Floating the Upper Current

Upper Current in Autumn
Upper Current in Autumn

I’m finally ready to share a few more images from a float down the upper third or so of the Current River that Steve and I had the great fortune to experience this past October.  We started at navigable mile 8.0 at Cedar Grove Access and pulled out three days later at mile 51, the confluence of the Current and that other, oh-so desirable, Ozark stream – the Jacks Fork.  If one floats slow and quiet, the opportunity to see wildlife is very high in this National Park (Ozark National Scenic Riverways N.P.).  I’v shared a couple of images of these guys previously.  I believe we found 8-9 Mink during the first day of this float.  It was enjoyable watching them busily hunt along the stream banks, mostly oblivious to our presence.  As usual, Steve did a great job in keeping us quiet and pointed in the optimal direction for capturing some images.

American Mink
American Mink

It was quite a challenge to keep up with these guys as they fished.  This one below had caught a nice-sized crayfish and barely slowed to stop and enjoy his snack.

Ozark Lobster!
Ozark Lobster!

Here is a photo of one investigating the water prior to dipping back in.

Testing the Water
Testing the Water

Not only does a float down the Current allow for great observations of wildlife, but many geological features are most easily seen by being on the river as well.  Cave Spring can now be accessed via a nice newer trail, but it is much nicer accessing it by boat.  The endpoint of a vast and interesting karst drainage system, Cave Spring rises from the back of a short cave.  At the rear of this cave one can guide a boat over the vertical conduit of the spring, which is ~155 feet deep!  What an eerie sensation it is to shine your light down and still see no more than a fraction of the length of the conduit shaft.  In the image below, I am on a dry exposed shelf adjacent to the spring’s outlet and Steve is guiding the canoe towards the river.

Cave Spring
Cave Spring

Pultite is a spring found on this upper stretch of the Current River that is surrounded on all sides except the river by private property.  This means that one must boat or wade/swim to visit it.  At only ~ 1/10 the output of Big Spring, Pultite is still quite a good-sized spring with and average daily output of ~ 25 million gallons.  The effluent channel on this one is quite attractive and I hope to visit more often.

Pultite Channel
Pultite Channel

If day one was for the Mink, day two was our River Otter day.  We had no Mink, but 5 or 6 of these large weasels were spotted.

North American River Otter
North American River Otter

Not to forget the birds!  These days, a trip to nearly any permanent Missouri water source will likely bring an encounter with a Bald Eagle.  Observing these guys in the Ozarks will never get old to me.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Another constant companion on these floats are the Fish Crows, here pictured finishing up a little Ozark lobster.

Fish Crow
Fish Crow

We were fortunate in having mostly clear and dry skies on this trip, which allowed us to throw our bags directly on whatever gravel bar that struck our fancy and sleep directly underneath the stars.  A morning fire was necessary – not only to burn the dew off of our sleeping bags, but of course, for the river-water French-press coffee.  Dark skies on these streams afford great opportunities for astrophotography.  My only wish for this trip is that I was a little more tolerant of the cold, tiredness and laziness that limited my patience for getting better nightscape images… 😉

Nightscape on the Upper Current
Nightscape on the Upper Current

I will be posting more images of this trip on my Flickr account in the near future.  Thanks for visiting and I hope to post again in the near future.

-OZB

 

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An Autumn Trip Down the River

American Mink
American Mink

Steve and I just returned from five fun filled days in which we spent some great time floating the upper Current.  Of course, I will be processing images for some likely months, but I wanted to share a couple now.  We found five American Mink along the banks of the river during our first day.  They were mostly unconcerned with our presence as we floated along, following them as they fished and foraged.

American Mink
American Mink

We were fortunate to find most favorable weather during this break.  The nights were cool and clear and the days warm and blue for the most part.  We were able to find and follow a number of forest friends and I’m looking forward to sharing them.

-OZB

Nesting Birds of Missouri – Cerulean Warbler

Did you know…?

The Cerulean Warbler population has declined more than 80% since breeding bird surveys began in 1966?  Habitat destruction, in the form of mountaintop removal and stream filling in the Appalachians, and forest destruction for agriculture in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, along with wintering grounds destruction for coffee and cocoa production in South America are responsible.  Habitat preservation via cessation of deforestation in both nesting grounds and wintering forests are crucial if we are to continue hearing the Cerulean song.

Cerulean Warbler
Cerulean Warbler

Big Spring Trip – Autumn, 2013

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life — the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.

-Claude Monet

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“Ageless Banks”

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“Amber Mists”

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“Changing Time”

A Walk Through Blue Spring Natural Area

This past June, Steve and I took a walk through one of the highest quality woodlands our Ozark hills have to offer.  The short hike from the head of the spring to the Powder Mill trail-head and back offered an amazing diversity of life.  Here are just a few of the things we were able to find and capture on camera.

Nothing can be mentioned about this location without first discussion of the spring itself.  The Osage Indians referred to it as “Spring of the Summer Sky”, a most apt description for a spring who’s appearance defines the color blue.  And in summer, when the flow is not overly encumbered by the suspension of dissolved limestone from heavy rains, the crystal-clear waters afford a look to the bottom of the spring, some 250 feet below the pool’s surface.

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“Blue Spring Run”

The small nooks and crevices carved over the ages into the limestone and dolomite that overlook the spring pool make the perfect shelter for the Eastern Phoebe to make their nests.  Most folks have likely seen the nests of this species under overhangs on human-made structures.  It has only been within the last year that I have been fortunate enough to observe these nests in their more natural of settings.  A perfectly placed snag within the spring’s pool makes for a fine resting place for a young Phoebe that is taking a break from the carrying on that was taking place near these nests.  It was also a great place and time for us to take a break and take in everything this spot has to offer.

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Eastern Phoebe on a Snag

Back on the trail a few minutes later Steve and I were pleased to find this guy.  A first for the both of us, this Dung Beetle was moving this “resource” with full conviction.  We couldn’t figure out where she was moving it, but she was sure not going to let us get in her way.  When gently stopped she would climb to the top of her ball and let it be known that it was claimed.

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King of the Hill

Here’s a little “motion pan” to give an idea of the speed at which she could move her grocery towards its future larder.

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The Cache”

Our primary goals for this early summer day where to see if we couldn’t find and photograph any or all of three of the more rare warblers that are known to nest in this area.  These would be the Swainson’s, Cerulean and Hooded Warbler.  Although we did get a few confirmed vocalizations from a Swainson’s, we could not get our eyes on the sneaky guy through all the vegetation.  A few quick and loud playbacks did, however, coax 4-5 male Cerulean Warblers to descend from the forest canopy in order to meet the new male who had apparently set up shop amidst their territory cluster.

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Singing Cerulean”

This was a sweeter treat for us than spending time with Willy Wonka (Wilder not Depp) and Heather Graham in a chocolate factory.  They seemed totally curious and intrigued as they moved among lower branches, foraging and singing as they went.  Did you know this species has suffered more than 70% population decline since the 1960’s?  Approximately 500,000 birds are the current population estimates and habitat destruction and fragmentation continue to threaten this species.  Check out The Nature Conservancy for more information on this great bird, and consider checking out Cerulean Blues.

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Cerulean with Insect

Finally, I present a pair of gorgeous Northern Water Snakes that were basking on some exposed rock not to far from shore along the Current River.

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Basking Water Snakes”