Fish Eagles, Alligator Encounter & Deer

View of fish eagle nest and Casita from water

[On edit, Peggy, of Camping Tales, identified the “fish eagles” for me as ospreys.]

We started our day with a sweet little worship service at the picnic pavilion.  Two brothers have been coming here on Sunday mornings for the past 16 years to provide this service for campers.   We sang some of our favorite songs, then one of the brothers gave a talk on the passage in Ecclesiastes, to every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.  He tied it into the good and bad seasons in all of our lives and how they are appointed by God for specific purposes — the good times for joy, and the bad times to develop different aspects of our character.

This looks like gator habitat!

After the service, I took Sunny and Sheba for a walk.  I usually head for the clear water near our campsite.  But this morning I wanted to see different scenery.  I came to a little canal that borders Sandy Creek.  It was loaded with water vegetation and I thought, This looks like alligator habitat.

I was very hesitant to allow Sheba in the water, but she was determined she was going in.  I spotted a small area free of vegetation, and kept an eagle eye on her.  Then I saw it.  A small alligator (about 3-1/2

Young alligator on the edge of the canal

feet) was swimming directly toward Sheba — fast!  I yanked her out of the water and ran up the bank, hoping the gator wouldn’t follow us.  It didn’t.  WHEW!

Lesson to self:  If it looks like gator habitat, it probably IS gator habitat!

Closeup of alligator’s head

Later, dogs safely penned at the campsite, I went back to see if I could find the gator and photograph him.  I found it in the grass on the bank of the canal.

Both parents on the nest

Later a neighbor saw me straining to get a shot of a large nest in one of the cypress trees growing out in the water.  He asked if we would like to go out in his boat to get a closer view of it — and he said that there were also other nests out on a nearby cypress island.

I asked him what kind of birds they were, and he answered “fish eagles.”  I have never heard of them before, and am guessing that it’s a local name for them.

The pontoon boat ride was incredible.  How amazing to be in the wind on the water — in the shade!  Ken and Sharon took us past the best nesting areas and explained how the main body of water is about 20 feet deep, but the cypress tree islands grow up in about 3 feet of water.

Fish eagle nest on cypress island

One nest actually had young in it, but I was unable to get a picture of them.  I also saw one large gray and white speckled egg in another nest, but couldn’t focus my camera properly to photograph it.

As if all those fantastic photo opportunities weren’t enough, this afternoon I saw two deer across the canal near our Casita.  One was in the water.  The other was deeper in the underbrush.

One parent flying away

This was one of those days that will live in my memory as a highlight of this camping year.

Deer in the water

Deer in the underbrush

Ken and Sharon and their boat

Nature Shots at Walter F. George COE

Deer across canal

This evening I took my chair down to the edge of the canal to see if I could get some wildlife pictures.  I got both deer and egret photos.

I was thrilled to capture pictures of the egret catching a fish and then taking flight.  Unfortunately, the quality of the zoom photos is poor.  But it was rewarding to catch the action anyway.

Deer grazing

Earlier in the day, we walked the nature trail by the Old Mill Road campground.  I was hoping to get some really nice flower photos — or maybe find some good mushrooms.  I didn’t find anything terribly interesting there…. or maybe I wasn’t feeling very creative due to coping with Sheba’s hyper energetic puppy antics.

Our next door camping neighbor is a delightfully cheery person.  Ron said yesterday morning he boomed, “Good morning, world!”  as he headed toward his pontoon boat.  We’ve heard him singing several times.

Egret catching a fish

They caught 22 channel catfish yesterday.  Then this morning they caught 14 more before he and his wife decided that they had all the fish they cared to clean.  They offered us some, but catfish isn’t our favorite, so he had to clean all 14 of them.  🙂

Egret taking flight

The little nature trail has several interesting features, including a wildlife viewing blind and a bridge over a swampy area that also offers wildlife viewing opportunities.  We startled a deer who bolted before I could get my camera focused while crossing the bridge.

The only fungi I noticed were turkey tail, stinkhorn and another unidentified large orange mushroom.  I didn’t examine the underside, but it’s probably a polypore.  It had a side stalk similar to a beefsteak mushroom, but the orange color was wrong.

I’m sitting outside under the awning this evening listening to the night sounds and savoring the cool breeze.   Time seems to have no meaning here.  It’s peaceful and very special.

Ron and Sunny on the trail

Bench on the trail

Bridge over swampy area

There were a lot of blowdowns and downed trees on the trail. This one is well on the way of returning its nutrients to the earth.

Stinkhorns

Turkey tail fungi

Unidentified mushroom

Wildlife viewing blind on trail

My best little buddy

Rural Ramblings

Tonight Ron and I were sitting on the back deck right before dark.  We looked up and saw a most unusually colored deer browsing the  tender weeds at the edge of the clearing.  She was darker than a normal whitetail and had even darker markings that looked like shadows in the dusk.

Sunny barked, and she kept on grazing.  But then I scolded Sunny and told him to stop barking, and she eased back into the woods.

My flowers all died while we were on our last camping trip.  I used to love vegetable and flower gardening, but learned that you can’t garden and camp a lot.  The two are mutually exclusive activities.

That’s okay.  I’ll take the camping.  I can feast my eyes on the breathtaking wild gardens we encounter on our travels.

While we were gone, someone around here shot some more dogs.  It’s a periodic problem around here.  Usually they shoot dogs that roam whose owners won’t keep them home.  But this time they shot two fenced dogs.

We are keeping a close eye on Sunny.

I am having camping withdrawals.  I can’t wait until we are back on the road again.

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