Wednesday, May 14, 2014

RANKIN BOTTOMS IS BIRD INCREDIBLE RIGHT NOW

I never have many good things to say about the virtues of Douglas Lake but I have to admit that the French Broad River at the upper end of the reservoir is a bird sensation.  Every year the Rankin flood plain, known as Rankin Bottoms, is visited by countless species of birds that shouldn't really be here.  Every wading bird in the state can be seen on the shores of the French Broad River at some point in time throughout the summer.  The place is amazing and its a wonderful place to paddle a canoe or kayak.  One can paddle back through the forest among the trees and shrubs but the submerged deadfalls can be tricky and surprising if hit by the boat.  I've said all this last year but one never knows if a new reader may have come along who is not familiar with the super birding opportunities at Rankin.  The place isn't a sanctuary but it sure should be made one.  
I was on the lake before the sun was fully up and on my way up river toward Leadvale and Rankin boat ramps.
  This was going to be a "WOW" morning, I could tell.
 A mallard duck was floating along on a log out in the river and looked all alone and mysterious.  He did voice his dismay at my approach and eventually flew off at top speed.
 The air was misty and the sun was almost, but not quite up and a smoky in between light presented a bit of a challenge to get this guy in the camera.
 He ruffled his feathers and immediately launched from his watery perch on the log.

 E's a little rocket E is, E is.

The river's edge sure is green.  I wonder if people understand what their houses appear as in the natural way of things along a pretty river.  Funny how we all complain about the trash that lies on the river bank or the old boats that wash up on shore from time to time.  Sometimes entire docks wash up on shore.  I'll show you one later.  But, why are houses not considered undesirable additions to a natural looking shoreline?  Beautiful rich green grass and huge drooping willow trees and red bud trees along with cedars and ash everywhere and ---- someones house right there at river's edge in the midst of it all....Gold color tin roof and bigger than a Wallmart.  Sorry.

This is one of those mornings where I just have got to stop the boat and take a good look around in all directions and drink it all in.
The sun was coming on fast and the heat was too.   I wear a long sleeve cotton shirt to work in all temperatures and remain cool, or at least semi comfortable and I don't get sun burn.  I get criticised for wearing long sleeves but I don't care.  Cotton isn't my first choice of materials for any garment but it's what I have.


 I'm really trying not to post too many osprey shots on the blog but I can't help it as this is one of my favorite birds.  Simply spectacular!



There are numerous new wood duck boxes along the river this spring so I guess TWRA has been busy installing them.  These are first class boxes.  What else would you expect from professional wildlife people?
I'm delighted to see the great egrets return to Rankin as they are like beacons that guide all the rest of the fantastic birds who visit here.  The great egrets seem to always be the first.  They even beat out the double crested cormorants.



 Even egrets have to scratch an itch occasionally.  It isn't easy though.

They are such elegant birds but their true elegance shines through when they are on the wing.

 I am delighted with these shots.
I ran across the lake to check out a couple coves that fishermen usually hit in the mornings.  This morning is an off time for fishing for some reason as  I only talked to five guys so far and they weren't catching anything to speak of.  Bad weather is coming tonight so maybe that has something to do with it.    Actually it should help.  Who knows?
I entered the first cove that I call heron cove due to the great concentrations of green herons I've seen there over the years.  This year was no different and they were here as usual,  lounging in trees or fishing from the banks.  But a movement of brown fur caught my attention on the shoreline in a brush pile.  

 It is a ground hog and believe it or not he is up a tree.  Yes, I said up a tree eating some kind of leaf stems.
He sure has a nice place to live back here as there isn't any humans even near this cove so he can live unnoticed and in safety - maybe.



 I watched him until he decided to move on.
Next is where I'm so happy to have that big 500 mm telephoto.  Check out the next photo and see if you can see the subject in the photo.  It is one long shot for sure.
 You'll see him in the next picture for sure.
 He appeared on the log in a flash - a blink.  That snap motion he made when he jumped up from wherever to land on that log is what my eyes caught.  Probably couldn't repeat that find ever again.  Luck.
 He's a widdle wizard.  Not a salamander.  He's a lizard.
 The little fellow is too far away for me to see details so I can't identify him.

And finally the star of tonights post.  Without that big lens I would not have been able to get these shots of this guy either.  I love these little herons.

 This green heron is fishing for small minnows and fish fry.
His patience is endless and his aim is dead accurate.

 These birds usually spear their prey (fish) when the prey is large enough.  Most other herons grab fish between their bill.  The green heron  is an accurate hunter either way he uses his bill and he's lightning fast as I've seen one snatch a snake feeder from the air and I never saw the bird move.




 I watched the bird below catch ten fish fry.  He has one in his bill now but you have to look hard to see it.  These fry are very tiny.  By the way, he got all ten with ten attempts.  That's 100% success ratio.







This river has a serious case of the pretties this morning for sure.  It's time to head down river so I put the pedal down as I was actually running late.
I noticed an enormous flock of cormorants when I got to the main lake.  I've not seen so many in one flock ever before.


 Surely some bird isn't building a nest in this floating wheel!  Oh, surely not!
Storms are supposed to be moving in tonight and should be lingering here through the next two days.  Figures as I have tomorrow off.  I cleaned the Gheenoe this afternoon and gassed it up so she's adventure ready.  Got an urge to camp  on Calderwood real bad.  We'll see. 


 Thanks for looking in on this blog.  I appreciate you.