Sunday, November 17, 2013


all photography done using 120 -400 mm Sigma telephoto lens

I was up at 4:30 AM this morning - brushed the ole dentures and loaded up the truck.  I wanted to be on the river just at sunrise.  I needed to get away from this traffic infested, bass boat crazy atmosphere where everything is loud engines and exhausts, both on the road and on these two ridiculous excuses for lakes.  I looked forward to easing down the quiet waters of the Holston River this morning - just enjoying the sunrise and idling along.  I was on the road at a little past 5:00 AM and it was Sunday morning so I knew there would be NO traffic - and, there was none.  I did make the mistake of turning on the radio.  Re-runs of the Rush Limbaugh radio show was being played.  Can't they just let it be for one day?  I pulled into the parking lot and launched the boat.  The sun was just rising.
It's amazing how much we are influenced by our environment.  I think we reflect back what we get hit with.  If it's beautiful we react in like kind.  Then, I think violence and turmoil begets violence and turmoil.  It's no wonder there are so many crazy's in this country -  far more than there was when I was growing up.
I heard them coming long before I could see them.  Their voices carry for miles and then, tiny, short, black dashes appeared out, almost beyond where my eyesight could see. They were coming and they were beautiful.  This was turning out to be a perfect morning.
The sun rises faster than one might realize.  One minute morning appears as dusk.  In the next, the morning sun has arrived and the birds start to appear from their night perches and their hiding places in the rich green river grass and from behind logs along the water.  A pair of black crown night heron juveniles awaken from their sleep and edge out further on the limb of the old dead snag.

I see their heads turn left and right until one of them finally saw the big white boat. They both instantly became nervous and finally flew.  There isn't enough light to get a fast shutter speed.  I took the shot anyway knowing the motion would not be stopped. So what?
 They both flew a short distance and landed in a tree but, only for a brief moment.  Then they were off again.

I wish there was more light for faster shutter speeds.  It will come.
No noise, no cars, no engines, no bass boats, no loud exhausts and nothing to upset this very cool morning - yet...

 "Well, OK little fellow.  If you're going to sit and pose for me I sure will take the advantage of the situation.  Could you just turn a little to your right, I mean left."
If you ever have the luxury to sit and watch a kingfisher - do so.  They are acrobats in the air and quite ingenious when they fish.  Sometimes they will fly along and appear to only touch their feet to the water's surface to catch a minnow.  At other times they will fly headlong into the water, disappear below the surface and reappear, wings flapping, to fly straight up in the air and do several 90 degree turns, flashing along at the speed of lightning to land on a favorite branch to enjoy lunch.  They're amazing.  And, they are overlooked by most lakeside visitors.

I arrived at the upper section of the river where the water is very shallow this time of year.  The current was very slow this morning indicating that Patrick Henry Reservoir located far up river was not generating for hydroelectric power.  When that place is generating - this river displays a very fast current.  I crossed to the opposite shoreline and idled downstream.  There wasn't any fishermen on the water at this early hour so I switched off the engine and just went with the current in silence.  It's amazing how loud quiet can be!
I saw a bronze colored critter moving through the brush far up on the cliff.
 It was a red fox and he was moving through the thickest brush on the hill side.  I wanted so bad to get a good picture of him but he would not cooperate.  He always seemed to have his head buried in the brush.  That's his tail you see in the picture with the white tip. Try as I might - I couldn't get a good picture and, he was gone as fast as he appeared.  Another memory and a new critter to look for along the river.

I took a long draw on the water bottle and thoughts of the sandhill cranes came to mind.  This was not the time to think about that.  I have strong feelings about what is happening to them and this just wasn't the time to dwell upon it.  Then I saw him.  He was climbing up on the river bank munching on the green grasses and thick stems a few feet above the water.
This beaver is a big boy!  He's been putting on fat for the cold winter.  He doesn't really look that heavy when he's all stretched out on the river bank or, when swimming but when he eventually scrunches up to do some serious munching - he'll resemble a beach ball.

