Category Archives: Silver

Silver River – May 20, 2017

Today a friend was demoing a boat at Silver Springs, so I joined her for a 2-hour paddle and lunch afterwards.  As usual the Silver was full of wildlife, although today we saw no monkeys or snakes.

We paddled around the nursery tree island and watched the nesting Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga).   I was looking up approaching the island, getting ready to take a picture of a baby Cormorant.  When I looked down I found that I had drifted to within about 6 feet of a fairly large gator.  A little too close for my comfort level, although the gator did not seem disturbed by my presence.  Gators tend to hang out around the island, waiting for baby birds to fall into the water for a quick snack.

Gator-in-waiting

Gator-in-waiting

I managed to get a few shots of the baby birds.  Some are still sitting in the nests while others are out on the limbs, stretching their wings preparatory to their first flight.

Baby Double-crested Cormorant guarded by adults

Baby Double-crested Cormorant guarded by adults

Three little Anhinga, still with their baby fluff, out on a limb exercising their wings

Three little Anhingas, still wearing their baby fluff, out on a limb exercising their wings

We also saw many pairs of Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) swimming along the edges of the stream-side vegetation, but no baby Woodies.

Wood duck pair

Wood duck pair

Female Wood duck

Female Wood duck

Male Wood Duck

Male Wood Duck

The Pickeralweed (Pontederia cordata) is in bloom.  It’s such a beautiful native plant, providing cover and food for all sorts of animals in the river.  It just seems a shame to saddle it with a name like “weed”.

A closeup of Pickeralweed (Pontederia cordata) bloom

A closeup of Pickeralweed bloom

Bumblebee on Pickeralweed

Bumblebee on Pickeralweed

We saw several other gators, mostly smaller than the one at the nursery island.

A little gator (about 18 inches) peeking at us from the weeds.

A little gator (about 18 inches) peeking at us from the weeds.

And, of course, lots of Cooters (Pseudemys  spp) basking in the sun.

A Cooter drying his shell on a log in the sunshine

A female Cooter drying his shell on a log in the sunshine

Last weekend we saw dozens of immature Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea) sporting their white coats.  Today they were missing, but we watched several adult Little Blue Herons stalking for dinner.

An adult Little Blue Heron stalking amid the grasses

An adult Little Blue Heron stalking crustaceans amid the grasses

And we came across one Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that let us get pretty close.

Usually very wary, this stately Great Blue Heron let us get to within about 20 feet of him.

Usually very wary, this stately Great Blue Heron let us get to within about 20 feet of him.

And we saw a couple of Green Herons (Butorides virescens) also stalking in the weeds.

A Green Heron, with its short legs, sticks near the shoreline

A Green Heron, with its short legs, sticks near the shoreline

We also saw a couple of Limpkin (Aramus guarauna).  Not exactly rare on the Silver, but we usually only see one or maybe two on each trip.  So there are snails on the Silver, but probably not enough snails to support a large number of these birds.

A Limpkin searching for Apple snails

A Limpkin searching for Apple snails

Near the end of our paddle, close to the state park ramp, we saw another bird we usually only encounter down near the confluence with the Ocklawaha – a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea).  In this case it was a young one, not fully plumed out yet.

A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron

A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron

 

 

 

Silver River – May 14, 2017

Wonderful trip on the Silver River on a warm but cloudy Sunday.  I was invited by a friend who also brought 2 other friends.  So 4 not-so-young ladies in kayaks enjoying the river and the wildlife.  And that’s what we did, just enjoyed the wildlife.  We paddled 6.1 miles in 5 hours, so you know we spent more time seeing and taking pics than paddling!

The Silver River in all her beauty

The Silver River in all her beauty

I love the colorful (and color-coordinated) pinwheels on these kayaks

I love the colorful (and color-coordinated) pinwheels on these kayaks

The Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and the Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) are nesting on the rookery island near the head spring.  The cloudy sky was doing it’s best to fool with my camera so the shots are not great, but the fluffy cream-colored Anhinga babies are so cute.

Mamma, Pappa and Baby Cormorant in nest

Mamma, Pappa and Baby Cormorant in nest

Four baby Anhinga awaiting approaching parent for dinner

Four baby Anhinga awaiting approaching parent for dinner

We saw many Cooters out sunning on logs.  I can’t tell Cooters apart except usually the Red-bellied (Pseudemys nelsoni).

A Cooter (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A Cooter (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

Florida Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni)

Florida Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni)

And of course a few gators were out as well.  We passed one big mamma gator on the Ft King Paddling Trail standing guard with a bunch of little gators (probably last year’s hatchlings) in the vegetation behind her.  Plus we saw a few other gators in the 3- to 6-foot range.

Mamma gator standing guard

Mamma gator standing guard (about 8-foot)

Baby gator hiding behind mamma

Baby gator hiding behind mamma (about 15 inches)

A 5-foot gator hiding in the vegetation

A 5-foot gator floating in the stream-side vegetation

The Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) were out in force, many of them swimming in pairs, but I didn’t see any babies on this trip.  I’ll have to go back in a couple of weeks.

Wood duck pair

Wood duck pair

Wood Duck pair

Wood Duck pair

We saw several White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), including one with the deep red beak and legs indicating the breeding season.

White Ibis in breeding integument

White Ibis in breeding integument

And we saw what seemed an unusual number of immature Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea), just starting to transition from their white feathers into the adult blue plumage.

Immature Little Blue Heron and reflection

Immature Little Blue Heron and reflection

Another immature Little Blue Heron with a little more of the slate blue adult coloring in its plumage

Another immature Little Blue Heron with a little more of the slate blue adult coloring in its plumage

Here’s a sampling of the other birds we saw.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Great Blue Hron (Ardea herodias) beside a spring along the river

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) beside a spring along the river

A Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) along with its favorite (and almost exclusive) food - the Apple Snail

A Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) along with its favorite (and almost exclusive) food – the Apple Snail and some purple flowering Pickeralweed

And of course, you can rarely paddle the Silver on a warm day without seeing the monkeys.  I especially liked watching these two sleepy heads.

The monkey on the left is sleeping.

The monkey on the left is sleeping.

But they are both awake now and watching the kayakers

They woke up to watch the kayakers

But I think they are still a bit sleepy. We must have awakened them from their mid-morning nap.

But I think they are still a bit sleepy. We must have awakened them from their mid-morning nap.

Still trying to catch some Zzzzzs

Or they had both made a late night of it on Saturday and are still trying to catch some Zzzzzs

This one was waiting for a handout at the old state park launch

This guy was waiting for a handout at the old state park launch.  NOT from us!

Last, but not least, we saw a couple of snakes sunning on logs over the river.  One was a non-venomous Brown Water Snake the other was a venomous Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin). Both are found in and around water, both are rather thick brown snakes with lighter colored bellies, both are common throughout Florida, both have a rather triangular looking head when flattened out, and both get darker with age, their markings getting harder to distinguish.  Can you tell which one is which?

Brown Water Snake (non-venomous, Nerodia taxispilota)

Brown Water Snake (non-venomous, Nerodia taxispilota). Round pupils, no pit between the nostrils and the eye, blotches are separated across the back, eyes poke up above the top of the head so that when viewed from the top you can see the eyes.

Cottonmouth aka Water Moccasin (venomous, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti)

Cottonmouth aka Water Moccasin (venomous, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti). Vertical pupils, a pit between the nostrils and the eye, blotches bands extend from sides across the back, “eye brow” extends over the eye so that when viewed from the top you can not see the eyes, 2 dark vertical stripes on the tip of the nose.

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