherokee Lake day.  It was a rough morning and I could have left the camera at home.  Ya never know what you'll run across though.
That's all there is for today.  Tomorrow is definitely a Beech Creek day.  Hope you look in then.