Monthly Archives: March 2017

Silver River – March 18, 2017

Today was just a quick afternoon trip on the Silver River, after a picnic lunch lunch at Silver Springs State Park with the Florida Trail Association.  We put in at the Silver Springs State Park boat launch, paddled out to the head spring and downstream on the river to just south of the hiking trail overlook, then turned around and paddled back via the Ft King Paddling Trail.  A total of a little over 4 miles and since one of our group had never paddled the Silver River before, we did it in a leisurely 2.5 hours.

I usually judge the clarity of the water by whether you can see the statues of Greek gods in the head spring.  Of course you also need a calm day so the wind does not ruffle the surface too much.  Today we could see them and I was even able to get this pic from above the water.  These 3 statues remain from an old “I Spy” TV episode that was filmed in the springs in the 1960s.

Greek statues on the bottom of Silver Springs

Greek statues on the bottom of Silver Springs headspring

It was a gorgeous spring afternoon – the trees budding with leaves and the sky a deep turquoise blue.

Coasting down the Silver River on a beautiful spring day

Coasting down the Silver River on a beautiful spring day

We checked out the nursery island and found several Anhinga nesting and several more pair busy building nests.  In fact, two Anhinga nearly hit us, skimming low over the water bringing sticks back to the trees.  We watched as a pair exchanged places on one nest, probably to give mom a break so she could go out and get something to eat.

Anhinga nesting (Anhinga anhinga). The male is sitting on the nest, the female is on the branch

Anhinga nesting (Anhinga anhinga). The male is sitting on the nest, the female is on the branch getting ready to take off and find some lunch.

A little later I got a nice shot of a male Anhinga drying his wings, showing his bright blue eyes.

"2 foot 2, Eyes of blue" Male Anhinga drying his wings

“2 foot 2, Eyes of blue” Male Anhinga drying his wings

There were also quite a few Little Blue Herons on the river.  They usually nest following the Anhinga, sometimes even using the same nests.  Little Blues are born white and remain pure white (except for their bluish beaks and legs) for over a year, probably so they can blend in with large flocks of White Ibis for protection.  They morph into their slate blue coloring by the end of their second year.

Mature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Mature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

We also saw several Green Herons in the vegetation along the banks, hunting for fish and frogs.

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) stepping high to wade through the river grass

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) stepping high to wade through the river grass

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) raising his neck in alarmed at my presence

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) stretching his neck in alarm at my presence

There were several Great Egrets along the river, stalking the stream-side vegetation for lunch.  But we didn’t see any of their cousins, the Great Blue Heron today.

A Great Egret (Ardea alba) stalking amongst the Spatterdock

A Great Egret (Ardea alba) stalking amongst the Spatterdock

We also saw several Wood Duck pairs swimming along the banks and probably checking locations out for a good nesting site.

A pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa)

A pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa)

And of course we saw many turtles and gators catching a few spring rays on logs and in the water-side vegetation.

A beautiful little Cooter ( ‎Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A beautiful little Cooter ( ‎Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A medium sized gator - about 6 feet - resting in the river grass

A medium sized gator – about 6 feet – resting in the river grass

Last, but certainly not least, along the Ft King Paddling Trail just before our finish, we passed a troop of monkeys in the trees.

A couple of young monkies (Rhesus macaque) playing the trees along the paddling trail.

A couple of young monkeys (Rhesus macaque) playing the trees along the paddling trail.

All in all a wonderful little paddle on our favorite river for photographing wildlife.

Paddling the Silver River under spring foliage and blue skies

Paddling the Silver River under spring foliage and blue skies

 

 

 

Ocklawaha River – March 11, 2017

Another great paddle and a wonderful group of 13 paddlers on the Ocklawaha River.  Today we picked up were we left off last Wednesday, starting at Gores Landing Park and taking out at Eureka West boat ramp – 9.2 miles by my GPS.

We met up at Gores Landing County Park.  This is a little used (no RV hook-ups), pretty little park with a sandy boat launch area, a few campsites, toilets, and a campground host.  There is a $5 day parking fee or a $10 per night camping fee.  After unloading and prepping the boats we drove all the cars up to Eureka West boat ramp and returned in a couple of cars to Gores.

Getting ready at the hand launch at Gores Landing County Park

Getting ready at the hand launch at Gores Landing County Park

 

 

The group of 13 that turned out today was motivated to paddle!  In fact we paddled almost 7 miles in 2 hours before stopping for lunch, leaving less than 2.5 miles left to paddle in the afternoon.  The river here is fairly narrow and gently winding.  There are enough downed and sunken trees that few motorboats frequent this stretch and those that travel are people fishing who move slowly. In places the tree canopy joins across the water creating a cathedral-like appearance.

