Riverkeeper Air Force up and flying
Published 10:54 am Saturday, June 25, 2016
Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 19th through the 21st on the Blackwater and Nottoway. Both rivers were muddy and about 74 degrees. The Nottoway was up a bit and running fast while the Blackwater was actually running in and out with a strong tidal effect from the full moon.
Air temps ranged from 60 to 88 degrees. Very nice weather finally.
Trash on this trip was not bad at all. The only water quality issue I saw was the cows in the river at the Pretlow farm pooping and swimming.
The fishing on this trip was okay. Actually, I never did cast much except to catch some catfish bait and some of that I caught trying my hand at cane poling. That is a totally different skill set, my friends, and one I’m not that good at. I caught three nice blue cats the first night in the Blackwater, but only caught one the second night in the Nottoway. That’s backwards from what I had expected, but then when one goes to trying to figure out what fish will do … well, let’s just say that’s why its called fishin’.
I’m very happy to report that Moonpie now has her pilot’s license, (actually had to register with the FAA) so the Riverkeeper Air Force is up and flying. We took possession of a new DJI Phantom 4 drone and it is amazing. The capabilities of this thing are crazy. It will follow me, circle me and follow targets I select. I can even program flight paths where it will follow a course and then fly back to me. I made three flights while out there, and I must tell you flying over water and out of sight is very unnerving.
Having such an expensive piece of equipment being controlled by essentially a large phone has a large pucker factor.
When we got to the Cherry Grove eagle nest site, I saw the mommy eagle sitting near by and one of the two juvies hatched this year sitting under the nest. I did not know it at the time, but the other juvie was in the nest. So I powered up the drone and took off to get a better look at the large structure. I did not want to get too close as to disturb the birds or worse, get attacked by the momma eagle.
I figured if I saw any of them act negatively at the drone I would abort and not try that again.
I was stunned that they did not seem to mind my bird at all. I think they could hear it because they were cocking their heads kinda like a dog does, but I never saw them like staring at it or anything.
So I flew up to the nest staying about 30 feet from it, and that’s when I saw the top of the head of the second juvie in the nest. I was too scared to fly over the nest because the rotor wash from this thing is tremendous.
So, anyway, we had a good first outing with our new spy in the sky. It’s going to be a great tool for getting wildlife on film, documenting logging and, of course, there will be no hiding from the Riverkeeper now by would-be polluters on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.
JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at email@example.com.