Connecticut River Duck Tour # 2: Wilson Landing to the Ompompanoosuc River

Another favorite Upper Valley kayak trip is from Wilson Landing in Hanover, NH to the Ompompanoosuc River on the Vermont side.

It’s up river of Hanover and is close to the mouth of the Ompompanoosuc River in Thetford, VT, which is a great place for wildlife encounters.

Before going into the Ompompanoosuc it always good to paddle around the grass islands that are across from the mouth of the river on the New Hampshire side. It’s a great habitat for ducks and birds.

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As you can see, the ducks can easily hide their family in the grass “islands” if there is a threat yet still come out to swim, feed and hang out on one of several logs poking above the water near the islands.

After a couple circles around the islands to see what else was around, I headed over to the Ompompanoosuc River. As I got to the large part of the river mouth near the Interstate 91 bridge I could see an enormous flock of Canada Geese. It’s not unusual to see geese raising their families here, but this seemed like a larger flock than I usually see.

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I was amazed that they let me drift among them and take photos as they swam about and ate.

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I have a 300mm lens and make efforts to drift slowing and quietly while taking photos.

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Some of the birds came really close to the kayak.

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This is one of my favorite Upper Valley kayaking trips!

 

 

Connecticut River Duck Tour #1: Wilder, VT to Hanover, NH

A fantastic kayak trip in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire is on the Connecticut River between the boat landing in Wilder, VT and Mink Brook in Hanover.

I paddled around the islands just below Mink Brook since it is usually a good place to see ducks. Sure enough I spotted a large group of more than a dozen ducks. They were a bit skittish at first and hid in the brush when I first paddled by. I decided to paddle around the island once more while paddling and drifting at an extreamly slow rate. Well, it paid off and I spotted the whole group in a small cove.

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Due to the green coloring on the head, I’m pretty sure theses are Mallard Ducks. I visited the Website All About Birds to confirm my identification. The Mallard ID page says, “Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill.” and that “Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills.”

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It looks like many of these birds are juveniles since I can see the green head feathers growing in on some of them.

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The All About Bids Website also describes adult mails as having a gray body “sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear.” I can see the middle bird in the photo above is part way through the color change with most of the green head feathers grown in and the body feathers changing from mottled brown to gray.

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I paddled into Mink Brook to look for more ducks. Sure enough, there were a few families in there but most were skittish and kept there distance from me. There were a few that stayed calm as a drifted around in the coves.

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I was able to get a pretty good water reflection shot of the duck in the photo above.

 

Kayaking at Grafton Pond June 13, 2020

On June 13th our meetup.com group went on a sunrise kayak trip to Grafton Pond in Grafton, NH. The plan was to be on the water about 4:45am.

It wasn’t too long after we left the boat landing before we saw the first loon. It put on quite a show for us with some wing flapping and diving.

Look photo 1It was a little chilly out so it felt really good once the sun came up and warmed us up a bit.

Sunrise at Gradton PondAs usual, most of the the loons on the pond formed up in a small group for some fishing.Loon photo 3Loon photo 2
Loon photo 4Towards the end of the trip I was waiting for the rest of the group near a small island. I was able to drift my kayak pretty close to what I think is an Eastern Phoebe.

Bird Photo 1I’m definitely planning to go back for another early morning kayak trip this summer.

 

Green Mt. Hiking Trip April 25, 2020

I went hiking with a small group of people from the meetup.com group that I’m in to Green Mt. in Claremont, NH. It was my first time there and I did not even know about the trail before the hike. I discovered its the mountain right next to the City of Claremont with the cell phone towers at the top. It’s so close to the city that I got some great photos from the top using my 300mm lens. As you can see from the old brick buildings, Claremont is an old mill town. Wikipedia tells us, “The water power harnessed from the Sugar River brought the town prosperity during the Industrial Revolution. Large brick factories were built along the stream, including the Sunapee Mills, Monadnock Mills, Claremont Machine Works, Home Mills, Sanford & Rossiter, and Claremont Manufacturing Company. Principal products were cotton and woolen textiles, lathes and planers, and paper.”

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I was also able to get some panorama shots from the ledges near the top.

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I really enjoyed the view of Mt. Ascutney on the right to Okemo Mt. and ski resort off in the distance on the left.

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I zoomed in with the 300mm lens for a better view of Okemo Ski Resort, which is over in Ludlow, Vermont.

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Key Largo Diving Trip February 26th, 2020

After two days of bad visibility at the dive sites off of Key Largo, conditions improved on Wednesday. Thankfully we went back out to Molasses Reef. I was thrilled to see a beautiful Reef Shark swimming along the reef. I was the only one in my immediate dive group to see it so I’m glad I got some video. Another small group that was on the same boat got to see the shark (you will see them in the video).

