Tag Archives: Kayak

Wild Horses of the Carolina Coast

It’s been serveral days since I posted any wild horse photos. Sunday seems like a good day to rectify that situation. Here are a few shots of wild horses made while kayaking in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. Kayaks, cameras and wild horses – it just doesn’t get any better than that!

A wild horse feeds along Bird shoal.

Wild mustang feeding on marsh grass.

North Carolina's Crystal Coast is famous for its two herds of wild horses.

A wild horse looks out over Back Sound from atop a large sand dune.

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Cold Weather Doesn’t Have to Signal an End to Kayaking

With a chill in the air this morning I thought it might be appropriate to do an article about gearing-up for cold weather kayaking. When you consider the origins of the kayak, indigenous people of Alaska, Canada and Greenland, it’s obvious that these nimble little boats have a long history of cold weather use. With the right clothing and accessory choices cold weather kayaking can be a rewarding adventure.

Lets start by taking a look at clothing. As with any winter activity the key to warmth is layering clothing. For kayaking, however, there’s an additional concern with staying dry. After all, drips, splashes and sprays do happen. Wetness robs the body of heat and can lead to hypothermia. With that in mind, choose layers carefully. Keep in mind that many synthetic materials will still provide insulation when damp. Cotton, however, will not. A long time saying among outdoors men and adventures is “cotton kills.” It has no place in your clothing selection for winter kayaking.

You’re going to want to start with a base layer. There are a lot of wonderful products available that have moisture wicking properties. This is the type of clothing you’ll want next to your skin. Your selection of the next layer will largely depend upon how severe the temperatures are. You don’t want to over dress, resulting in perspiration while paddling, but you don’t want too little insulation either. While adding and removing layers is a good option for the upper body, changing out pants is an entirely different matter. Finally, you’re ready to add a nice water resistant top layer. In a pinch you can get away with wearing a rain suit. A better option, however, is to invest in splash wear designed for kayaking: A pair of paddle pants for the lower body and a paddle jacket for the torso. These kayaking clothes will feature adjustable neoprene seals at the ankle, waist and neck. While they won’t keep you dry if you go for a swim, they will keep out the drips, sprays and splashes normally encountered during a paddle.

Keeping the feet and hands warm and dry are important goals for comfortable cold-weather paddling. Fortunately there are a lot of products available designed for that goal. On my feet I like to wear a pair of neoprene kayak boots. Mine are calf-high with a “skin seal” around the top to help keep water out if you wade in a little too deep. As the temperature drops I like to add a pair of socks inside these boots for some additional insulation. For all but the coldest days I wear a pair of fingerless neoprene gloves. I need my finger tips bare so I can operate my camera controls. If you’re not taking photos a pair of neoprene gloves with fingers would be great. When the temperatures really drop I need more protection that the fingerless gloves will provide. For those days I use a pair of “poagies.” These can loosely be described as mittens designed for paddling. The attach to the paddle and you place your hands inside where they’re dry and warm.

There are a few additions that will help insure you stay warm and dry on a winter paddling adventure. For photography I like the large, open cockpits offered by recreational class kayaks. This design makes accessing camera gear quick and easy. However, for cold weather paddling I like a bit more protection from over wash and spray. Starting in early autumn and continuing through spring I use a 1/2 spray skirt to cover a large portion of the open cockpit. This cover provides more protection for the elements and provides some handy storage pouches as well. If accessing photo gear stored in the cockpit isn’t an issue a full spray skirt offers the ultimate level of protection. In fact with a full skirt you could safely for go the paddle pants. Keep in mind, however, that the addition of spray skirts does make exiting a capsized kayak a bit more difficult. Be aware of the emergency exit procedures required with the gear you use. Another good idea is to carry a change of clothes with you, storing it in a dry bag. If you should find yourself soaked in cold-weather with a long paddle to get back to safety having the option of putting on some dry clothes could be life saving.

Below are a few links to some of the gear and accessories I’ve discussed in these articles. While it’s always appreciated if you choose to purchase from one of my online retail partners via these links… who doesn’t enjoy a commission… there are many outfitters that offer the same or similar products. Dress appropriately, stay warm and enjoy a year round season of paddling. You can bet I will.

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Dunlins are one of the most common sandpiper like birds found in the Carolina estuaries. These small birds with longish, drooping bills scurry about on mud flats and through oyster beds looking for a quick meal at low tide. They are one of the more approachable birds found along the coast, especially when that approach is from the water via a kayak or canoe. Here’s a few photos from a recent early morning paddle.

A Dunlin looks for a meal in an oyster bed at low tide.

A Dunlin along the North Carolina coast.

A Dunlin searches for breakfast along the Outer Banks.

A Dunlin probing the water for a tastey tid-bit.

Posted in Avian Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Ruddy Turnstone

The Ruddy Turnstone is a small wading bird found in and about coastal Carolina. Highly migratory I see these birds around the estuaries in the spring sporting their breeding plummage and during fall and winter in their winter plummage as shown here. With an average life span of nine years these long lived birds are able to breed at two years of age. In the Americas they travel to tundra areas for breeding, wintering along the coast from Massachussets to the southern tip of South America.

The images below, like many of my shorebird photos, were made from my kayak. Many birds are quite tolerant of an approach from the water via the kayak, allowing a photographer to get much closer than one could by approaching from land. The kayak also provides a nice low point of view. While a kayak makes a wonderful platform for many types of wildlife photography and observation there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when using one. Afterall, water and camera gear isn’t the best mix. Be sure to seek proper instruction from a local kayak club or dealership to insure your safety while on the water. You also may want to seek some instruction on kayak photography technique through a program such as my Intro to Kayak Photography workshop.

