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