Monday, May 6, 2013


I might be a little strange but stormy sky's and rain bring a feeling over me I can't explain.  I just love it, especially when camping.  There's nothing like listening to the rain beating down onto the roof of a great tent and hearing the wind trying to blow trees down on top of me.  The sleeping bag gets cozier and the dog cuddles in tight making the night a blissful experience.
The mountains that surround the Holston River appeared awsome this morning with their peaks shrouded in fog and clouds.  I would really like to have been up there to experience that environment this morning.
Today would be the second of three days in a row on Beech Creek and the Holston River.  That doesn't happen very often but I'm not complaining.  The tires are usually rolling on the road at 4:30AM and I don't have any traffic to deal with.  The 60 mile ride to the water is relaxing and comfortable.  I drove in and out of rain on the way up this morning and I got my brain wrapped around the fact that the morning would be void of  sun and gray skies would be the ceiling of my office.  Perfect!  I wasted no time getting on the water.

I didn't travel more than ten minutes when I saw a resident with new kids out for a walk in the field along the water.  These little rascals are very new and fluffy.  Geese, and ducks in general, must stash the new born's away in hiding until they gain strength before introducing them to the world.  I've looked and looked over the past couple weeks and could not find even one baby duck of any kind.  Now, they're all over the place.  A second family of geese was heading for the shore with their new family members.  Cute!

I noticed that the babies used their featherless wings to maintain balance whenever they would walk on sloped ground or would climb over an obstacle - tiny little arms extended and flapping to maintain balance.
These are not parking lot geese and they act the part.  The parents are wary of my presence and are taking their kids into the tall grass to hide them.  I won't linger long here as I don't want to make them uneasy.

I saw two great egrets fishing off to my left.  They are not very common up here but I guess they stopped on their way to the big lakes farther south.

I took several shots and decided to post more than just a few on the blog because I remember the elegance of these two birds and I used the camera to capture action shots.  I think they came out fairly good.  Notice, above, the red winged black bird just below the egret.  That little bird taunted that egret incessantly - even to the extent of making the big bird change course several times.  I've seen small birds harassing Raptors but never a heron or an egret.  He was a spunky little red wing black bird for sure.  He actually made contact with the egret at least one time.  See below:

The little black bird finally gave up the chase when he was certain that he'd scared the big white interloper out of his territory.
The rain came and went all morning.  It was gentle and there was no wind to blow it sideways and into me.  I was enjoying the peace of the gray surroundings.  I threw the binoculars to my eyes and quickly checked the field that lies just behind a row of trees that line the river's edge.  Yep - they were there.

This group of turkey can always be relied upon to make a showing on this very spot every morning at the same time.  They are something I look forward to seeing every time I'm on this water.
I was coming up on the very tiny island where two geese have nests.  I check on them each time I pass by.  Today they were both swimming and the island was bare.  No chicks.  They are hatched and the mothers have them tucked away somewhere out of harms way.  They can't be too careful with their young because there are many dangers on this river for the chicks.  Ospreys, red tail hawks, sharp shinned hawks and even otters - to name a few predators who would just love to discover the tiny, helpless chicks out in the open.  Large and smallmouth bass wouldn't hesitate an instant to snatch a baby duck from the surface.  It's a rough life out there for young critters.  I noticed something odd as I passed by the little island.
Do you see that white object in the crotch of the tree?  It's a goose egg.  The nest is at the base of the tree.  Whatever was she thinking?   Oh well -----

I turned the boat around and headed down the opposite shoreline toward the John Sevier Steam Plant and the associated "over the top" dam.

These shots are of a beaver dam and it is constructed just like the traditional beaver dams we associate with beavers ever since we were all kids.  Notice the height of the water behind the dam.  Wow!   These guys created an entire wetland behind their little barricade.  Can you imagine the effort these critters expend in the creation of this amazing dam?

I would love to sneak up here in the canoe with my blind and hide out with the camera.  I know I'd get sensational pictures.  I wonder what lies further back behind the dam.  Exciting stuff, this outdoor wandering.
An eastern kingbird is voicing his opinion about something.

A beaver lodge comes into view  on the opposite shore.  It is active as the lodge has grown taller than when I saw it last Fall.  Good!  The trappers missed this house.

I have mentioned before about my like for the tiny spotted sandpiper.  They were assembled in flocks today.  It must be a Spring thing.  Usually they travel solo in the Summer or, appear to.  They are interesting because their heads bob back and forth when they walk.  They also appear to walk right down the side of a rock or log and continue right into the water and walk back up the other side of the rock.  Neat little birds.  There are several different species of sandpipers but I've only seen the spotted variety on these lakes.  Either that or I'm not good enough at bird identification to determine the species differences with any accuracy.

I checked on the bald eagles on the way back upstream.  Old reliable was perched on his favorite limb just like he does every time I am here.

The nest is off to his right and his mate is in it.  I can barely see her through the foliage even with the binoculars.  That means the chicks are hatched and are being fed.  I don't have a prayer of photographing the babies as they are totally inaccessible to the camera but there will be two new eagles flying on the river in a couple months.
The grasses are growing at a rapid pace an extending far out into the river.  This is a fantastic habitat for all things wild.  That grass is what makes this section of river such a tremendous wildlife resource.
I met some really nice folks back at the boat ramp when I returned.  We had a nice discussion while one of the boys worked on a jet ski.  I was leaving in the truck when I turned and looked back and - well - see for yourselves.
 "Here I go!  How do I look?"
 "Whoa!  What the?  Blub, blub!"
 "It's sinking!"
 Yep - jet skies got drained plugs just like boats do.  Gotta remember to put that in next time.  Drag er back to shore and start over again.
If I'd have been sipping coffee I would have spit it all over the windshield of the truck.  These guys will get it going - no problem.  The water is only  two feet deep where the thing sank and there was no danger to the pilot operator.  They made my day though.

Shade and I will be going to Calderwood Lake for a camp out on the next two days off I have in a row.  I'm thinking about taking Chestnut Hound and Happy along too.  Stay tuned in for that one.