Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Platte River Paddle (part one)

This past week found me up in Northern Michigan, having booked two shows four days apart in the northwest part of the state. This was a first for me, doing at show then not returning home before the next. I had no idea how much stuff I would need so I really busted my tail getting stock ready for the trip.

The first show, on a Wednesday, was in Frankfort. Situated where the Betsie River meets Lake Michigan and just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes Nat'l Lakeshore, it is a busy little town during the tourist season. The second show wasn't until Saturday, an art fair in Traverse City that all three of us were doing. Set up for T.C. was Friday afternoon, so that left us all day Thursday to have a little fun. And what do three nature/wildlife artists do for fun? They go canoeing, of course!

The Platte River is a popular canoeing river. The Upper Platte is twisty, swift and a bit narrow, suited for paddlers with some river experience. The Lower Platte is wider and slower, and requires little more than steering to get through it. Since we had Lisa's niece along for the trip we picked the Lower Platte.

I am glad for the choice, because it allowed us to look around and enjoy the scenery. We didn't have to pay too much attention to the river so we could pay attention to what was going on along its banks.

Our first sighting was this Green Heron. Unfortunately it was strongly back lit and I did not adjust the exposure. However, it is my first photo of this bird so I am happy just to record it.

Belted Kingfishers abounded along the Platte. Where the river broadens out into a lake, Lisa and I had a kingfisher dive and catch a fish 30 feet in front of us. We drifted as we watched her subdue the fish, slamming it repeatedly on the branch upon which she perched. She gulped it down before we could get within good shooting range. I was happy though that she sat for a spell on the branch as we floated ever closer.

We were thrilled to get so close. They are typically nervous and shy.

A female Belted Kingfisher is more colorful than the male, who lacks the rusty band on the chest and sides. I marvel at the white spots in front of her eyes. What are their purpose? Such a striking lady she is.

We had to hustle to catch up to Alaina and Lori but got held up by a passing muskrat.

They had stopped upriver to watch some immature Wood Ducks that Alaina had spotted along the riverbank.

There were other sights along the river that didn't involve fur or feathers. The tangled branches of a long dead tree reflected off the smooth surface of this gentle river.

And along the shore, Joe Pye weed, of the milkweed family, bloomed vibrantly. (Thank you, Joni James, for correcting me--this is not Joe Pye, nor is Joe Pye in the milkweed family. My bad, I never looked it up. This is actually swamp milkweed, which is why it looks like a milkweed! Joe Pye is apparently in the sunflower family. I stand corrected.)

To all of my "alternative" readers.... Happy Lammas. Let us celebrate the first harvests and the midway point between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox.

Next: Platte River part 2


  1. ...wonderful photos of the kingfisher! They are so wary it's hard to sneak up on them.

  2. Thanks Kelly. I was thrilled to get as close as we did. Last year in Florida I had made it my goal to get a decent picture of a kingfisher--I failed miserably, so this was really special.

  3. I really like your photos of the still river. The Joe Pye weed looks like my green milkweed down here in Texas. Your diversion to canoe looks so tranquil.