A Ruddy Turnstone feeds along the North Carolina coast.

Ruddy Turnstone.

Posted in Avian Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Up Close With the Wild Horses

I was out on the flats at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve this morning, as were the wild horses. The wind picked up and kept blowing me in a bit closer to the horses than I usually get. I finally hit bottom and grounded. Interestingly, the horses moved in closer and closer to me. At one point one of the mares actually put her nose on the tip of the bow of my kayak. For a moment I thought she was going to climb in to take a ride! It definately made for a fun morning.

A wild horse moves right up next to my kayak. A close-up of a mustang on a North Carolina tidal flat.

Wild horse feeding on marsh grass. Wild horses along the Carolina coast.

Posted in Banker Horses, General Photography, Kayaking, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Yellow Crowned Night Heron Juveniles

I’ve been blessed the last year or two with several opportunities to view and photograph Black Crowned Night Herons. These little herons tend to be quite elusive and a lot of very successful nature photographers only have a few images at best of them. However, I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing, let alone making photographs of a Yellow Crowned Night Heron… well at least not until yestereday morning.

With a large influx of water entering the estuary due to recent rains, and high-tide approaching, I was able to paddle my kayak into places that would normally be low lying grassy nooks. While nudging my kayak against the incoming tide on Taylor’s Creek I noticed a few birds perched back in one of these nooks. I pointed my boat in to see what the birds were… and to enjoy the relief from paddling against the current. As I approached them and started photographing the youngsters I presumed they were juvenile Black Crowned Night Herons. After all, I’ve become accoustomed to seeing them around the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. But with the help of some friends over at the forums at Wildlifesouth.net I learned they were actually Yellow Crowned Night Herons. Very, very cool!

A small, maybe medium heron, the Yellow Crowned Night Heron lives on or near wetlands on the east coast of the Unitied States and, to a lessor extent, along rivers and streams as far norht as Illinis. They primarily feed on crustaceans and, as their name implies, mostly hunt at night though are more likely that other night herons to been seen feeding in day light. The Carolinas is a summer home and breeding area for these birds.

A juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron at Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve.

Yellow Crowned Night Heron near Beaufort NC.

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Tricolored Heron

I had the pleasure of photographing a fine Tricolored Heron the other morning. Usually these handsome birds are a bit skittish but this specimen was quite cooperative. A slow approach by kayak, more drifing than paddling, certainly helps keep them calm. Here are a couple shots from the encounter.

A Tricolored Heron along North Carolina's Taylor's Creek on the Southern Outer Banks.

Tricolored Herons can be skittish brids when a photographer approaches.

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Carrot Island Wild Horses Post Hurricane Irene

I made the trip over to the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve this morning to check on how the horses had came through the recent storm. My original plan was to put in along Front Street at Fishermen’s Park and paddle straight across to Carrot Island then proceed on foot. As I started my paddle I saw two mustangs feeding along Taylor’s Creek so I deviated my plan a bit to get some shots of them from the kayak. I noticed that, with all the water still coming down the storm swollen rivers, the high tide was going to be extra high. This was going to allow me access to areas that are usually only reachable by kayak at high tide an hour or so before and after. I made a quick change of plan and paddled for Deep Creek.

Entering the creek I immediately noticed a large group of horses to my left and another smaller group feeding on the flats in front of me. I headed towards the bigger group first. After doing a head count and snapping several shots I headed out to photograph the group feeding on the flats. As I headed out onto the flats and could see further west up Carot Island I noticed another small group up towards the herd’s watering hole. All told I counted 33 horses this morning. I believe that’s the most I’ve counted on a single outing. Needless to say the herd came through the storm well.

A pair of mustangs feed along Taylor's Creek across from Beaufort, North Carolina.

A stallion stands near the trunk of an old tree atop a dune on Carrot Island.

A Wild Horse on the North Carolina coast.

Posted in Banker Horses, Kayaking, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Rain is a Good Thing… No Really!

The Southeast has suffered from lack of rain fall this year. There’s no doubt about it. So in truth I have to celebrate when it rains, even if it’s on a day I’d scheduled for exploration and nature photography. I got up yesterday morning, bright an early, with the intention of going for a paddle on the early high-tide. But as I was fixing breakfast I could see the dark clouds approaching. Shortly after the downpour began. I rose early again this morning with a similar plan. But looking at the sky I suspect it’s going to rain again. I could be wrong and might be playing the part of a wimp, but I think I’m going to stay in a while a see what happens. Maybe I’ll go for an even hike instead.

Here are a couple photos from the other evening. I’ll shoot some more fresh stuff as soon as my schedule and Mother Nature permits.

A  wild mare feeds on dune grass on Horse Island.

A young male colt excercises his lungs.

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Wild Mustangs on Taylor’s Creek

Since I mis-set my alarm and managed to over sleep in the morning I opted for an evening trip to visit the horses. I found them along Taylor’s Creek and on the dunes nearby enjoying a snack on Spartina and other marsh grasses. Here are a few photos from the outing.

A dark stallion feeds on Spartina along Taylor's Creek across from Beaufort, NC.

The wild mustangs forage along the creek and amongst the dunes.

Horses have been surviving along the Carolina Coast for nearly 500 years.

When visiting the horses it's important to remember they do live wild and it can be dangerous to approach them too closely.

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