Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Day

Entrance to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center

Decatur, Alabama

I've needed a road trip for quite some time. Alone, I can drive along any road I damn well please, listen to the music I want to hear, head down random roads and change my path at the sight of a beckoning sign. Road trips bring a certain freedom that cleanses and refreshes my soul and heart. After picking up my new Timberland's (Yay!) I want to see the Sandhill Cranes, but the Visitor Center is closed. It is, after all, New Year's Day.

Mallard Fox Creek Wildlife Management Area
Northwest Loop of the North Alabama Birding Trail

So I head toward Wheeler Dam in search of my beloved American White Pelicans. Hello? What's this? Traveling West on Alt. 72 I see a North Alabama Birding Trail sign and decide to take a quick detour, hoping the Yaris will be up to the task.

The first 1/2 mile wasn't too difficult. Passing fields of fescue and chopped down corn stalks the Yaris was humming happily, as was I.

First water sighting rewarded our efforts with a gazillion gulls of some variety. My bird identifying books are packed up so maybe someone can ID these guys? Obviously, they were in a complete feeding frenzy, devouring some poor hapless fishes.

Resurrection Fern

More gulls

Soaking up the beauty - a sycamore leaf.

After a half mile the road became way too potted and bumpy for my little iCar so I decided to turn back and go to my original destination - Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River.

We were greeted by blinding cold winds blowing straight into my face off the chilly, turbulent waters created by the dam. Not one pelican in sight. Even Pelican Island was dark and silent in their absence. However, the Great Blue Herons were in abundance, even more so than usual.

Walking down a pathway, trees offering some shelter from the wind, I lean up against a tree and watch the gulls and herons, who outnumbered the cormorants for a change. This guy landed a short distance from me and caught a fish...just like that! What luck! The heron barely had a hold on one fin of this large, flapping fish. He held on for a bit but the fish got away.

As you can imagine, the heron was not happy and left shortly thereafter.

From my sheltered perch I snapped a few more shots before the freezing winds sent me dashing to the warm interior of my car. It was only later, after downloading and perusing my pics, that I noticed the sheer number of herons in this last shot. I counted 16 (and had to get really close to see some of them) including the obvious guy in the foreground.

Waters below the dam are swift and strong. I watched fishing boat after fishing boat speed up to the dam, cut off their motors to fish, only to be washed back into the river just as speedily as their motor took them to the dam. It's incredible. And to think these birds dive and fish in these roiling waters without so much as a life vest.


Eve said...

What a great time you had!! Except for the winds and cold! It was all I could do to walk out the door yesterday!
See you soon!

Gaelyn said...

What a great way to start off the new year. I've been feeling the need for a road trip myself. Looks like you found a piece of paradise to refresh your soul. Excellent captures, especially the heron barely holding the fish.

The Garden Ms. S said...

What a wonderful way to start off the new year! I find myself becoming smitten with birds. I bought a guide book a few years and am starting to learn more about them. They are such a delight! We do have blue herons here in the summer, although they are a rare sight. Whenever I do see one I feel like I was gifted with a special treat.

Road trips rock! :-)

Rachel said...

Sounds like a truely devine experience. I envy your ability to get up and go alone. I want to do this too. Hmm, perhaps a resolution of sorts.

I haven't been here in a while (to any blogs really) and I have to say I love the changes you've made. I'll have to pick your brain about how you did the background. =0)

Daniel Spurgeon said...

You are brave, Eve. I couldn't bring myself to go out into the cold the past few days. But- you proved it would have been worth it- that capture of the Heron and the fish is a real keeper. Great job on getting that shot- that was really neat how it was holding onto the fish by just the fin! I hope that you have a great 2010!

Eve said...

Daniel, I know you're going to kick yourself when you realized you just called Debi Eve!! But don't fret...I called her Linda yesterday!!
Ha Ha!! What fun is life if we can't make a mistake once in a while!
Sorry Debi!! Hope you're laughing with us too!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

As I recall you even introduced me to the group as "my friend, Linda!" LOL!!! I love you anyway, Daphne, and you, too, Tim. (tee hee!)

Eve said...

Ha Ha Ha! This could go on forever Jill!!!

Daniel Spurgeon said...

Doh! I guess that I do need to get out of the house after all! :) A Debi by any other name would still be as sweet! :)

Bo Mackison said...

My, oh my! I can't believe the number of birds there are in just one photo. What a lovely little road trip you took!

Diane Schuller said...

Oh my gosh those Heron photos are amazing and spectacular and and and !!


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