Note: This post has SO MANY pictures but I defend it as the result of the numerous renewing mornings on the beautiful Silver River. Maybe it will be a faster read with the fewer words once I get to the paddling part. Or maybe you are all so bored in the quarantine that you aren’t in any hurry. I hope so.
I was still at Oscar Scherer on February 3rd, a day I wish I didn’t remember. It is now one year since David died and I don’t see how it can have been so long. I still use “we” in many conversations and very often talk to him and expect him to come in the door and tell me what he’s been doing.
Before leaving the Venice area, I went to Detweillers, a fabulous place and favorite place of David’s. I brought back breakfast treats which were among David’s favorite things. The sticky buns will probably get hard before I eat them all. But I have one along with a cherry cheese Danish on this day in his honor. How I wish he were here to eat his share. Perhaps I wouldn’t eat so much if he were. Either way, it would be a lot more fun with him.
My journal reminded me that last year on this day after David died I was forced to pack up and leave Little Manatee River State Park where they were so terrible I will never ever book a site there again under any circumstances. I moved to the site I am amazingly in this year on the same date. But this year on February 3rd, I am not arriving in Site 5 but leaving it to drive to Ocala for a two week stay in site 14 at Silver Springs State Park.
For me, it’s really too early to be this far north but this was the best I could do in the reservations department when I was making them last year. Sure hope it is warm enough to kayak.
The day after I arrive, I take Winnona to PatRick’s for an oil change and chassis lube. Both things David has always done. $158 seems high for such service. What do you think? They say they checked a myriad of things including the windshield wipers. But if so, why did they not mention that the windshield washers are disconnected and do nothing about it. I forgot to mention it but so did they. It’s so much nicer when you have a mechanic that you love who would never take advantage of you. I guess this is another part of my new world I don’t like very much.
I came frequently to Silver Springs in my childhood. First as a child of about 5 or 6 long before there was a campground. I rode on the Glass Bottom boats with my Great Aunt Carrie for whom my daughter is named. I have a warm place in my heart for this place.
David and I have been here nearly every year, but never in site 14. After the park redid the campground a few years ago there were many more pull throughs and a few full hook ups. The full hook up is pretty unusual for state parks. So I was looking forward to being in site 14 because of both those things.
Unfortunately far too many of those who design and put in campsites don’t give much thought to how level they are. Sort of like people who design kitchens but don’t really cook. Here are some views of the difficulty I had getting Winnona level in site 14 which you can be sure I will never book again.
That’s 4 pads on one side and three on the other.
On the bright side, I only have to level once and now I have 13 more days to hopefully do a lot of paddling on the river which is the number one reason to love this park. I can take my kayak once down the long and difficult sandy trail to the dock and lock it up so all I have to do is hike down and put the kayak in the water any time I want to paddle. At the end of my reservation I have to drag it back up that trail of course but between now and then it will just be a very nice hike to get to my boat and the ramp.
Though no blue skies today, the river is still lovely. I never know what I’ll see but over my numerous times on the Silver River, some of the same folks get their pictures taken multiple times. Hope you don’t mind.
Great Blue Herons sure do have bony knees
Herons take many postures and poses which makes it hard sometimes for beginning birders to recognize them. Amazing how the Great Blue can pull in that neck and make himself horizontal.
The red of the woodpeckers and their rat-a-tat-tat draw my eyes. First the large Pileated and then the red bellied. More on the Pileated later.
The cormorant has the best of both worlds in my opinion. He can fly. With those webbed feet he can swim and amazingly those same feet do grab tree branches. AND he can disappear from sight and swim under water. What beautiful blue eyes but I wouldn’t want to tackle with his beak. Check out that hook.
The anhinga has absolutely beautiful feathers that he often spreads wide to dry after swimming. His neck always looks like black velvet to me.
The broad spreading roots of the cypress look ancient. They always create a spiritual feeling when I paddle among them. Somehow they seem wise.
Even the Little Blue Heron’s bill is blue during breeding season.
Is there a more beautiful bird than the male wood duck? They are quite skittish and in most places fly immediately as I barely get a glance at them. But here on the Silver River they seem to have learned that people mean them no harm.
With all the tree limbs along the river I wonder why this female anhinga and the male cormorant are sharing a branch. I love how the cormorant holds on with his webbed feet.
This time it’s a male anhinga with his beautiful feather patterns and a White Ibis with his long long bill sharing.
I spent some time on this day watching flocks of White Ibis come flying through the air toward me first high and then lower to land in a tree. It’s too early in the day for this to be their roosting tree but these birds often hang out in very big groups. The sound of all their wings is amazing. I have read in books of early naturalists about the skies being so full of birds they covered the sun and the sound of their wings drowned out all other sound. Sadly things are not like that any more. I sure wish they were.
The adult Ibis is all white, the juvenile brown.
And there they go.
Not many alligators today. Perhaps there is not enough sun for them to bask in to warm up.
I guess the anhinga on the other end of the log feels he’s far enough away or quick enough to fly if the gator starts thinking of a snack.
On cool rainy mornings, I often stay snuggled in bed with Mary Oliver and hot chocolate in my Nana cup. While my loved ones in Maryland and Virginia are enjoying a rather mild winter, this one in Florida has cooler than I like. I often compare the temperatures where I am and where they are and frown at the little difference between them. I came here for the warmth, where is it??
