Thursday, December 26, 2013

THE LAST OFFICIAL DAY OF RUNNING THIS WATER - REALLY!

I read my schedule last night to see where I was supposed to be today and to my delight I was supposed to be on the Holston River again this morning.  Whoopee!  I overlooked this appointment with the river when I last ran it on the 20th.  I thought that was my last day.   Today, however, was it, fini, over.  The weather was to be sunny and 40 degrees but, it was very cold on the river at sunup and as usual, my fingertips were hurting with cold.  Thank you Anne for the hand warmers.  Instant heat and so cozy!  I noticed the big red tail hawk, Reggie, perched on the limb of his favorite tree.   I hadn't seen Reggie over the past three trips here and was beginning to become concerned about him.  All is well though.

I think this is Reggie.  His mate, Regina, sometimes shares the old snag with Reggie.  I heard a shrill "Skareeee" and saw another red tail flying very high.  That was either Reggie or Regina.  I can't tell a male hawk from a female at this distance.  Actually, I wouldn't know the difference if I was a foot away from them.  Anyway, Reggie was getting anxious on his perch, moving about and lifting his wings and the closer Regina came, the more antsy he became.  Then I noticed that Regina was carrying a payload in her talons.  These shots were taken at extreme distances and I had to crop them for enlargement purposes.  Red tails are tough to photograph.  I apologize for any lack of clarity in the pictures.  Best I could do.
She was carrying a branch and circling around the tree that Reggie was sitting in.

They were preparing their nest for the Spring mating season, or constructing another nest.  Reggie became very excited and leapt into the air and flew along a row of trees that lead to the mountain.


I wish I could be here this Spring to discover the location of their nest so I could watch it.  But, it is not to be.  Of course I will be canoeing up here off and on so maybe I'll get lucky and find it.  If the red tails are gathering sticks now, you can bet the bald eagles will be carrying wood soon, if not now.  All these birds of prey build, repair or add on to their nests annually.  They're wired to do it.
The second red tail turned instantly and lined herself up with Reggie and followed him along the tree line until I lost sight of them as they flew behind and blended into the trees.  They were heading toward the center of the mountain where the bald eagles dwell.  I wonder how that will work out.

The sun was up but, it was indeed a frigid morning indicated by the numbness of my fingers.  I had my gloves off that held the little heater packets so I could work the camera and in that short time my fingertips went numb to the point of hurting.  Oh, those little hand warmers are such a delight!
I couldn't have picked a more perfect day to say goodbye to the river.  The shoreline was framed by a rich blue sky and the shoreline bordered by smooth water.
I scanned the water's edge as I slowly moved up the river in hopes of catching an otter or two, maybe a beaver out on a log or on the bank.  Those critters are deep in their burrows huddled together on beds of soft, dry river grasses enjoying the warmth of their dens that extend far back into the embankment.

Both these species will be active now primarily at dusk and at dark preferring to spend the day in their dens.  The beavers will be especially industrious at night, working tirelessly cutting wood to repair their dams that have been damaged by recent heavy rains.  They, for the most part, have already stored food away for the Winter but, a beaver will not rest until his perfect dam is restored to "like new" conditions.  Otters, on the other hand, must continuously hunt their food through all seasons , but they will shift their efforts to night time activities during the Winter.  These critters enjoy the warmth of the sun during Summer through Fall and they make themselves available to the watcher's eyes as well as the camera more frequently during those seasons.  The beaver will be very active during late Spring through early Fall gorging himself with the sweet stems of water plants and the new soft wood of favorite saplings that will replace the fat he lost over the long Winter.  He can be found preening his fur on shorelines as well as nibbling on his favorite plants all the while enjoying the warmth of the sun.
I noticed a tiny critter way, way out across the field scampering along stopping frequently.  I saw it was a squirrel.  Don't ask me how I see these things because I can't explain it.  Maybe I'm just so intimately familiar with the edges of this river that I don't miss anything.

He's such a tiny little guy to be crossing such a wide, open space alone.  This is a big time hawk country and he's taking one serious chance.  But, what do I know?
The morning went quickly and it's time to finally say farewell to this wonderful river.  I'll be back with either the canoe or the Gheenoe, however, and I won't wait too long.  Probably early March would be about right.  I'll miss it until then though.  I'll miss it very much.