Thursday, September 28, 2006

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

Friends invited us to stay a few nights at Indian Pass last weekend. Looking out from the house across the pass is St. Vincent Island, a big wild place that is not easy to get to. But there we were a short kayak paddle away. The sandy point of the island was covered by hundreds of pelicans and terns. Beyond it, they were diving for fish. A bald eagle flew in and scattered the birds from time to time. We were a little beyond photo range, but had a great show through the binoculars. Sunrises and sunsets were spectacular. Wading and shore birds lined our side of the pass as well... willets, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, oyster catchers, terns, and skimmers. I'll post some images from the visit soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wild Monkeys in Florida

Descendants of escaped monkeys from Silver Springs appear to be thriving after 40 years in the flood plain and forest of Silver River State Park and Ocala National Forest. When Crystal and I were paddling our kayaks up the Silver River 10 days ago, we lucked into the troupe foraging along the river bank. We watched their antics for an hour before they moved away. (click here to see photo)

It's a 7 mile upstream paddle to the spring from where the Silver dumps into the Oklawaha River... so there's some work involved, but the river is gorgeous. The water is clear (and full of fish!), wildlife abundant, and the banks are wild (state park and national forest). We stopped along the river at one of the few places we could get out on dry land to stretch our legs and have a swim (click here to see Silver in the Silver River). If you go all the way to the source, it is surreal to find the amusement rides, river cruises, blaring music, and loudspeaker announcing activities at Silver Springs theme park. You can paddle right into the midst of it, though you're not supposed to get out of your boat.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gator at Juniper Run

Paddling down Juniper Creek last week, Crystal and I came upon a sizable alligator lying on a big matt of vegetation. I laid my kayak up against the matt around 12 feet from the gator. He looked dead... well really, dead asleep in the afternoon sun - part of him sunken into the algae, no detectable breathing. He didn't make much of a photo composition from my angle, but I made a few images anyway since I was so close. (Here's one: Too Close For Comfort) The strong current held my boat fast against the weeds so I pushed away with my paddle. Before I could take a stroke, the boat floated forward a few feet and landed smack against the matt again... only now I was only 6 feet from the gator which made me a little nervous. Still, not a twitch. I started to push off again and suddenly he flew into the air - legs flailing and tail thrashing - as he scrambled, dived, and clawed his way through a hole in the matt and into the creek. Crystal called back from downstream to make sure I was allright after hearing all the crashing and splashing. I regretted so needlessly disturbing him (and worrying her). Laying in my sleeping bag the next morning, it dawned on me that the gator could have easily flown my way in his quest for safety since I was the closest direction to open water. That could have had nasty consequences. In years past, I haven't feared alligators much, but several recent attacks on humans, including a death in this very creek are leading me to rethink my reckless bravado. I must keep a more respectful distance. Isn't that what telephoto lenses are for anyway?

My first post.

Hello. I am new to blogging and learning about Blogger. Once I get the knack of it, I'll be offering glimpses into my 'adventures in photography'. I invite you to visit my new website: