Kayaking at Sagamore Creek in Rye, NH on August 14, 2022

Back in July 2022 I took at kayak tour with Seven Rivers Paddling of Rye, NH. I took the Sagamore Creek tour. It was an excellent tour and I learned a lot about the area. I also found that I could launch my kayak at the marina for only $10. So I was finally able to get back to Sagamore Creek with my kayak.

Soon after launching at the marina I watched a Great Blue Heron fly into a pine tree on the other side of the creek. I paddled over to check it out.

I headed up the creek and encountered Lobster Boats, Cormorants and Canada Geese.

After passing the moored boats and docks along the shore I noticed a Heron flying by and heading around a small rocky point. This was good since I could stay hidden behind the rocks while paddling over for a photograph.

I could not believe my luck when another Heron flew over to join the first one that I was watching.

I continued on up the creek looking for more birds and wildlife. Sure enough, there were several Heron hanging out in the grass and fishing on the mud flats.

After a while I paddled back down Sagamore Creek and headed towards Newcastle and Portsmouth. I could see the Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth and Kittery on the Piscataqua River.

I could also see the Portsmouth Naval Prison. Wikipedia tells us that it’s a “former U.S. Navy and Marine Corps prison on the grounds of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNS) in Kittery, Maine. The building has the appearance of a castle. The reinforced concrete naval prison was occupied from 1908 until 1974.”

Next I paddled over to Leaches Island where I knew (from a previous kayak tour with Seven Rivers Paddling) there was a Bald Eagle nest way up in one of the pine trees. My luck was good and I was able to find the nest and see an eagle in it.

A little way to the right of the nest was an adult Bald Eagle! As I was taking photos a tour group from Seven Rivers Paddling came by to look at the eagle. I ended up going back to the marina with the group so that I could join then when they crossed the boat channels.

I’m looking forward to going back next summer!

Grand Cayman Island: Tarpon at Devil’s Grotto July 21, 2022

Another thing that I like about Devil’s Grotto are the tarpons that usually hang out on the reef.

I have seen many tarpon over they years and enjoy diving with them. The Florida Museum website tells us, “tarpon can also tolerate oxygen-poor environments due to a modified air bladder that allows them to inhale atmospheric oxygen.” They go on to explain,

This swim bladder contains spongy alveolar tissue and has a duct leading to the esophagus that the tarpon may fill directly with air gulped from the surface. This feature allows the tarpon to take oxygen directly from the atmosphere and increases its tolerance of oxygen-poor waters. In fact, studies have shown that tarpon must have access to atmospheric oxygen in order to survive, and that juvenile tarpon are obligatory air-breathers. Adults living in oxygen-rich waters still roll and gulp air, probably as an imitative pattern based on visual perception of other tarpon.

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/megalops-atlanticus/

I was able to slowly swim into a small school of them during the Devil’s Grotto dive.

I must admit that I would like to catch some with a rod and reel at some point.

Grand Cayman Island: Hawksbill Sea Turtle at Devil’s Grotto July 21 2022

My last dive of the trip was to Devil’s Grotto. I had some great dives at this site back in 2019 so I was excited to be here. Unfortunately, the Silver-side minnows that I got to see back in 2019 at this site were not here this time. But I did have several great sightings and encounters. One of them was a Hawksbill Sea Turtle. I spotted it at the surface getting some air and was able to intercept it on the way down.

The NOAA Fisheries website tells us, “Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous (feeding on both plants and other animals), but their preferred food in many areas is sea sponges. They will also eat marine algae, corals, mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, and jellyfish.”

I was able to extract a few still images from the video footage.

Grand Cayman Island: Sharks at Royal Palms Ledges July 20, 2022

I only spotted one small Nurse Shark during my 2019 trip to Grand Cayman island. So I was thrilled to have three Nurse Shark sightings during the dive at Royal Palms Ledges during the 2022 trip. Royal Palms Ledges is off of Seven Mile Beach in the area of the Royal Palms Beach front.

