Friday, April 18, 2014

BEAVERS, OSPREYS, EAGLES AND GOATS - ON DOUGLAS LAKE?

First of all I would like to report that I received my 150 - 500 mm telephoto lens back from the repair shop and test shots indicated the repair is good - better than expected.  The adjustment rings on the lens barrel even move smoother.  The lens had been cleaned and all parts replaced inside except the glass so basically it's new.  This repair is a second attempt by the repair company, the first failing miserably.  Their policy is to refund the money if they fail in their repair efforts the first time and the instrument is repaired totally free the second attempt with absolutely no cost to the consumer to include shipping both ways.  This was all adhered to by the company and I'm a happy camper.  The lens was also timed, whatever that means, but it sounds important.  The name of the repair company is United Camera located in Bensenville, Il.  I do recommend their services to anyone who needs camera, camera lens, binocular,  I Pod repair and more.  Check them out on the internet.  This entry was accomplished with the old 400 mm lens as I didn't know that UPS delivered the big 500 mm to my porch until I got home from the lake today.
I figured that today, Thursday, would be just another uneventful, humdrum day on the mud hole, Douglas Lake.  I was incorrect in that thinking.  I've been stomping about in the outdoors for a lot of years and should have learned by now not to take anything for granted and to not second guess nature.  Of course, an exciting event or day for me might be nothing more than minor interest to someone else and I guess that's why diversity in mankind.  Won't get into Plato theories - promise.
The folks in Tennessee take their fishing seriously.  Just look at em.  They are fishing for crappie (pronounced croppy), a fish that is delicious and sought after by multitudes of fishermen and women and yes, I was busy.  That's only a small portion of them as the rest were on the opposite bank.
I passed an osprey nest and wondered why it appeared abandoned.  Those birds should be sitting on eggs right now and the activity around nest sites should be vigorous.  All of a sudden a head popped up above the edge of the nest and a loud shrieking commenced, scolding me for the sudden disturbance.
 She was very upset with me and I stayed long enough for the shots above and left her alone.
I would be working far up on the reservoir today on the French Broad River section and would have to travel upstream from Walters Bridge which is about a three mile run on the water to get there.  I was driving the little 17 foot aluminum boat with the 115 horsepower two stroke engine that I've worked so hard on over the past year.  I really enjoy operating this old boat because it runs so very well and I can slam it onto a stony beach and not worry about it getting scratched as it is made from aluminum that is 1/4" thick.  The thing is an ark and it flies over the water.  It a ton more fun than the 22' bay boat but not more comfortable.  See how I get off subject?
The day was turning out to be a brilliant day and I turned the little boat upstream and set the speed at about 35 miles per hour and just sat back and watched for floating logs coming down the river, as they always do.  Don't want to hit one of those things even in a boat made of Iron.  I drove past an interesting and attractive cliff face that I snapped a quick shot of in passing.
You can see how much higher the water needs to get by looking at the water mark.  I noticed something on the rocky bank that didn't quite fit as I sped past and turned back for a second quick look.
And, there he was - a beaver.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  This is Douglas Lake and there's a beaver on it.  Actually, this is the French Broad River.  The odd thing is that he is living in a spot that will be under fifteen feet of water very soon which makes me think a tunnel in his rocky lair must lead upward through the cliff rock to come out somewhere on the cliff face above, which would be near the water level for the summer.  Odd indeed.  This is indeed his home as I watched him move into a hole in the rock and disappear.



He was sound asleep when I pulled up to him and you are now watching him unwind and move slowly into the water to make his escape through a hole in the rock at water level.  This entire area will be under water in another week.  I guess he knows what he's doing.

He's heading for the hole in the rock and will soon complete his escape.  Funny to watch!

 The sun caught his face with a nice reflection.
And he's gone
That entire encounter took about a minute.  Things happen fast and one has to be ready, in both safety issues as well as wildlife issues.

I finally arrived at Leadvale and what I call the Rankin (flood plain) area which is indeed the French Broad River, and I needed to run upstream past Leadvale to Rankin which would take me past the confluence of the Nolichucky River and the French Broad. Actually, Leadvale is the area where the anglers were located in the shot at the start of this entry.  Rivers always hold wildlife and wildlife secrets that often amaze me.  Reservoirs are water bowls and not much more.
The goose suddenly raised her head up and chided me for disturbing her activities back behind the brush.  I can't do anything today without upsetting wildlife it seems.
Even this coot appears to be upset with me.  
It's home made but plainly states the case.
Now, there's an osprey nest that shouldn't be empty.  Oops, I better remember what happened earlier when I thought the nest was empty.  Then, the shadow crossed over my boat.
He instantly came out of a nearby tree when I stopped to photograph the nest.  This is my morning to piss off the critters I guess.  
I had to travel past his or her tree and in doing so noticed a little red spot moving around on the trunk.


