When the average person runs the idea of a “tool” through their mind, an image of a hammer, screwdriver or table saw might pop up first. Tools of course differ greatly from one profession to another. Wildlife artists and photographers have their own set of challenges. The subjects that they pursue for their life’s work are largely afraid of them. Animals and birds in the wild can disappear within a millisecond, IF you were lucky enough to see them in the first place.
My recent acquisition of a kayak (an early Christmas gift from my husband) has been a real game changer as far as wildlife reference gathering goes, in particular my experiences with birds. Animals and birds are not naturally as reactionary to things that they don’t already associate with danger, such as a small craft silently approaching in water.
A recent trip to Truman Dam in Southern Missouri, revealed not only an abundance of stunning views, but also some really special wildlife viewing and photographing opportunities. From within my trusty kayak, I could watch animals and birds behaving naturally and not just see their hind ends as they make a hasty escape.
The Truman Dam was constructed in the 1970’s. There are more coves to explore there than one could ever find the time for. I love it when I run out of time before I run out of territory!
With nature, it nearly always pays to get out of bed early. In mid November, the warm days of autumn were hanging on with the last of their loosening grip. Cold nights, warm, sunbathed days…it doesn’t get better than that…
(Below) This is a typical scene on any lake in the country. This gull was there to greet me as I pushed off in my kayak for the day’s adventure. The fall color beyond the gray and white bird was amazing…
Rocky bluffs along the shoreline were covered in autumn color at it’s peak…
While exploring deep within a cove, I ran into this big fellow. He was nearly crazy with testosterone, chasing other bucks off the beach. There must have been an “interesting” doe very close by. I was able to watch natural whitetail deer behavior, which is always a treat.
Meanwhile, while I was watching the deer titans battling on the beach, two bald eagles circled overhead. It was hard to know where to point my camera…!
Coming out of that same cove I was in for another surprise. A young buck was making his way across the water. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and he apparently knew all about that. I could tell that this was not unusual behavior for him. He seemed quite comfortable in the water.
I was able to paddle my kayak faster than the buck could swim, and it occurred to me that for the first (and likely only) time I had the physical advantage over a whitetail deer. I didn’t take it, as it would have scared the life out of him. But it was an interesting thought just the same.
Opposites are attractive…orange and blue…
While eating our lunch on the dam, Alan and I met this little fellow. Stray cats have made the dam their home. We could tell by how hungry he was that survival is tough for them. He was too feral to touch or catch, but we did make sure that we shared our chicken lunch with him so that he had a full tummy, as least for awhile.
This is the face of homelessness. Please, be sure to spay and neuter your pets!
Back out on the water, a Great Blue Heron eyes me as I drift by…
This crow apparently has not read the sign….he is not allowed to “park” here…
(Below) My new painting entitled “The Nut-Cracker” (Read-headed Woodpecker) was inspired directly from my time in the kayak.
During autumn, these birds split acorns into pieces of fairly uniform size and tuck them away into holes that the birds have created in almost perfectly straight lines in old trees. This tree was way out in the water, so the nuts will be safe from four-legged thieves…a pretty smart strategy I think!
(Below) Another painting inspired by my kayak time entitled “Silver Lining” (Forster’s Tern).
These aerodynamic birds are true athletes, able to hover in one place over the water just before a lightening-fast plunge for fish. They are wonderfully fun to watch.