Thursday, August 1, 2013


 Early morning ducks in the fog.  Awesome!

Every once in awhile I get one of those "WOW" kind of days.  Actually, all my days are that way, but every once in awhile a special day inserts specialty into the routine. Today was that kind of day.
I was on the water at day break and got to watch the fog lift off the water.  The sun was slow to make an appearance on the river.  I was heading upstream to check the faster river section of the Holston as no one was on the water down by the John Sevier Steam Plant.  I noticed a splash along the shoreline.  I thought possibly a beaver was spooked by my passing boat.  Then I noticed that familiar sea serpent movement on the surface.  I had come upon otters.  I quickly switched off the noisy engine and dropped the electric motor.  I was glad I thought to put the 150 - 500 mm lens on the camera.  The light, as usual, was very poor, but I figured I could make it work.  It had to work.  These are the first otters I have seen on this water in 9 months and I was smiling with excitement.  Love otters.
They stayed tight to the undercut bank where hardly any light reached.  This photo session would prove to be the most difficult I have ever encountered - ever.  I pushed ISO high and switched from full manual camera control to shutter preferred.  I increased the selected "f" stop by 1/3rd and even tried manual light balance changes.  I really wanted these shots to turn out.  Some may be slightly fuzzy when you click to enlarge, but they should be entertaining.  There were four otters swimming up the shoreline together.  I believe it was one adult and three of this year's kids.  I'm not sure.  They weren't hunting or doing anything serious.  They were playing.  They picked up items of junk laying about and swam around carrying it in their mouth.  The game of chase must be popular with otters because they seemed to entertain themselves by racing through the water toward some floating piece of wood and quickly return to the start.  I caught myself laughing out loud.  Gotta watch that around otters.

In the above photo - I think the gray colored otter on the right is a parent.

Gotta look closely because some of these shots have three or four otters in them. These guys have a way of blending into their backgrounds.  They were swimming around a tiny pile of sticks, leaves and garbage that was clinging to a fallen tree.  They delighted in popping up in different places and startling each other with the sudden appearance.

 I'm certain the gray otter looking up is a parent.  Actually, that otter is looking to his rear.

There are a lot of pictures here, but scenes like this are rare and I wanted to get as many photos as possible.

It won't be long before the settle down on that island.  I wish they would have selected a prettier spot as there were tin cans, tires, bottles and other junk that I tried my best to remove from the pictures.  I don't have the fancy software to do a good job of it.  

They were swimming up the shoreline near that dark undercut bank this whole time.  I never made so many camera changes ever.  I checked the image window occasionally and the shots seemed to be bright enough.  Lucky - maybe...
Then they relaxed for five minutes.  Look how beautiful and stately they appear to be.

Gorgeous!  And, they are wise to me.  Uh Oh!
"What is that over there?  I better get closer to the water just in case."
"Maybe I better get low so I can't be seen."
"What in the heck is that out there?"
"Hey Ralph - stay behind that log, but look at this over here.  What is that?"
I'm gonna swim closer and hide behind that weed floating out there.  No one can see me behind that."
"Well, it's not moving so I guess it's harmless.  Now, where are those other guys?"
He's found himself a toy of some kind and won't put it down.  Either that or he has two of those round fruits that resemble green tennis balls and grow on trees.  So funny!
I mean, can you believe this?  look at these little scamps.  It's nothing but play.  Adorable!

Look at the photos closely as there's a little guy who keeps popping up in the picture over on the right side.  These shots are remarkable.  I'm so happy to find them.  These are the last of the otters on this river section and they live in a fairly obscure area of the shoreline.  I know exactly where their den is located and it's impossible to see from the water.  They need to keep a low profile, especially over Winter.  East Tennessee is blessed to have these fantastic creatures on her waters.  Sometimes, it seems everyone has a reason to eliminate the otters, but I never hear anyone discussing ways to protect them and coexist with them.  Shame on humans.
 So Funny!

They were moving on and it was time I got down the river too.  Whew - what a few moments!   I'm glad to see them safe and happy.  I'll continuously check on them over the next few months.
Everything was working perfectly this morning.  I'd finish up on the water exactly at the proper time, I photographed otters and many birds as well as some neat flowers.  It's just a super day!
He's an older heron.  Look how long his neck plumage is.

The drive down the lake was beautiful.  I am in a make believe world.  It has to be make believe.

The flowers that line the shorelines downstream are spectacular.  They are impossible to pass by with out taking a photograph or two.  Or three...

Can you imagine living along this river?  Actually, the river offers all this wildlife and beauty because no one lives along it.  Add people and deplete the wildlife and habitat.

Only one word to describe this shoreline.  Stunning!
A mayflies spinner fall is occurring at the moment and birds of all kinds are picking the falling insects out of the air before they fall onto the water .

A king bird watches the dying insects flutter slowly down to the water and he flies through the numerous bugs and snatches one out of the air, returns to his perch with his prize and enjoys lunch.

A movement on a log reveals an immature black crowned night heron.

He will eventually grow up and assume the look of the adult black crowned night heron, which is below:

A second immature appears out of nowhere.  I can't believe the population of black crowns on this river.  This immature appears to be very, very young.  His coloration is blond and I can see some baby fluff near his beak and on his neck.

Just a couple more shots of some dragon flies.  I have always been interested in dragon and damsel flies since I was a kid.  Still a kid - only older.

That's it, almost.  I gotta get going.  I have no idea where the following picture came from, but she has the right idea.
This is a day I'll not soon forget.  I never know what I'll run into when I come to this river, but there's always something of interest going on.  It's a magic place up here and I hope everyone who uses it realizes how special it is and cares for it.  There aren't many places exclusive to wildlife as this.  It's almost magic here.