Thursday, October 31, 2013


Winter adult common loons are back on the water of Cherokee Lake, and it's good to see their numbers are great.  They can be seen dotting the surface over great spans of water as they rest up, forage and prepare for the coming Winter.  They will eventually depart on their long journeys North as Spring approaches, garbed in elegant, colorful breeding plumage.  They appeared like magic and will depart just as mysteriously.
If you read this blog you'll realize that the bottom of Cherokee Lake is covered with rocks and mountains, of which protrude through the surface to form islands.  When the water is drawn down in the Fall and Winter - even more mountain tops are exposed making boating extremely treacherous.  I have come to call Cherokee Lake a stone quarry full of water.   Two days ago I almost ran the boat onto one of those unmarked mountain tops which would have most certainly resulted in disaster.  Today I discovered a new name for this TVA creation.  I now refer to Cherokee Lake as the Devils Bathtub.

In my eyes, Cherokee is good for only three things.  Those would be fishing, the selling of extravagantly priced lakeside property and pleasure boating, non of which light any fires in my psyche.  
Cherokee Lake, to the multitude of people who live around here, is the wilds.  Even though the shorelines are bare from Fall to Spring, huge pleasure boats tear across the water during the Summer causing the water's surface to be turned into violent froth, constant bass tournaments that unleash hundreds of high horsepower boats on the water to take advantage of the reservoir resource for financial purposes, the lack of wildlife other than deer, vultures, crows and cormorants and the occasional misplaced beaver.
The lake to me amounts to the transfer of interstate travel to water and the mentality that exists on the roadways comes with it.
The ever changing habitat due to water level fluctuation, heavy pleasure boat traffic, tremendous bass boat usage, all coupled with water conditions that experience oxygen content problems at various times of the year and a heavy human habitation on the shorelines eliminate the presence of wildlife.
I guess you could say that my initiation to the waters of Tennessee were on Calderwood, Chilhowee, Santeelah and even Tellico Reservoirs.  All those reservoirs are wildlife friendly and it's possible to go there and view whatever wildlife that is resident to East Tennessee.  Not a chance on Cherokee.  Flood control and electric power are the primary concerns.  Nothing has been set aside for wildlife.  It is what it is.  I'm disappointed in that lack of vision when they sold this part of the state to the highest bidder.  Oh well.

 Oh, there are some gray squirrels on the shoreline.  But, I have them in my attic, and welcome they are.  Oh, he sees me.  He's just letting on he doesn't.  See how he has his head turned ever so slightly where his eye can still watch behind him?
The leaves are finally changing from green to the brilliant colors of Fall.  I did my best to eliminate the ugly, unsightly bare, mud banks of the shorelines from the images.

Below is a mountain top, called an island, that has been covered with silt and shale that covers the boulders and rocks beneath.  It has been exposed by the lowering of the lake and protrudes out of the water further and further each day as the water continues to recede.  It's what I call ugly beauty.
I may sound cynical in this entry but, I assure you I am of sound mind and thankful for the opportunity to live here in Tennessee and to enjoy a position with, what I feel is the most prestigious wildlife organization in the nation.  I just have to do a little travelling to get to the "A" section of East Tennessee.  It's all attitude and attitude is all mental.  Attitudes can be altered and controlled and I'm in good control of mine.  Personalities can not be altered or changed and I'm happy with my personality.  What does that have to do with Cherokee Lake, you ask?  Hell - I'm not sure.  I talked myself into a corner.
 These loons, by the way, are not pushovers for the camera.  They are tough to photograph.  They dive beneath the surface when I approach and resurface a hundred feet away.  All the shots on this blog entry were taken at extreme distances.  Hence, the importance of a long, long lens.
A storm is approaching the lake and it's a bad one I'm told.  The water surface is changing from a mirror finish to a rippled surface.  It's about time to get out of here.
I hope you enjoyed the loons.  Look at them and know that they are precious.  Someday they, as well as most all wildlife, will no longer be on the planet.  It's inevitable.  Oh, it won't be in our lifetime or our children's lifetimes but, their destiny and others like them will someday be no more.  Understand and enjoy them.  They need to be elevated in importance and allotted space (habitat) to sustain themselves. In return they will please and enlighten mankind with their unique individualities and their ability to adapt to adverse conditions.

And with that - I'm outa here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I enjoyed being with the dogs at the old state park yesterday, but it's an irritating drive over there, and an expensive one.  That little trip cost me about $40.00.  That's a lot of bucks to exercise dogs.  I really appreciate this river experience as I can escape from everything, and I mean everything.   I can leave all the government crap on shore.  The only problem is that it's all back in my face when I drive home.
I thought about all the forest pictures I posted from the outing in the state park and almost deleted the entire post.  I was using a lens that isn't made for scenic photography and I experimented a little too much with it.  The shutter speeds were too low and I made camera settings using full manual with low ISO.  The results were shots that weren't crisp.  Today, I'm back using familiar gear and I hope to turn in better quality on tonight's entry.  Shouldn't have posted those shots last night.  Sorry.
The beaver appeared almost immediately.  I saw him coming across the lake toward the right shoreline.  He turned upstream and continued on his way.  I stayed well back and just enjoyed his company as I idled upstream.
 I didn't disturb him in the slightest.  No reason too.  I've got lots of pictures of him and his friends.
A coot was waiting for the sun to rise and warm the air.
It's amazing how animals use their surroundings to remain camouflaged.  I know how to look for critters and these deer didn't fool me.  Well, one deer didn't.  Two did.  See below.  They were right on the shoreline behind weeds and briers.

It would be very easy to just drive or walk past these guys and never know they are in the area.

 They really blend in to the environment perfectly.

Coots are very interesting birds.  These coots just appeared on this river two days ago.  I need to read up on coots to see if they migrate anywhere.  Cherokee has coots on the water all year round.  As I said, these simply appeared.
And, you already know I like mallards and will photograph them when opportunity presents itself.

I love to catch them in flight with the camera.  The moment they leave the water is best.

And, another grebe.

Notice the fresh mud on their shells.  They are burying themselves in the river mud during the night and coming out during the day to soak up the sun.  Soon each of them will disappear for the winter - buried in the mud.

Big creek is gorgeous any time of year and a new beaver lodge is revealed with the dying back of the river grasses and cat tails.
Below, a turkey vulture is contrasted against fall foliage.
And a red tail hawk checks the shoreline for ground squirrels and any other careless critter.

I gotta post some more mallards.

Pied bill grebe

 Two more old coots.

 Another beaver lodge that was hidden all summer.
I notice the beavers are shy from the water in the daylight.  This is no doubt due to an increased boat presence.  Duck hunters as well as fishermen are cruising the river more and more making the otters and beavers active at night and in hiding during the day.  That's the way it has to be.

That's it for now.  I have to fire up the vacuum cleaner and suck the lady and stink bugs off the bedroom walls.  See ya.