It seems I haven’t really taken any pictures other than of my time on the river.
I usually skip week ends on the water and just go hiking. Even getting out to paddle early as I do during the week, there are often too many people on my return trip from the head springs. Week-ends are impossible. This of course is before the Covid-19.
It’s much better during the week, as on this Monday, my second trip, when it is also finally warm enough to get back out on the water and I am lucky enough to encounter this pair of wood ducks who don’t fly off the minute they see me. Wonderful!! Aren’t they GRAND!
Unlike my previous day on the water, this one is blue sky picture perfect.
I paddle along beside this gator for a while. He doesn’t seem to pay me any regard.
They are so ancient looking. Like the Pelican.
I’ve read that with the current lock downs, rivers all over the world are becoming clear and many fish and even dolphins not seen in a long time have returned. As the Silver River flows from it’s own underground headspring and is protected on both sides by the state park, its waters are always amazingly beautiful.
I’m not sure I’d like to be the turtle between what I assume is mama and baby.
I think the Limpkin is a very attractive bird until I hear her call. Especially when she calls at night, she sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs from danger. If you’ve never heard it, close your eyes and listen here.
I watch the White Ibis looking or perhaps listening for food.
What ever it is must be far down.
The water is so clear, at spots I can see down to the bottom where a manatee rests. I’m about to paddle over him when I notice.
Today is the first day I’ve come upon the manatee, another of my absolute favorites here on the Silver River.
You can hardly see what I think looks like a hog nose on this Florida Softshell turtle. He’s a rare sight for me.
Would you look at the length of this alligator and I didn’t even get all of him.
And how about the bravery of this Great Blue Heron stepping over him. Watch yourself buddy.
Great Blue Herons are tall birds as in 3 to 4 1/2 feet tall. You can see from that how gigantic the tree is. I love this river!
On my third paddle and the last one for this post. I am again lucky enough to see a pair of Wood ducks and luckier to get these pictures.
The coloring and markings is just nearly impossible for me to believe. Nothing mankind creates can hold a candle to it.
I’m also very happy to again see this largest of woodpeckers, the Pileated. They can be 19” tall and have a 30” wingspan. Lucky for us they have been around for the last 40+ years working on the paulownia trees right outside the farm master bedroom window. We could often see them when we opened our eyes in bed first thing in the morning. Their rat-a-tat-tat frequently woke us up if we’d had a late night. No missing their bright red heads and black and white facial coloring.
The river is really showing off this morning. As if two Wood Ducks weren’t enough, how about three.
Looks like Ms Wood Duck has stepped down and out of the way of the face off.
The fun continues with the candy corn bill of this Moorhen.
The coloring on the juvenile alligator is quite different from the all gray of the adult. Great patterns on both body and tail.
The Black Crowned Night Heron has his eye on something. I’ve got my eye on his breeding plume, long thin and white it really stands out.
Early on in my birding, I was fooled thinking this immature Little Blue Heron was a Snowy Egret. It’s his green legs that give him away.
The Green Heron is another beautiful bird. This picture is not quite enough of a close up to show the intricacy of designs on his feathers. But the next one is. He often seems to me to be skulking around.
Manatee are mammals and so must come up to breathe. They often scare me with their big breaths when I’ve had no idea they are around.
While I’m paddling, it’s hard to know where to look on this incredible river – on the banks? in the air? in the water? Manatee sometimes lay around on the bottom and are very hard to see if the sun is shining on the water. But those breaths give them away. How about this nose close up?
There are an abundance of fish in the Silver River probably because the state park allows no fishing or swimming. I’m no fisherman. Since I wouldn’t like a hook in my mouth, I do unto others.
But I bet Bill Gravel could tell me what kind of fish these are just below my paddle and so easily visible in the crystal clear water.
This turtle with his look ma no hands stance is one of the many many many many seen today.
This really is my lucky day another rare sighting, the Wood Stork. I’ve often said they were one of the ugliest birds outside of vultures but he looks pretty good from this angle.
Another Limpkin screaming. She has a long bill like the White Ibis who uses his to search out crabs and crayfish. The Limpkin uses hers to find snails and mussels among other things. Her favorite is the invasive apple snail and I cheer her on in her efforts to keep them in check
Would you call that the evil eye?
As I mentioned, the return trip on any day has many more folks. So many today that the ramp to the park where I want to tie up is blocked.
Here I am waiting in line for folks who have probably stopped for lunch at the tables the park provides. They eventually get in their boats and I’m able to pull mine out of the water, lock it and hike back to Winnona.
And so my time on the river is over for this day. Kayaking this river lightens my heart especially when I get out early enough that the crowds haven’t begun. I can almost never avoid them toward the end of my paddle and they spark my decision up river that it’s time to call it a morning.
Who knows how long I might stay out here if I had the river to myself and my bird and animal friends.
When I get back it is lunch time. Complete with home made potato chips.
Only a few more days here before I will have to move on
But before that something fun is happening in the park this week-end. That’s for my next post which I’ll try to make less picture heavy.
Congratulations for making it to the end.