 He's heading right up that bank toward a little patch of green grass.  How do they find that stuff?

I have forever been amazed by a beaver's tail.  It helps him turn when swimming and he even uses it for propulsion.  When sitting it becomes his chair.  He will pull it forward between his legs and sit on the bottom of his tail just as if it were a blanket.

I'm telling you - these opportunities don't come often.  I've been fortunate on this water to be able to photograph beavers up close three times prior.  These are memories I'll never forget and I've got them forever in pictures.  Just look at him!
Beavers seem to tolerate the white boat more than any other critter I've run into out here.  An otter will have none of it.  Otters will instantly become alive with action when they see a white boat, staying only long enough to quench their curiosity which isn't long.  Green is the best color to have.

Oh, he's got his eye on me but, he's finding the tasty greenery more important than a big white floating thingy.

Then, he suddenly turned toward me and looked right at me.
 I thought I was made and expected to see him bolt for the water.

But no - he cast his eyes down toward the green stems growing all around him and chewed on and on, ignoring the human thing on the big white hickey that sat un-moving only 50 feet away.
A flock of geese flew over honking loudly and two wood ducks flushed out of a bush growing half in the water at the shoreline.  They quacked loudly as they flew at top speed from their hiding place.  They must have waited there in hiding while I was toying with this wild creature here before me until they couldn't take the unknowing any longer.  They made their break for the heavens and escape.  There was not one human sound on the water.  I listened to ducks, geese and a rather angry great blue heron as I drank in the view before me.  What a wild morning!  What a life!  I only wish I would have realized the importance of all "THIS" earlier.

Look how splendid and perfect he is.  He's enjoying being alive and bothering nothing while doing it.  And, someday his kind will be rare again.  I'ts inevitable.. 

There are an awful lot of photographs of this little fellow.  That's because I view him as a precious find.  He is unique.  He is wild.  I wish, sometimes, that I could be so wild and free.  I wish...

 With a favorite grass stem in his mouth, he turned toward the water and slid beneath the surface.  I watched him paddle upstream along the river bank and turn into a tiny undercut in the bank.  There he sat and chewed on his precious green find.  I clicked on the electric motor and slowly and quietly pulled away from him so as not to disturb him in any way.  I wished him well and bid him good fortune.  He's going to need it over the next couple months.

I took over two hundred photographs of this fellow so, what you see here is a small sampling of the total endeavor.  The amazing thing is that I was just passing by.  What's that say about the wildlife in Tennessee?
I fired up the engine and slowly moved downstream toward the dam.  I would be passing the eagle's mountain on the way.  I wonder if they would be there.  A tiny aluminum fishing boat was anchored along the shoreline.  I did my interview with him.  He had a little boy of about 9 years old with him.  I asked the guy if he or the boy had seen any bald eagles today and he said he never ever saw a bald eagle.  I said "look right up there", as I pointed up toward the middle of the mountain.
 And, Sir Harry posed for them both.
The adult said, "look at that.  I never saw him there."
"That's a bald eagle dad!"
The kid was really excited which made me feel great.  I showed em.

This was the second time a situation like this occurred on this water in a month.  Previously, a guy said he hadn't ever seen a bald eagle here and he said he fished here for years.  I said look up there on the mountain.  He said he never knew about them.  
That's a problem with people these days.  They don't see anything.  Tunnel vision is the problem.  They're out here just like I am and they don't look at anything.  It's all about the bass.  Gotta catch the bass.  Their days and nights are spent staring into the water and the wild world passes by around them.  Day after day they miss the accents that make life worth living.  It's the things on the fringe, at times, that are the spice that embellishes life.

 As usual - he's back lighted.  I can't win with Sir Harry.

Oh, I could go on and on with this entry but, I'll give you a break.  I've put you, the reader, through a lot of photographs.  I'll drop it at this point.  I hope you've enjoyed my world today.  The cranes are on my mind.  Can't shake the thoughts.  It's all so senseless, to kill them.  More about that issue shortly.  Thank you very much for looking at this blog.  I appreciate your interest and your dedication.