I had to stop and fill out some paperwork and thought I'd photograph the little fellow for the blog entry.  He's a red bellied woodpecker.

I noticed the great blue heron rookery was bustling with activity.  Everyone was getting ready for the kids that will follow shortly.


These huge birds appear ungainly on the land but they are masters of flight and very powerful too.  I watched one bringing in sticks to repair a nest.


This huge bird actually hovered in place as he looked for a clear way onto the limb where his nest was.  Truly remarkable to watch.  I bet he hung in space for ten seconds before moving onto the limb.




That was very interesting to watch.  Not many folks really appreciate these super birds because they have their eyes glued to the surface of the water looking for "bass".  And, that's OK too.
Now, this old farm silo has an osprey nest on top and the occupants are home.  They have seen me and are shrieking their heads off over the disturbance.  I will not stop the boat, but will take a couple shots in passing.  The two stroke engines on these boats seem to alarm the wildlife while the quiet 4 stroke engines on the newer boats cause little if any concern.

 As usual, I've upset one of them and he flies off the nest to dive on my boat.  I'll be away in a second or two and he will alight back down to his peaceful surroundings.  By the way, these critters along the river are very used to boats and engines and It is not only me who is disturbing them.  The residents along the water react with concern but not with fear, it seems.  We, as stewards to these noble creatures must be understanding and act with common sense and respect when in their presence.
Then, I noticed a theatrical act being carried on high up in the sky.  It seems an osprey had picked up some article from the surface of the water and was carrying it off for further inspection when two eagles noticed the prize and attacked the osprey to make him drop his catch so that they could pick it up after he dropped it.  The birds were very far away and extremely high so the pictures are tiny but, I think you'll get the gist of the action.
My first sighting of any action to follow was this bird form above.  It quickly did a straight down dive.
 The eagle is the bottom bird and he narrowly missed hitting the osprey on his downward plunge but now is coming up under the osprey who is taking evasive action.  I have no idea what the osprey has in it's talons. 

 You can see the involvement of a second eagle in the above shot.
 The two eagles seem to be in disagreement as to which one gets the osprey.  They tangle in their own struggle for dominance.
 Meanwhile the attack on the osprey commences and the osprey decides he's outmatched, which he clearly is and drops his catch.

Now, understand what is happening in the above two shots.  The osprey was forced to drop the package in the second shot above and the eagle is trying to catch it in mid air in the picture directly above.  He misses and the treasure plunges onto the surface of the water where he dives after it, grabs it and ascends to some lofty height and out of site.  I missed the pickup as the river is turning my boat and tossing me about like a cork.  Remember the safety issue I spoke about.  This truly was an adventuresome five minutes.  Those two eagles seemed to have the wrong coloring to be immature bald eagles and it has been suggested by a close friend that they may be golden eagles.  I'm inclined to agree with him.  Their markings just aren't quite right and the length of their necks appear shorter and their heads appear to be closer to the shoulders than than a bald eagle's.
That's a big, big eagle in the above shot.  Don't know about that one...
I had to get back down stream and get this boat out.  I had checked the entire river as far upstream as I could get and it was time to call it a day.
Check out the osprey that follows.  As I have stated in previous entries - they do everything with bravado and a cavalier attitude.



 I am always amazed at the beauty this bird projects.  It is a perfect hunter and is fast, deadly and an acrobat in the sky.  His only nemesis is the eagle.




I glanced over at the rock face as I passed by to see if the beaver had returned to his little depression in the rock.  And, there the old boy was asleep again.
What a face!
 The little devil turned his rear end toward me and hid his face.  Imagine that!

 Then, he turns toward me and smiles.  I eased on past and left him to his dreams.

I followed the cliff side closely on the way back as that is where the water had good depth.  I noticed something out of place on the rocks.  That's how it is with me - I always catch the irregular shape or color.  Well, look at this out in the middle of nowhere.
I apologize for the quality of these pictures but there is absolutely no light over on that cliff side.  What you are looking at is a wild goat.
These feral goats have been out here for 20 years, I'm told and are just left alone by the locals.  They are enjoyed by those who reside in the area and the rest of the world don't know about them, and that's just fine.  I saw one of these a couple years ago and had photo's on the blog back then.  I've not seen another one since until this one.


 For all intents and purposes they are as wild as any other goat on the planet and they do not travel away from this vertical cliff face.  Therefore, they present no ecological issues for the forests and other natural critters.  They live in their own tiny world of straight up and down rock, never leaving it,  and seem to thrive there.  They deserve to be left in peace.
It's early Friday morning and I've been posting this material since about 3 AM.  Just couldn't sleep last night or, maybe I slept too good.  Maybe 9 PM is too early to hit the hay.  Lets see - that's 6 hours of sleep and that's not bad.  Thinking out loud.

We'll see what today brings and for sure I'll be ready for whatever that may be.  I got the monster 500 mm lens back and I'm dangerous with that thing.  See ya.