The first encounter was the best one since the shark got close enough for some good video footage. Unfortunately, my GoPro decided to flip from landscape view to portrait view and I did not realize in until it was too late. Needless to say, I was disappointed when I watched the video file. But I eventually figured out how to edit the video in Adobe Premiere Pro and flip the video back to landscape orientation.

I truly think this shark spotted me and swam over to check me out. It was fine with me since closer is better when it comes to underwater video footage.

During the second encounter, the Nurse Shark was swimming down the sand channel. I turned to look at the dive guide then looked back and then shark was gone. It turns out the shark had dropped down behind some coral and was hidden from me. I swam up the channel a few kicks and spotted it.

The third encounter was towards the end of the dive. A few other people in the group spotted the shark first and got my attention. I could not get so close for this one but it was a treat to watch it swim by.

Grand Cayman Island: Reef Squid at the Crevasse Dive Site July 19 2022

One of the dive sites that we visited on July 19th is named the Crevasse. It’s one of the sites that is south of the George Town Cruise Port and Sunset House.

I saw all of the usual tropical fish, but the big thrill was getting some close up video footage of a couple of reef squid.

The marinebio.org website tells us,

These animals are social creatures often found in small groups that communicate through a variety of complex signals. Both cuttlefish and squid communicate by controlling the pigment in their skin. Messages such as readiness to mate, sexual identification, and alarm are flashed through various colorful spots, blotches, and background color. To signal slight alarm, their brow ridges turn bright gold and their central arms turn white. Their entire body will pale when a squid retreats from a potential predator and in open water when faced with an extremely aggressive predator, reef squid can also hide themselves and confuse predators by ejecting a cloud of black ink. Retreating squid near the protection of the reef will often turn dark brown or reddish in color to match their surroundings.

https://www.marinebio.org/species/reef-squid/sepioteuthis-sepioidea/

I was also able to extract a few images from the video footage.

Grand Cayman Island: Diving on the wreck of the Oro Verde July 18, 2022

On Monday, July 18th I was on the wreck of the Oro Verde (which means green gold in English). During the dive a Porcupinefish swam over to check me out. I always enjoy watching these fish. The Florida Museum website tells us, “The spines all over its body are modified scales, and when it’s threatened, it intakes water, puffing up and making the spikes stand out.” The site also mentions, “They secrete a toxic skin substance so are usually considered poisonous, although they have been known to be eaten in Hawaii and Tahiti.”

The wreck has an interesting story behind it. Back in 1976 the Oro Verde was shipping bananas (a type of green gold). Local lore says the captain wanted to make one last trip to retire so he also had a large shipment of weed (the other type of green gold) on board. Well, the crew confronted the captain to get a share of the profits, took over the ship then accidentally got it stuck on the reef. The cops seized the ship then burned the weed to destroy it. The story says the wind changed direction and blew the smoke into Georgetown and everyone was stoned for a few days.

The Scuba Diver Life website explains

The ship sat on the reef until 1980, when the local dive community adopted the wreck. It was moved into shallower water and purpose-sunk, now functioning as an artificial reef in 60 feet (18 m) off Seven Mile Beach. Divers can reach the wreck via a long swim from shore, but it’s more relaxing as a shallow second boat dive. It’s also a good spot for a night dive, with the scattered wreckage providing shelter for octopus, lobster and eels.

https://scubadiverlife.com/dive-site-oro-verde-grand-cayman/

The site goes on to explain, “Various hurricanes and storms have dispersed the wreckage over the years, so there are two moorings and a wide area to explore. Engines, pistons and other ship parts lay about.”

Kayaking the Connecticut River and Mink Brook June 5 2022

The Connecticut River above the Wilder Dam is a great place to see wildlife while kayaking. I was a beautiful June morning as I put in at the Wilder boat landing with a plan to head up river to Mink Brook.