For the afternoon dive we went back to a couple sites on French Reef. While swimming through one of the grotto’s I spotted another Nassau Grouper.

Thanks to a couple of other guys in our dive group who spotted the turtle first, I had a great encounter with a Hawksbill Turtle.

This turned out to be my last dive of the trip since wind picked up on Thursday and the waves got bigger and Friday was my “dry day” before flying home on Saturday.

Key Largo Diving Trip February 24 2020

On Monday February 24, 2020 I was diving at Molasses Reef off the coast of Key Largo, Florida with Rainbow Reef Dive Center.

I had several good shark encounters. The second one was the best. I was able to intercept a large nurse shark swimming across the reef and got within several feet of it. The Florida Museum website says, “Large juveniles and adults are usually found around deeper reefs and rocky areas at depths of 3-75 meters (10-246 ft) during the daytime moving into shallower waters of less than 20 meters (65 ft) after dark.”

Later on I had a fantastic Southern Stingray encounter. According to the Florida Museum website at Stingrays tail “can be up to twice as long as their bodies, with a sharp spine that has teeth on either side of it.”

I also encountered a small Nassau Grouper. The Nassau grouper, which is endangered, is one of my favorite groupers due to their color and stripe pattern. The Florida Museum website says, “The Nassau grouper can change color pattern from light to dark brown very quickly, depending upon the surrounding environment and mood of the fish.” This one has the stripes that fade towards the belly. The faded colors did help it to blend in with the sandy and rocky section of the reef that it was swimming in.

It’s exciting to see the larger marine creatures like sharks and stingrays, but I like to slow down sometimes and appreciate some of the smaller fish. The Queen Angelfish is one of my favorites.

Another reef fish that is a pleasure to watch is the Banded Butterfly Fish. “The banded butterfly fish is also a predator, feeding on tube worms, sea anemones, corals, and occasionally snacking on crustaceans.”

 

Key Largo Diving Trip February 23 2020

During the last week of February I had some vacation time to use up and took a short trip down to Key Largo for some diving.

I have not been to Key Largo in February since 2017 and forgot how the weather could be. It was windy with cooler temperatures all week long with 4 to 6 foot waves on some days and 2 to 4 foot waves on the others. We had days where visibility was piss poor and getting back on the boat was a challenge.

But, I did have a few good days in the water and interesting sea life encounters.

On Sunday, February 23rd I was on a boat going to the wreck of the Benwood and French Reef. The boat crew had mentioned they had seen a lot of sea turtles and Jellyfish in the area. This made sense since sea turtles eat Jellyfish. Although I did not see any sea turtles that day I did see lots of Jellyfish.

For the second dive we went over to French Reef, which is close by. I was lucky enough to have a Nurse Shark swim right by me for a great video close encounter.

For the afternoon dive I was on a boat going to Molasses Reef. First I had an encounter with a young Goliath Grouper.

Right when I got back from chasing the grouper I encountered a Reef Shark in the same area.

I must say, I was fortunate to enjoy these marine life encounters.

 

2019 Reading List

Shogun Book CoverBirds of Prey Book CoverOutlander Book Cover

In 2019 I re-read some old favorites, discovered some new authors and enjoyed many Wilbur Smith novels.

I started off the year re-reading Shogun (one of my favorite novels of all time) and finished the year reading Black Samurai, which both took place in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s in Japan. Shogun is a fiction novel by James Clavell (based one real life adventures of William Adams) and Black Samurai more of a non-fiction book about real person.

In 2018 I discovered Douglas E. Richards and his Split Second series. 2019 gave me the opportunity to read a lot more of his novels. These include the Quantum Lens series and the Nick Hall series.

A new author for me in 2019 was Douglas Phillips and his Quantum series. Through his novels I was able to learn more about quantum particles and mechanics.

This was the year I was able to take a deeper dive into one of my favorite all time authors. Wilbur Smith. I first read his books back in the 90’s and became a fan. I did not read his novels for many year but re-discovered him in the past few years. In 2019 I read (or re-read) 12 more of his novels. I recommend every one on the list!

This was also the year that I got into the Outlander series (A bit late I know). Diana Gabaldon is a brilliant story teller and writer! Book one is awesome! Stay tuned for the 2020 reading list to hear more about books 2 through 8.

