Saturday, July 27, 2013


Today started out as the usual Cherokee Lake experience which is a lot of cruising along in the boat and very few critters to photograph.  Today was different.  We have had a months worth of very overcast, dark days and today was one of the most overcast days of them all on Cherokee.  I should have left the heavy 500 millimeter lens at home and attached the 100-350 telephoto.  That 300 is ultra light and can be hand held for long period of times and is less prone to movement at very low shutter speed.  The fastest shutter speed I could achieve today was 1/100th of a second.  That's manageable, but it is useless to stop movement, which is a primary concern for me.  Animals don't sit passively and wait for me to snap the picture.  They are in constant movement, except for herons maybe.
The usual critters were actively pursuing breakfast along the shorelines and degree of difficulty photographing them was great.  There were some great egrets that were posed against particularly pretty backgrounds.

This egret was striking!  There was just something about the way he stood and the background appeared more primitive than usual.

I continued along the shoreline until I came upon a fisherman in a boat.  We chatted for a short while and as I was preparing to start the engine a little green heron came into view.  He was standing on the end of a narrow, thin limb. He looked lonely.  Not to worry.  He wasn't experiencing any human emotional feelings.  He was watching the shoreline intently where the water touched the ground.  He was tensed for action and ready for something to eat.

This little guy was way back in a cove where it's really dark.  I had to use 1/30th of a second to get him.  I didn't think even one shot would turn out at all.  I threw away over a hundred pictures to finally arrive at the shots here on this blog entry. 
The camera with that monster lens hanging on it is really heavy and after about 30 seconds of holding it up to my face,  the image can be seen ever so slightly moving through the lens.  It's sort of like trying to hold your arm extended straight out from your body.  Try it and see how long you can hold it out there.  When the light is right - all that needs to be done is put the camera to the face, focus and shoot.  It's just that quick.  Slow shutter speeds force one to labor of the activity of trying not to move at all.  Even a slow breath will blur the shot.  You can imagine what a softly rocking boat is like at those shutter speeds.

 A black vulture had found his dinner.  Another vulture moved in close to his side to see if there was room for him.  There wasn't.

He scared me to death.  Loudly flapping wings, crashed through the limbs and foliage and slammed into that limb he has hold of.  Had the grace of a flying cow.  Man!

Ok - I saved the best for last.  What follows is why I'm really upset about all the overcast days.  On my return trip back down the lake I saw what I thought were muskrats on a log in the water close to the shore.  I knew better.  They were too large.  They were river otters.  I couldn't believe my eyes and didn't waste time grabbing the binoculars.  The engine was switched off and the electric motor dropped into the drink.  I tried to set up the camera as the boat moved closer to the otters.  A light meter check showed 1/40th of a second.  This sucks.

They were beautiful.  These guys are darker than the ones up on the Holston River, or I should say darker than the ones that "used" to be on the Holston River.  One of them was running back and forth along the log and the other one was fussing with something as he climbed upon the log.

I didn't dare get too close as there wasn't anything at all for me to hide behind.  Quiet and stillness was all I could do.  I'm so glad there was no passing boat to throw up a wake.  That would have ended it all right then.  I never thought I'd run into otters on Cherokee Lake.  This is a first for me.  I doubt anyone knows they're here.  One thing good about it is that these guys are safe from the trap as Cherokee has over 400 miles of shoreline and that's a lot of area for these guys to disappear in.

The light meter hovered back and forth between 1/30th and 1/40th of a second.  That won't get it.  I clicked it up to 1/50th of a second.  I took a shot and it looked OK.

The otter on the left, the biggest one, had a large chunk of white fish in his mouth.  He chomped and chomped on it.  The problem was that his head was in constant movement as his jaws worked up and down.  The shots of him would be blurred.  Some of these pictures do suffer from blur and I'm sorry for that.  The shots are treasures to me and I saved what I could of them.

His mouth is so full he can't open and close it to chew.  Little glutton.  They noticed my presence right here.

He hasn't taken that fish out of his mouth for an instant.  I was chuckling to myself.  He was so very funny.  This is what wildlife enjoyment is all about.  Watch and enjoy them enjoying themselves.
The otter to the right actually barked and gave out a low growl.  He's onto me.  The other one just continued to stuff his face.

They were getting nervous and I knew the show was just about over.  Precious moments!

 He was still holding onto his piece of fish, but it was now a much smaller piece.

The second otter slid silently into the water and joined his partner.  None of the water shots turned out.  It's just too dark.
 They swam crisscrossing over and under each other and put on quite an acrobatic water show.  Not one of the pictures came out.  The little guy below is the last shot of value.
I marked the position of these guys on my GPS and moved on down the water.
Now, I ask you - what kind of mind would set leg hold traps for these beautiful otters, and does the value of their pelts out-weigh the value of their wonderful presence here to enjoy?  I don't want to think further on it.  Humans need to revisit the word empathy in Websters.  Actually humans need to just put their hands in their pockets and keep them there.  Back on the Holston River tomorrow.  See ya.