Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Final River Paddle is a Great One

Friday August 5, 2016                                                              Most Recent Posts:
Cayuga Lake State Park                                                            Seeing the Village From the Water
Seneca Falls, New York                                                           ♬ 15 Miles on the Erie Canal ♬


This morning David passes again on an early morning trip out to kayak the Seneca River this time on the edge of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.   Across Route 20 from the Refuge entrance is a nice boat ramp.  Not sure if it is a state or county facility but the refuge did not put it in I was told

The kingfisher is out and has a bit of an early morning golden glow to him and the branch he is sitting on.  He doesn’t stay long so I’m lucky to get this shot.   I’m have unusual luck photographing kingfishers in this area.



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I turn left out of the launch and paddle away from the refuge.  To my right I can see the route 20 bridge crossing the river and know that the river joins the Erie Canal up that way.  But I don’t know what’s this way so off I go.  I purposely don’t study maps too carefully so as to able to discover and be surprised.  As in hiking, I don’t paddle all that far or all that fast unless I’m on a tour for which I have studied the map and am trying to cover a certain amount of distance.  Most days, like today,  I’m just out paddling around and soaking in the wonder.

I come to a split in the waters.  Left or right?   Left is the larger of the two and has the markers to tell larger boats “this is the way” so I figure the boats coming down the river from the Erie Canal will be going that way and I turn right.


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Pretty soon I see this and have no idea what it is.  Can’t be a lock I think.

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Getting up closer doesn’t do me any good since I still have no idea other than it seems to be some sort of water control system.  It appears they can perhaps open any number of these to let water in or out.  I suspect the other arm of the water must lead to a lock to which this system is connected.

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So back I go to the fork and this time I take the other one.

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I’m just in time for the show.  As I’m paddling along in the water which has picked up some chop, down swoops an osprey in front of me.  He’s so fast I almost can’t believe what I saw.  I get my camera in time to see him winging away with the fish and follow him – with the camera of course.




He lands in a tree near enough by that I can watch him working on how to get this fish to be still and cooperate.  It’s amazing.

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Every time he thinks he’s got it worked out the fish revolts and throws him off balance.

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Time for a bite.

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Not so fast.

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At this point I thought he might drop the wiggling fish.

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The struggle went on for quite a while and finally I left him to it.  Nature “tooth and claw”.


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A little further on,  I see the cormorant drying his wings and deciding it’s time to head back into the water.  These poor fish have a rough time with all these predators.

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He’s looking pretty smug as I try to get his blue eye in my picture.


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Another kingfisher.  Looks like he’s been hassling the fish this morning too and is drying out.   This is exactly why I’m out in the early morning.  I see the most wildlife at this hour.

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A red winged blackbird is on the shore.  Not sure what he’s looking for.  Not fish though.

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Sure enough, here is lock #1 which is at the top of Cayuga Lake.  I guess I could paddle right through and then paddle down the lake to the campground but I actually prefer paddling rivers and wetlands to lakes.  Especially large lakes.



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I hang around for a while to see if any boats come or go through the lock but they don’t so I head back to see how much of the refuge I can look at from the water.


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On my way, I catch this cormorant, probably the same one, launching himself into the water.



And then I notice above me the sight of the morning.  As if the osprey and his fish weren’t enough.


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No need to identify him.  I doubt there is anyone reading this post who doesn’t recognize him.

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I hang around watching him and eventually he tires of where he is and off he goes. 



Well he just made a great morning even better for me.  Thank you Rachel!

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The wind has picked up and the water is getting more choppy.  Not too difficlt but just not smooth like the mirror reflections of yesterday morning.


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I spot on the left in front of me one of those “what?”  kind of things.  How in the world?

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Can you believe my luck?



When I pass by the put in  I know I must be at the refuge and wonder how we missed this trail with the bench over looking the water.  Although I don’t see anything that looks like a trail, just a bench.


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But then I come to this I guess floating dock and the National Wildlife Refuge sign.  I know they do not allow kayaking IN the refuge so I’m not sure what this is for.  Nice sitting spot though.  Maybe it’s set to let you dock and walk around on the trails.  Nice!


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Nice landing beach for a kayak.  I didn’t stop but later wished I had gotten out to explore at least the little dock and that bench.  Very unlike me not to explore.  I’d been out on the water about 3 hours so my guess is I must have been hungry.  Wish I could redo.


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The sign is a bit difficult to read when you are sitting nearly on the water but for other boaters, it would be clear.  Welcome to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  The blue goose gives it away.


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I go a little further up the river and then turn around.  I don’t go all the way up to the Erie Canal for the same reasons I didn’t get out at the refuge.  I’ve been out long enough.  Next time, bring food.

I’m glad my morning didn’t end before sighting the Green Heron.  He and the Kingfisher have been pretty constant on my kayaking mornings and this is my last one here.  We leave on Sunday.


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Very nice boat ramp and easy to use.  Not a soul here when I put in and no one here when I take out. The kayaking around Seneca Falls is excellent for any kind of craft including inflatables.  I’m sure there must be large boats that go through the locks but the biggest things I’ve seen are some fishing boats, the gravel barge and the canal boats.  So it’s very nice paddling for us little guys.


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In the later afternoon we stop by the Refuge Visitor Center and the volunteer at the desk suggests an overlook off of East Road where we have never been.  Really lovely spot.   The plaque tells us this marsh is part of the larger restoration of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex.  The total wetlands was once 50,000 acres in its natural state.




We can’t see much with the naked eye so David tries his binoculars.



He looks down to the water and says he sees some dots.



I zoom in with my camera but still don’t see anything until he tells me to look more closely at the near end of the water on the left hand side.



I have to do a serious zoom, to the max my camera will do, but it’s easy to tell the eagles when I do. An adult and a juvenile.



Not sure what s/he is eating.


A careful eye is being kept by the adult.



This is a place where I reallly wish we had a spotting scope.  It would have been great fun to watch them for a while but the only way we can see them is through my camera lens.  The binoculars aren’t enough.



I look further around the edge and find a group of Canada Geese with a great blue hanging with them.




It’s growing later and without a scope, it’s time to move on.  We drive over to Mary’s Point and find the swans are still there.



A single Great Blue Heron is standing up tall.  That is some neck he’s got for looking out over tall grasses.  By pulling it back in and hunkering down he can also disappear in those same grasses. 


We are happy to see two Sandhill Cranes.  According to Sibley, these are two first year adults.




I guess the heron wanted in the group photo.



I also learn from Sibley that the rust color of summer Sandhill Cranes is acquired through staining in spring and will be replaced by fresh gray feathers during molt in late summer.  I guess after that they’ll fly back to Florida where perhaps we’ll see them again.  Very neat to see them up here.




Speaking of herons able to hide in the marshes.  They don’t even have to scrunch down.  I almost didn’t see these two. 


Mary’s Point has been the best spot around for variety of waterfowl in one place.



Without the big red eye, I might not have recognized this young Wood Duck.



It’s growing late and they all seem to be settling down for the night.  Time for us too.  It’s been another great day.  No wonder I love National Wildlife Refuges.  There is so much to see almost any time of the year.



I’ve been out kayaking early for the past three mornings and it has been simply wonderful. 
I’d like to be able to do it every single morning for the rest of my life.


  1. Wow - what a great morning paddle! Great birding shots. I have no idea what the man made part of that vertical pipe in the water is or was for, but Mother Nature knew what to do for her part. Always fun to find such things. I am very surprised that you did not explore that little dock and patch of sand. Not like you at all. Great pictures in the afternoon too, especially glad to have seen the Sandhill Cranes up here.

  2. Another lovely paddle—so nice that it's a kayak friendly river. How cool that you saw a couple of Sandhill Cranes. I always love hearing them as they fly overhead. I found it interesting, too, when I discovered that their feathers are stained rusty brown from the mud. Nice Osprey shots with the fish—"tooth and claw" indeed!

  3. Great Osprey and Kingfisher, enjoyed all of them.

  4. I was kind of hoping the fish would wriggle its way out of the clutches of the osprey! I always feel sorry for the underdog, or in this case, the "underfish".

  5. What a spectacular day of birding! You certainly had a show with the osprey.

    Before we went on the road I noticed birds, but didn't think much about them except to admire their grace and beauty. But now, being retired and having time, I really enjoy searching for them and learning their habits. So fascinating. Love all your photos of this beautiful day!

  6. Great paddle! Osprey with fish and a Bald Eagle in one trip-nice:)

  7. You certainly had a wonderful paddle, the pictures are fabulous. My biggest wish is to photograph the Bald Eagle.

  8. You do have good luck with those Kingfishers, and the osprey with fish is superb, but over the top is seeing eagles not once but twice. A glorious morning on the water. Wildlife Refuges are another great idea in America.

  9. You scored twice with that Kingfisher and bald eagle. Yes, next time you'll have to get out and explore the refuge from that vantage point. Nice paddle!

  10. The photos of the osprey with the fish are amazing. Seeing how he uses his wings to balance is incredible - love it!! And then the eagle, wow! I'm so relaxed and mellow after the paddle that I can't believe we're hiking too :-) But then the eagles, and I'm very glad we did!!

  11. Great photos!! Love the osprey, eagles and sand crane. Great picture also of the red winged blackbird...looks like a great place to paddle!

  12. Absolutely enthralling pictures of that osprey catching the fish. It must have been amazing to see that in person. While I've seen many ospreys, I've never seen one do what you saw. Great job of capturing it for all of us to enjoy! :c)

  13. Wow! Fantastic bird pictures! The ones that you got of the osprey in motion with the fish are amazing! And the eagles! How cool is that? I've never seen a juvenile eagle. I love the colors of the Sandhill Cranes. The swan with her head tucked down is lovely. You got some great shots! What a fun day-

  14. What a wonderful morning out kayaking! You certainly had lots of spectacular entertainment. The osprey show was awesome. Glad you stuck with it so you could get all the photos of the hard work he went through for his food. The bald eagle was a beauty, as was #2! What a variety in the Refuge! Great day indeed:)

  15. What an awesome paddle. I love when the great paddle comes with such great wildlife sightings. I have yet to see a Sandhill Crane but they are definitely on my list to see. An eagle day is always a good day....A great pic makes an awesome day!!


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