A Kayak Moment
The wildlife in Riviera Nayarit has kept my camera busy for several years, particularly during the bird migratory season. The months of December through April are filled with an influx of birds that make their seasonal migration south for the winter. For me, it is an exciting time to capture their presence in the magnificent wilds of this region of western Mexico.
The majority of my bird images have originated from the rivers and estuaries that are within a day's drive of my home. One such waterway is located only 7 miles away, the Rio Lo de Marcos. I can easily access it with my Jeep, and I commonly float it's length with my kayak. The Jeep can take me down the river's shallows, acting as a blind as I gather images of the wildlife along the shore and the jungle canopy. Birds seem to tolerate my presence without much concern, providing I maintain a reasonable distance, and keep my speed at a snail's pace. The Jeep is a dark green in color, blending into the local growth. With windows rolled down it makes a good rolling platform to shoot from.
But it's the kayak that allows me to navigate into the mangroves and approach the wary subjects with much more intimacy. With careful and silent maneuvering I can generally float to within 20 or 30 feet to snap a shot. The kayak takes me deeper into the mangroves where the more exciting species tend to congregate. And it is much more silent than the Jeep. With the right combination of gear one of my photo forays into these mangroves can last a full day.... and I am rewarded with some remarkable images.
On a recent outing with a friend (who I've recently initiated into the joys of kayaking) we paddled the familiar channels of this river and into the mangroves. I shared stories from my prior trips there, and I pointed out some 30 species of birds - at least those that I knew. She was thrilled. Kingfishers skirted noisily along our route, contesting our presence in their domain. We spotted two Great blue herons fishing in the shallows. Night herons, Boat-billed herons, Green herons, and Great egrets were spotted in good numbers all around us. Black-bellied whistling ducks by the hundreds were circling overhead, and gliding down upon the water for the night.
The onslaught of mosquitos and no-see-ums tested our patience as the afternoon lazily passed us by. At one point we rounded a bend of the river bank and into an explosion of birds lifting up into the sky. The commotion startled us both. Within moments, the glassy surface of the water before us split violently into a spray of white froth. A crocodile had launched itself from the river bank, and quickly sank beneath the waters. It was immediately evident to me that I had just missed a great shot of a 10-12 foot beast. We both suddenly wished that our kayak was not sitting so low in the water.
We easily delayed our return to the Jeep and our launching point to extend our time in the late afternoon serenity of the river. The day was proving to be a marvelous experience, and there was no rush to end it. The evening sky was decorated with fluffy clouds. The sun was sinking lower, and with every minute that passed we witnessed the unfolding of a fantastic sunset. The sun sprayed its colors across the heavens as the mirrored surface of the river reflected the spectacle of color and texture above us. We were being blessed by one of nature's greatest displays. Luckily I happened to have a pocket camera with us.
The sun disappeared, and as the sky darkened we paddled back up the river to the Jeep. Whistling ducks parted before us as the kayak sliced across the surface. Further upriver the last of the Kingfishers chattered his objections and bade us farewell. We pulled out of the river, loaded the kayak on the Jeep. By the time I started the engine the stars above were greeting the night and lighting our way back home.
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