The Middle Ocklawaha with spring trees and blue skies

The middle Ocklawaha, fairly narrow and gently winding

The Ocklawaha with spring foliage under a bright blue sky

The Ocklawaha with spring foliage under a bright blue sky

The water was cloudier today than on Wednesday.  We could still see the sandy bottom in places but there was a lot of suspended particles in the water lowering the visibility.  Perhaps because of this we did not see as many birds today.  A lone White Egret, a single Red-shouldered Hawk, a few White Ibis and Limpkin, and a female Kingfisher that eluded every camera.   But we saw more small gators (under 5 feet) as well as Cooters and Sliders sunning on logs.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

A Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) that landed on my kayak

A Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) that landed on my kayak

A little gator - about 4.5 feet

A little gator – about 4.5 feet

An itty bitty gator - about 8 inches long.

An itty bitty gator – about 8 inches long. I’m sure Mama Gator was hiding in the vegetation nearby, but we never saw her.

Our treat for today happened at lunchtime.  We stopped at Piney Island Landing, after asking permission of the couple car camping there, and found it full of wildflowers.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

I think these are Maryland Golden Aster (Chrysopsis mariana)

I think these are Maryland Golden Aster (Chrysopsis mariana)

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia).  Such a pretty flower I think deserves a more special name.

From Piney Island it was only about an hour to our take out at Eureka West boat ramp.  We found a couple of survey takers there from the University of Florida doing a study on the local economic impact of recreational boating and after answering their questions we loaded up the kayaks and headed home.

Fishing dock at Eureka West

Fishing dock at Eureka West

Just another beautiful spring day in the paradise of north Florida!

Rounding a bend in the Ocklawaha

Rounding a bend on the Ocklawaha

Ocklawaha River – March 8, 2017

Absolutely glorious trip with 13 other paddlers on the Ocklawaha River from Ray Wayside Park to Gores Landing Park – exactly 11 miles by my GPS.   At first the weather report was for rain, then it changed to thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Well, it did start to cloud up on us around 1 pm, but we never got a drop of rain or heard any thunder.  This simply reinforces the concept that in Florida if you wait for absolutely no chance of rain, you will never get out. So just pack your rain gear and go.  You can always change your mind when you get to the put in and head with your friends to the nearest restaurant.  🙂

After unloading our boats at Ray Wayside County Park and shuttling most of the vehicles up to Gores Landing County Park ($5 parking fee at each of these parks) we set off down the Silver River and then joined the Ocklawaha.  The trees were looking all spring green, the river was unusually clear.

The Ocklawaha under a bright blue morning sky

The Ocklawaha under a bright blue morning sky

Spring has sprung! Heading down the river from our lunch spot at Grahamsville Landing

Spring has sprung! Heading down the river from our lunch spot at Grahamsville Landing

Under a cathedral of trees

Winding river under a cathedral of trees

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing three manatee.  The first one was alone, heading upstream, feeding on the bottom grasses just under the SR 40 high-rise bridge.  About an hour later we saw two more, also heading upstream.

Manatee, just below the surface

Manatee, just below the surface at the SR 40 bridge

Manatee surfacing beside my kayak near Ray Wayside

Manatee surfacing beside my kayak

We also saw a lot of little gators (under 4 feet) and turtles out basking in the sun.

A couple of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A couple of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A beautiful young gator still with his juvenile stripes (about 3 feet long)

A beautiful young gator still with his juvenile stripes (about 4 feet long)

Another beautiful little gator (about 4 feet)

Another beautiful little gator (about 3 feet)

A little bitty gator - about 8 inches long.

A little bitty gator – about 8 inches long.

Of course we saw all the usual birds.  A couple of Great Blue Herons, a Great Egret, several White Ibis and Limpkin.

A curious White Ibis (Eudocimus albus ) peeking out at us from behind the foliage

A curious White Ibis (Eudocimus albus ) peeking out at us from behind the foliage

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) – must be Apple Snails around here

Then we had a close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk.  We first saw it standing in the water acting a little strangely and we thought it might be injured.  But as we stopped to take a better look it flew up onto a low branch of a neighboring tree and shrilled at us.  You can also see a short video of it HERE.

Red-shouldered hawk in the water

Red-shouldered hawk in the water

Close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

All along the river some spring wildflowers were blooming as well as some winter ones still hanging around.

String Lily (Crinum americanum) also called Swamp Lily

String Lily (Crinum americanum) also called Swamp Lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) also called Spider lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) also called Spider lily

Water Primrose (Ludwigia spp.) - an exotic invasive, but still very pretty

Water Primrose (Ludwigia spp.) – an exotic invasive, but still very pretty

Blackberry blossom (Rubus spp.)

Blackberry blossom (Rubus spp.)

All in all, it was a delightful trip.  The Ocklawaha really put on a show for us.