Monday, September 30, 2013


Do you have any idea what would happen if all the vultures would disappear?  If you don't you don't want to know.
This dapper fellow is a black vulture.  They are prolific around all the lakes and it's a good thing.  If they weren't there to clean up all the dead critters - the lakes would stink to high heaven.  Many do anyhow but, that's due to other reasons.
Black vultures and turkey vultures often flock together.  The turkey vulture finds it's food by smell and it is reported they can detect the stench of rotting flesh up to ten miles away.  The black vulture is a sight feeder.  He flies up an down the shorelines, often in flocks, until a dead critter is sighted, and there is a lot of dead critters along the shoreline to eat.  Black vultures often will follow behind turkey vultures when on the hunt because they know the turkey vulture is the supreme offal finder.

 Yum, yum - dead, rotting, stinking, putrid fish.  Don't get better than this.
I went to Douglas Lake with the Gheenoe this morning for the sole purpose of counting bald eagles, if I could find any.  I counted an unusually large amount of eagles last year on Douglas but, that occurred in November and December.  I counted six eagles in four hours today and that is unusual in itself.  I can only imagine what the count will be when the eagles start flying south at around the end of October.

A beautiful immature bald eagle flew from a tree on the shoreline and passed over the boat.
I really didn't expect to take any shots today but, I had the camera and, well, here's the eagle.
He is a very young eagle as the white splotches of plumage are just starting to materialize.  I'd guess him at about 2 years of age.
I saw no bald eagles perched in trees to photograph.  The lake was full of bass boats that were causing a lot of noise and I suspect  kept the eagles off the shorelines.
If you love the wild things in the wild places you just have to find yourself a bald eagle and view it up close.  They give me chills and I'm sure will affect you likewise.
An osprey jumped into space creating a visual spectacle of power.

They are so gorgeous in flight!  He circled around and passed over the boat.
And finally, the much overlooked dove.

I know, I know.  A dove.  Well, he's important too.  Fly away little dove.
Like I said - I wasn't on the lake to photograph anything much.  I really wanted to get an idea of the bald eagle population on a certain section of lake.  I'll be able to compare today's count with those counts that are taken in late October through December.  
Oh, I posted my 1000th post on this blog last night.  Whew.  That's amazing to me.  Back on the river tomorrow so I'll see you then.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is really dropping the water level in Cherokee Lake which forces me to stay further away from the shorelines due to shallow conditions so, all my photographs are going to be taken from fairly far away distances from the subjects, whatever they may be.
There were three black crowned night herons within 20 feet of each other.  Seems they are really concentrated on the river.  Notice that white line running vertical between his shoulders.  You may remember I explained that with photographs in another entry.  That is a single, long strand of plumage.  It flops left or right depending how the bird adjusts it's stance.  He can actually raise it somewhat but not much.  The other two birds were an immature and another adult.
2nd Adult
A bald eagle flew over the boat headed upstream.
It was chilly and as I was pulling on my fleece jacket I noticed a flock of turkeys on the shoreline.
Turkeys are cool to watch.  But, there was an oddity in the group. The individuals above are only a small faction of the flock.  Look at the next shot and see the oddity.
See it?  There is a gray colored bird in with this group.  I thought I discovered something strange and rare.  How mistaken was I!!!  I sent a shot of this bird to my friend Paul, a lifetime woodsman, and he said it was what is called a gray or sometimes called white variation of the eastern turkey.  Sometimes it's called the smoky version.  Who'd a thunk it?  I've never seen one of these in all the years of tramping around in the pine needles.  The shots are very long and I did the best I could with them, which leaves a lot to be desired.  Sorry.

 For more data click on link-,4570,7-153-10363_10958_10969-276708--,00.html

 A couple deer were standing near the water's edge creating one of those somber morning moments.
The one deer was on the ball and he set up the alarm to his buddy and off they went.
They ran toward a wooden fence.  They have a really nice, secluded spot out here.  There is an old cabin without any roads near it close by and this property goes with that cabin.  I'd say they are safe here if they keep out of sight.
 The below shot shows a third deer.  I never saw it and have no idea where it was.

And, my sweetest friend sat patiently while I attended to business and photographing critters.
An eagle was flying downstream on the opposite side of the river and landed back a bit in a tall tree.  The photography is long distance for sure.

 He didn't stay long.
That was a bit of luck.  This is the first eagle I've seen on Cherokee in months.  And then another one appeared.  Wow!  What's going on?
 This eagle was very tough to get as three bass boats blasted past behind me at top speed and the wakes are rocking my boat badly.  Gotta try though.

The Lonely Grebe  sounds like the title to a song
Ready to go Shade?
And we're off for home.  Gotta vacuum stink bugs off the walls again.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I knew it was a mistake to drive to Calderwood Lake when I got to Knoxville on the interstate and hit the traffic.  Actually I 40 West was covered with traffic all the way to Knoxville.  I almost turned around and went home but, I kept going.  It seemed like I'd been driving for hours by the time I got to Chilhowee Lake.  I didn't like the thought of driving over Route 129, The Dragon, due to all the motorcycles on that crazy, curvy road.  I kept going.  It didn't take long for two motorcycles to pull up on my rear bumper.  I pulled off and let em by.   Four more pulled up as soon as I pulled back out onto the road.  I pulled off again to let em by.  I thought out loud as I sat there on the pull off -  "Why am I pulling off and letting those idiots by?  I'm going the speed limit of 30 miles per hour and it's a public highway yet, I'm relinquishing my right to drive on it to these wanna be race drivers." 
A Harley came around a corner toward me on the double yellow line and almost took off my drivers side mirror.  This is nuts!  Almost turned it around again.  Just ten more miles and I'd be there.  I hung in.  I sat in the truck beside the lake and just stared down the road trying to decide whether to unload the canoe or just head back.  It's over a two hour drive up here to paddle two hours and then return home.  It's not working for me.

The water was perfect and I was here so, I unloaded the boat and took off down the lake.  I sure wished Shade was here.  I can't understand why she won't get into a canoe.  I missed her and she would have made the difference between constantly thinking about the drive back and having a great experience, maybe hiking along Slick Rock Creek.
Calderwood Lake remains the finest of the finest with her clear, cold water and uncluttered shorelines. I didn't see one plastic bottle anywhere the entire time I was on the water.  The surface had a mirror finish and reflected the mountain sides perfectly.  
As you can see, the leaves have just begun to show gentle shades of color.  It will take a couple more weeks to really have a Fall display of colored leaves, unless a heavy frost hits and then things will accelerate.  Calderwood Lake is the most spectacular place I've ever been to view the splendor of colored foliage in the Fall.
I was having a hard time getting into the paddle trip.  The motivation was left back somewhere around Knoxville.  Photography wasn't even on my mind.  I took some token shots just to document the paddle trip.  I should have saved the gas and returned home from Knoxville.   I'm having a difficult time living where I do now.  It's a lifestyle change for sure.  I'd be ok if I liked football and visits to the zoo..
It sure is pretty up here though.  I'll not return to the lake until late October when I'll camp out here with Shade.  That will be a Gheenoe trip.  One day trips are too nerve wracking.  Too many fast roads.  It just ain't me....
Slick Rock Creek is to the left in the shot above.  There's a tree laying directly in the center of the cove mouth.  I didn't even go over there.  I kept paddling up the left shoreline.

I felt like I was ready to leave.  I paddled across the lake to the opposite shoreline to tie off the canoe and find a log to sit on.

Sure is pretty here though.
I saw a spot where I could get the boat horizontal to the shoreline and got out.

I sat on a boulder and found myself just staring across the lake.  This wasn't working today.  I missed shade and I was thinking about Douglas and the countless trips he and I made up here.  I got back on the water and headed down the lake toward the truck.

I found myself altering paddle strokes and testing new ways to paddle.  I got on my knees to see if the paddle strokes would cause the boat to react differently.  It didn't take long to realize that I didn't want to be here.  It's hard to believe but, I really wished I would have stayed home.  Imagine that!
The scenery is far and above that of any lake I've been on in Tennessee but, I was wanting out of here and back home where there wasn't anything to do either.  At least I would be with my girls.
The little gray squirrel seems contented.  He's a typical mountain squirrel - small.  Notice his face doesn't have any white on it like the squirrels on the Holston River.
I loaded up the canoe and took off for home.  I didn't pull off one time to let the simpletons get around me on the Dragon.  If they were such good race drivers - they'd be able to pass me.  This is just one of those days and the feeling will pass.  I just miss living  back here in the middle of it all.  I know - I'll fire up the vacuum when I get home and suck stink bugs off the ceiling and walls from the house I never wanted.  Can't wait for that....