Wednesday, May 6, 2015

HOLSTON RIVER NORTH OF CHEROKEE DAM - A BEAUTIFUL WILD PLACE

Every now and then one of those mornings comes along and a fella just knows that everything is going to click.  Yesterday morning was just such a morning.  I woke up refreshed and ready to hit the water and the drive to the upper reaches of the Holston River above Cherokee Lake was an enjoyable experience for a change and the big boat was travelling up river at sunup and all was well.  I have been posting shots on Face Book over the past few months and have enjoyed the new friends that share mutual interests with me.  There are some downsides to Face Book but for the most part it is a nice experience.  I, however, do prefer the blog as I feel more comfortable in that venue of communication.  I don't feel the need to be careful not to offend or to submit a comment that may cause irritation to someone.  Face Book is sort of open to an enormous social readership and there seems a pressure to be "careful" what one says.  I am known to have a short temper and am vocal about my feeling pertaining to patriotism and love of country.  The blog is mine.  I view it as my space to display what I wish, when I wish as often as I wish as long as its legal and without concern of offending anyone.  Anyway, this entry is cluttered with photographs from one of those rare days that are filled with adventure and discovery..  I don't get many over here this side of the Smoky's, so here it is.  What a day!  What a great day!

 This is a time in season when new life is everywhere and it is represented boldly on the rivers and lakes of East Tennessee.

 Note how the youngsters hold very tightly against their parents and also observe how the parents share the duty of protection for their brood.  Its a heartwarming sight to see proud parents out for a stroll, "swim" with their new family members.

 The babies are always placed between the parents.  Geese are fantastic parents.
Shortly, you will see a brood of wood duck babies and their mother making their way along a dark undercut river bank where they are almost invisible on their way to the water.  In the meantime I hope you enjoy the great egret.

 The shot above and below is a photographic accomplishment "for me" as pertains to photographing great egrets, or any pure white bird for that matter.  Note the cream accent to the egret's plumage and above all, note the shadows on his white plumage from the surrounding foliage.  Usually the camera's sensor over reacts to the bright plumage with the result of a washed out image.  The key is in the white balance setting.  Or, simply open the fstop 1 1/3 stops. This is very difficult to capture, but I got lucky as can be seen below:


 A great blue heron is fishing.

 A mother wood duck is leading her brood across the shoreline under the protection of a deep undercut river bank where the light is very low which makes travel much safer.  They did not escape my scrutiny however.  And, here they are.  I've never photographed wood duck babies ever.  This is a first.

 Their little heads are indeed green.  They are about the size of a silver dollar and they cling to every move that mother makes.  

 The camouflage factor is huge as they follow mother by actually crawling under the leaf litter as far as they can.  Where did they learn that?
 Above and below is indicative of nature's ability to care for its citizens.

 Mother is leading her brood to a cliff that represents about a fifteen foot drop off to the water below.  The babies follow mom's lead without hesitation and simply drop off the precipice without fear.

 And there they come.  Note they all can't be seen as they are under the leaves.
 But, out into the open they come, all trusting and all bonded with the adult they know as their leader.
 They hesitate at the edge of the cliff for but a brief moment.  Then mom takes the plunge over the edge.


 And, the youths follow unhesitatingly.  
 Once in the water, they slip silently along the shoreline taking advantage of the rocks, sticks, wood and debris to shield them from view.  
 Foliage, wood and rocks can not protect them from the hidden dangers that lurk below the surface of the water.  Stripe, small mouth and large mouth bass are  all capable of taking the baby ducks and many fall prey to these villains.  Fox, coyotes, ospreys, bald eagles, red tail and sharp shoulder hawks and many more raptors and mammals take a tole on the new born.  It is nature's way of perpetuating life.  Ducks and fowl in general give birth to many , many babies, but only a few go on to achieve adulthood as those who fall supply life to the many, many other species of animals that depend upon their success at reproduction to sustain their lives.



 As I said before, this is a first for me. I've tried to photograph wood duck babies on Calderwood Lake but I was always foiled in my attempts.  

 Two hundred yards upstream I found this guy.  He is a barred owl and he was sitting on a piece of drift wood that was lodged under a deeply undercut bank.  The lighting was terrible but I figured it out pretty well as the pictures aren't too bad.  This also is a first for me.  Owls are hard to come by and this opportunity is a treasure.
What a sensational opportunity!
 His eyes are fine.  I woke him up and he appears to adjusting to the changes from sleep to awake.



I saw a baby poke its head out from under her wing but obviously she is still incubating eggs.  It won't be long until she will proudly lead her new brood along the shoreline.
The double crested cormorant has to be one of the most powerful birds in flight on the water.  There is nothing to even suggest this bird has finesse when taking flight, but when fishing he is second to none in his elegance.



 And then we have the coot.  Coots are gregarious and cling to the flock.  They enjoy the multitudes and find safety there-in.  Their claim to fame is their huge, blue rubber looking feet.  
 Below is my attempt to offer a 3D look into the world of nature.  
Its only a black bird.



 The green heron.  They're back.



 The wood duck is my favorite duck and I had the opportunity to photograph them today in a way that has not been afforded to me previous.  They seemed to say, "take me".

 Just look how gorgeous they are.!

He disappears in the natural world of camouflage.  
 He is a spotted sandpiper, one of my favorite little birds. 
 Look closely as he is difficult to see.








 Look at this.  A wood duck and a green heron sharing a tree.  The amazing thing is that a wood duck is so far up in a tree.  Laughable!


 That wood duck is amazing!  He has a perfect vantage point where he can see the river both ways.  The green heron accidentally landed on the duck's tree.

 These two shots are the best I've ever done with wood ducks. 

 Above and below is a green heron.


What post would be complete without a whitetail deer?








 A great blue heron catches a fish
 Great blue heron in a nest
 Baby geese

A great blue heron abruptly leave his nest.

 Herons constantly bring sticks to reinforce their nests that are under constant assault by the natural elements.

 It is an impressive thing to see them carrying all sizes, shapes and materials to their nests.

 Below, he flies past a cormorant 

 He squawks, "honey I'm home".
 He approaches with a mouth full of stems and dried, broken branches and awaits a warm greeting.
 "Watch it big boy.  Back off.  It'll take more than a mouthful of sticks to win my heart.

 Very elegant!
Below:  A turkey vulture
 Black vultures display a black head.
 And the real king of the roost.




And then we have the osprey.  Wow!!




 The osprey is bringing sticks, twine and pieces of rope to bolster up his nest.




 What a majestic sight!

And, last but not least we have a bald eagle.

 He is in a tree that is very, very high up on top a mountain. I kid you not.  I doubted the lens would do him justice.  I'm amazed at the results.  Not a bad capture of this great bird.



And so that is the day.  Its over but not forgotten.  This is a very large post and i appreciated your looking in on it.  I appreciate your readership and look forward to presenting more of our wild places.