  1. Shogun (Re-read) – James Clavell
  2. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
  3. Tia-Pan (Re-read)– James Clavell
  4. Oath of Office (Jack Ryan novel) – Marc Cameron
  5. Nobel House (Re-read)– James Clavell
  6. The Hunt for Red October (re-read) – Tom Clancy
  7. Seeker – Douglas E. Richards
  8. Journey – James Michener
  9. The Enigma Strain – Nick Thacker
  10. Quantum Lens – Douglas E. Richards
  11. Infinity Born – Douglas E. Richards
  12. Wired – Douglas E. Richards
  13. Amped – Douglas E. Richards
  14. The Dark of the Sun (Re-read) – Wilbur Smith
  15. Mind’s Eye (Nick Hall series 1) – Douglas E. Richards
  16. Brain Web (Nick Hall series 2) – Douglas E. Richards
  17. Mind War (Nick Hall series 3) – Douglas E. Richards
  18. Quantum Space (Quantum Series 1) – Douglas Phillips
  19. Quantum Void (Quantum Series 2) – Douglas Phillips
  20. Quantum Time (Quantum Series 3) – Douglas Phillips
  21. Game Changer – Douglas E. Richards
  22. The Never Game – Jeffery Deaver
  23. Lord Foul’s Bane (Re-read) – Stephen R. Donaldson
  24. Celtic Empire – Clive Cussler
  25. The Triumph of the Sun – Wilbur Smith
  26. The Romanov Ransom – Clive Cussler
  27. Wild Justice – Wilbur Smith
  28. Birds of Prey – Wilbur Smith
  29. Monsoon – Wilbur Smith
  30. The Tigers Prey – Wilbur Smith
  31. Ross Poldark – Winston Graham
  32. The Falcon Flies – Wilbur Smith
  33. Men of Men – Wilbur Smith
  34. The Angles Weep – Wilbur Smith
  35. The Titanic Secret (Isaac bell) – Clive Cussler
  36. King of Kings – Wilbur Smith
  37. The Burning Shore – Wilbur Smith
  38. Power of the Sword – Wilbur Smith
  39. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness – Wilbur Smith
  40. Rage – Wilbur Smith
  41. Final Option – Clive Cussler
  42. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  43. Doing Time – Jody Taylor
  44. Ghost Fire – Wilbur Smith
  45. Black Samurai – Thomas Lockley

Fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee Summer 2019

In the spring of 2019 I had the idea to find a fishing charter service to catch Landlocked Salmon in Lake Winnipesaukee. I did some research and decided on Salmon Patrol Charters out of Guilford, NH.

The first trip on June 16th, 2019 was fantastic! Chris and I caught a couple nice salmon in the high teens to low 20 inch range.

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Jack caught a nice fat Rainbow Trout somewhere in the high teens for length.

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We went again on August 4th and got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise in addition to some great fishing. I made a panorama of the sunrise from three different photos.

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Johnny’s friends Carter joined us for this trip. We had great luck fishing and landed some nice fish.

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During the August 4th trip, Captain Parent had mentioned that he was booked every day for the month of August. So I felt fortunate when he sent me an email about a week later asking me if was interested in a charter on August 17th that had opened up due to a cancellation. I immediately said yes. Jack and Johnny could not join me for this trip so Carter and his dad, Jeremy, came along instead.

Despite a weather forecast that mentioned clouds and showers, it was a beautiful morning on the water.

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We got our first bite about 15 minutes after leaving the dock.

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I’m looking forward to more trips in 2020!

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Cayman Island: Turtle Encounters

When it came to turtle encounters for this trip, I did not have much luck at the beginning of the week. Thankfully that changed on Thursday. I was at a site named Little Tunnels, which is north of Seven Mile Beach, where I enjoyed a close encounter with a small Hawksbill Turtle.

For our first dive on Friday, July 19th we went to a site named Big Tunnels, which is at the northwest “corner” of the island. I encountered the largest Hawksbill Turtle that I ended up seeing during the week. The other people in the group had just gone into the Big Tunnel (I had chosen to swim above the tunnel and meet them at the exit), when this turtle swam by. I was the only one to see it!

After joining the rest of the group near the exit to the tunnel, we encountered a Hawskbills Turtle that was feeding at the exit of the tunnel where it had opened up to be more of a canyon than tunnel.

For our second dive on Friday we went to a dive site named Aquarium off of Seven Mile Beach. I encountered a small Hawskbill Turtle swimming along a coral ridge. It kind of looks like it had some shell damage near its rear.

My closest turtle encounter happened on Saturday, July 20th, which was my last morning of diving. We were at a dive site named Caribbean Club when a Hawksbill turtle swam right towards me, checked me out and swam on.

I was very happy to finish the trip with a close encounter like this and to be able to capture it on video.