As I mentioned in my previous post (link above), I go kayaking on the river first thing every morning the weather will allow.
Today, I was barely out on the water when I saw this Osprey overhead. I was excited to see him as at least for me sighting them here is relatively rare. What a face!
Probably the two water birds I see most often here are the Anhinga and the Wood Duck. Just to say that seems amazing.
When I first began coming to what was then Silver River State Park, about 10 years ago, it was rare to see a Wood Duck and if I did, they wouldn’t stay around long once they saw me. Over the years, as the state bought the Head Spring park and changed the rules about what could be done, Wood Ducks have gotten more and more numerous and less skittish of kayakers.
Today I paddled by this line up. All on one log, a male anhinga, then turtles then Mr & Ms Wood Duck and more turtles. They were all enjoying the sun. Me too.
Another relatively common bird here is the Moorhen. I hope you can see that his legs and bill tip are color coordinated. Pretty slick.
The most amazing encounter on this day, and the reason for the blog title, was paddling right beside this trio as they cruised the river together. Not sure how the wood duck couple know the alligator isn’t hungry. Take a look at this video showing how close we all are.
A very rare sighting is any turtle above water on the river. They dive as soon as they see you. And especially amazing is that this is Florida Soft Shelled Turtle. See his distinctive nose?
Not only do the large wide based Bald Cypress trees have amazing knees but they also have what I call great toes which of course are roots and more visible during low water such as this. These trees grow to over 150’ tall and more than 6’ in diameter. Quite majestic!
One of the things the park service did when it took over the entire Silver River was to prohibit fishing. Not so nice for the fishermen but great for the rebounding fish populations and my frequency of seeing them in the clear water.
For my turtle lovers, I saw what I assume is this family of mom and various sized kids. Luckily they didn’t all slip back into the water before I could get these pictures.
This fella really looked stuffed into his skin. Even his feet as he sunned on this log.
Check out those claws Don’t his elbows look like he’s wearing an alligator suit?
I looked twice at this river art as I paddled by. What’s it look like to you?
Some mornings it was quite foggy on the river. I thought the female wood duck looked especially ethereal in the fog.
It wasn’t long until the sun burned off the fog and the day became bright and beautiful.
Unlike the wood ducks and the alligators whom I could paddle along beside and spend some time with them watching, this Black Crowned Night Heron was doing his fishing at one spot which I had a hard time staying by with the flowing spring water wanting to push me down stream.
He was so much fun to watch as he walk along the water and jabbed his bill down to catch whatever he saw. Notice his yellow breeding colors.
Some other birds looking beautiful this morning were the male Anhinga drying his wings and the Great Egret in his breeding feathers.
Wet head. Notice the breeding color .
The varicolored green heron was skulking up on his prey too.
The waters and sky were almost the same color. I feel so lucky to be kayaking on water that is so clean and clear. Now if they would just ban gasoline engine boats along with fishing, wouldn’t that be heaven?
I remember the first winter I spent in Florida, I was amazed at the size of the Great Blue Heron. He seemed so rare and exotic. I try not to let familiarity and that he is a common resident bird cloud my vision of his beauty. He has his breeding feathers on too.
And then the manatee again. I know I showed them in my last blog but they are such a delight and I know I will be heading north after this. And there are so few places in my travels where I see them. So, more manatee pictures.
Many of us hung around watching them not trying to be too bothersome.
A mother and calf. What a treat!
Apparently breeding season was some time ago for the cormorant. As I neared the head spring I saw this nest. The “baby” isn’t so small.
I turned in to the Fort King water trail to start my floating trip back and passed under the bridge that on another day I will walk over. Very picturesque as I’m sure they intended.
It’s about 10am and the masses have arrived at the canoe/kayak rental dock.
I won’t have the river to myself any more.
But I do find a few out of the way places and in one of them find the monkeys. But that’s for another post. A teaser for you to anticipate.
It was definitely a Wood Duck day. These two pairs were in no hurry as I neared the end of the Fort King trail and found myself back out in the main river. The amazing colors and design of the male Wood Duck is a testament to Nature’s magic.
Two gators nose to tail in the sun.
The Pied Billed Grebe is very difficult to take pictures of. He’s quite skittish and dives the moment you get your camera up. But I think he’s so cute I just keep trying and some times get lucky. He blends in so well that he’s hard to spot in the first place.
If there is a better way to start every day than on this wonderful river, I have no idea what it is.
And to top it off, this fine hawk flew in right in front of me as I was walking through the woods almost back to Winnona.
What I do with the rest of the hours of my days isn’t nearly as interesting as my mornings. If there were fewer people on the water I might never come in.