It turned out that I did not have to go far for my first wildlife encounter. It turned out there was a family of Mallard ducks right near the boat landing.

I eventually move on and headed up river towards Mink Brook. I encountered a few other Mallard ducks sunning on a log.

I finally made it into Mink Brook. I usually see lots of Mallards in the area, I was surprised to see a female Wood Duck. She did have some chicks with her, but they stayed hidden in all of the branches and brush near the shore.

On my way back to the boat landing I encountered the same family of ducks that I photographed when starting the trip.

Valley of Fire Photography Tour: The White Domes Trail Hike

For our hiking part of the tour we went to White Domes Trail. The americansouthwest.com site tells us it’s a 1.1 mile hike and is, “probably the most popular hike in Valley of Fire State Park since it is easy, a loop rather than one-way, and passes a good variety of scenery including many colorful rock formations of Aztec sandstone, and a short though pretty section of slot canyon”

The Alltrails website has a great page about the trail and hike. They say it’s, “Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 30 min to complete.”

The trailhead was not far from the parking lot.

We were all excited about the hike.

I was looking forward to seeing some amazing rock formations and colors.

The trail took us through a narrow canyon.

I even saw some wildlife. 🙂

I was excited to see an arch formation.

Of course, I had to climb up for a closer look and photograph.

I made a point to take some photo series that I could combine into a larger panorama using Adobe Lightroom.

I really liked this last colorful rock formation just before we got back to the parking lot.

It was an easy hike and well worth the time.

Valley of Fire Photography Tour: Hummingbirds at the Visitor’s Center

I did not expect to take many photos at the visitors center, but grabbed my camera anyway. The landscaping around the visitor’s center was fantastic. The garden area in front had numerous flowering cactus. Before long I noticed some hummingbirds flying around the cactus.

I discovered this is a male Black-chinned Hummingbird. The Cornell Lab’s All About Birds website has some fantastic info about these bird. For example:

“A small green-backed hummingbird of the West, with no brilliant colors on its throat except a thin strip of iridescent purple bordering the black chin, only visible when light hits it just right. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are exceptionally widespread, found from deserts to mountain forests”

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-chinned_Hummingbird/overview

The site also tells us:

  • This is one of the most adaptable of all hummingbirds, often found in urban areas and recently disturbed habitat as well as pristine natural areas.
  • A Black-chinned Hummingbird’s eggs are about the size of a coffee bean. The nest, made of plant down and spider and insect silk, expands as the babies grow.
  • The Black-chinned Hummingbird’s tongue has two grooves; nectar moves through these via capillary action, and then the bird retracts the tongue and squeezes the nectar into the mouth. It extends the tongue through the nearly closed bill at a rate of about 13–17 licks per second, and consumes an average of 0.61 milliliters (about one-fiftieth of a fluid ounce) in a single meal. In cold weather, may eat three times its body weight in nectar in one day. They can survive without nectar when insects are plentiful.

Hummingbirds are a challenge to photograph so I really got into the task. I also enjoyed watching a bird that I don’t see on the east coast of the US.

Valley of Fire Photography Tour: Bighorn Sheep

On Friday May 13th I took at photography tour of the Valley of Fire, which is just outside of Las Vegas. I knew the Valley of Fire was known for colorful rock formations and ancient petroglyphs, but I did know know there were so many Bighorn Sheep. We actually spotted some right near the entrance to the park.

Our second stop on the trip is a place named Atlatl Rock.

Soon after arriving we were near the base of Atlatl Rock getting ready to look at the ancient petroglyphs. I was taking to the tour guide when we spotted a Bighorn Sheep moving near the base of the rock but moving towards the Valley of Fire Highway. I put the 300mm lens on my camera and headed towards the sheep on an intercept course.

I was amazed and impressed to see petroglyphs depicting Big Horn Sheep, especially after just having an encounter with one.

In addition to Big Horn Sheep, there are petroglyphs of people hunting the sheep using an Atlatl, which is an ancient spear thrower.