Sunday, June 2, 2013


WOW -that was a really loud clap of thunder!  It almost knocked me out of bed.  Shade is making for the closet as the rain starts to pour down.  It's 3:00AM and the perfect time to boil up some coffee and make for the porch.  Lightning appeared on the mountain toward Douglas Lake and the breeze was on the increase.  I wondered what was on the weather horizon.  Happy jumped up on my lap and Chestnut sat to the left side of the rocker on the porch.  Shade was buried deep in the farthest corner of the upstairs closet.  I somehow got both feet up onto the porch railing and crossed my ankles with Haps still in position on my lap.  The rain fell straight down.  Any amount of wind would have blown it directly under the porch roof onto us.  This is delightful.

I would be on the Holston River at Beech Creek this morning and I figured I would get an early start since I was already up.  I dropped my feet to the porch floor and suddenly remembered I didn't eat all day yesterday.  Guess I better stop for an egg or two on the way to the river this morning.  5:00AM rolled around and I saddled up for the long drive to Beech Creek.  Shade, as usual, was heart broken to see me walk out the door without calling her and sat back against the living-room wall under the canoes with her head bowed.  Every morning I go without her is a heart squeezer.

The rain continued on and off the entire way to Rogersville and an overcast sky greeted me at the parking area and boat ramp. The big boat slid off the trailer and I was off for the morning run.
The sky was so overcast that I doubted I could take "any" photographs today.  That big 500 millimeter lens requires a lot of light to function at all.  A quick check indicated the best shutter speed I could get was 1/30th of a second.  That won't work.  I came upon one fishing boat with an angler whom I didn't know and spoke with him.  He would be the only boat I would see all morning.  The rain started again.
I was approaching the river bank where I photographed the baby beavers the other day.  The binoculars probed under the trees and behind the shaded rocks and bushes for any movement.  Then, a ripple moved out into the water from the shoreline back in the tall grass beside an undercut bank.
Can you see her?  Look very closely under those green leaves and back under the undercut.  It is the mother beaver.  Of course, I'm assuming that.  The den is ten yards upstream where I saw the babies.  I had to get on my knees and sit the camera on the boat seat to steady it for these shots.  They are shot at 1/30th and 1/50th of a second shutter speed.  I doubted any of these pictures would be useful at all.  Maybe you can see her better in the next shot.  The boat drifted a few feet farther away and the light is different.
I don't know if she noticed the big white whale parked on the river so close to her or not, but she glided off the bank into the water.  She didn't appear frightened   I think she was just ready to move along.
She came straight toward the boat and turned right to angle up along the shoreline.  I thought she would probably dive and swim under the boat, but she didn't.

Can you imagine being so close to this wild creature?  I can't, yet here I am.

Look at those baby blue eyes in the shot below
I don't understand why beavers are not more skittish.  I've had them instantly dive with a loud splash of their tail at the mere sight of the boat.  Some will swim along seemingly uncaring about the big white thing beside them.  Others will instantly turn and go the opposite direction.  One thing they all react to and that is sudden movement.  One quick move will send them to the bottom.  Otters are quite different.  Some will disappear beneath the water at the slightest disturbance.  Some may resurface to have a look at what they are running from and yet some may pop up in several places around the boat driven by curiosity.  Otters are very aware.  Silent approaches are mandatory.
She almost touched the boat in passing.  This is amazing.

She was heading directly toward her den and babies and I backed off and let the boat drift well away before starting the engine.
This all is just amazing stuff!  I have learned so much from all these first hand experiences.  I can identify active lodges and burrows and can tell the difference between a beaver burrow and an otter den in the river bank.  I'm learning where beavers climb onto the river banks to nibble on grasses.  There are specific spots on the river banks upstream where otters like to slide down the slippery mud banks to enter the water.  Those things are privileges not many people have, and I think it's a good thing they don't.
The turkeys were out this morning in the newly plowed field.  The flock is hidden behind the foliage and I could only photograph these few birds.  The shutter speed is ultra slow and again I doubted the shots would be acceptable.

As it grew later in the morning, the shutter speed could be increased even though things still looked gloomy.  I found I could get the shutter speed between 1/60th and 1/100th of a second.  As a comparison - I like to run speeds of 1/1000th and greater with 1/1500th of a second being the preferable shutter speed.   1/2000th to 1/3000th is almost mandatory for flying bird pictures.  Sometimes one has to be creative.
I increased magnification on this king bird to create a larger image and had to select a higher shutter speed than was advised by the camera meter - hence the dark background.  The shot above is average metered and proper.  The shot below is with a shutter speed increased a couple clicks over the recommended which caused the dark background.  Now you know what the back side of a king bird looks like.

Notice how few in number the babies are.  There are many predators who take a large toll on babies of every species.  Red tails, goss and sharp shinned hawks as well as coopers hawks frequent this river.  Many are residence here and have nests back on the mountain side in the tall trees.  This family probably consisted of up to twelve babies and has been reduced to what you see above.  The chicks appear to be taking on the looks of mom and dad.  Notice the coloration on their heads.  They're looking like the real McCoy.
Here's an example of insufficient shutter speed on a flying bird.   Blur is present, but that happens as the shutter speed is insufficient.  The culprit here is camera shake. These are mallard ducks.

I want a D7 Canon camera so bad.  May as well wish for the Canon 500mm lens to go with it.  Wish, wish, wish.  I could probably get a used lens for around $3000.  I'll not buy a used camera.
This handsome fellow was -- just there.  Why not photograph him?
He is a black vulture.
A run up the opposite shoreline took me past Sir Harry's tree high up on the side of the mountain.  He was there as usual.  His nest is to "his" right about 30 feet hidden by foliage.

Harry's mate, Priscilla  was out getting some fresh air also.  They were about two hundred yards apart.  A domestic dispute?

The morning is almost ended.  Rain has fallen intermittently, heavy at times, but who cares.  The more the merrier.  I love rain.
Rain or shine - it doesn't matter cause it's always beautiful on this river.
I passed Big Creek and turned into Beech Creek and headed for the ramp.  The sky was about to unload any second and I would like to have the boat loaded up before the rain.  I took on last shot of the day.  Gorgeous, gorgeous!
The camera has an issue I need to attend to.  The sensor has dust on it and black spots show on magnified panoramic shots.  The sensor is a very delicate part of the mechanics and can be ruined very easily.  It's either send the camera off to Canon or attempt to clean it myself.  I've been putting this issue off for months, but can't ignore it any longer.  I think I'll give it a try.  I'll let you know the outcome.  Thanks for being a reader on this blog.  I appreciate your interest.  I think I'll go make a pot of coffee and watch the gentle shower that's falling as I write this.