A Morning Start on a Hot Day
With another hot day coming, Wren and I headed out for a morning paddle on Jones Pond before the sun began to bake the landscape. The day was cool, but rapidly warming as I prepared for our outing, listening to a singing Blue-headed Vireo and White-throated Sparrow. As I fiddled with my gear, I chatted with a couple from Georgia who were camping in one of the campsites near the boat launch. They were planning on remaining in the area for a few weeks – happy to be out of the summer heat which characterizes the south much of the time. It may have been a warm day for us, but it was a huge relief to them!
Wren and I pushed off and I immediately spotted a Common Loon diving repeatedly for food. We made our way toward it but it slid slowly away in the direction of the outlet to the pond and didn’t let me get any photos of it. So I abandoned that idea and worked along the shoreline opposite the series of cabins and camps on the pond. An angler was casting from a low boat near the cabins, and I also didn’t want to spook the fish. So I stayed along the far shore, spotting something splashing ahead and turning our bow toward it.
I initially assumed the splashing was made by fish – I had seen a few making ripples near the surface already – but this seemed to be a large fish if it was one. I was hoping it might be another loon – perhaps with young – so I could try getting a few photographs, but I couldn’t see anything on the surface. I didn’t have my binoculars with me to get a better look – making me feel unprepared and a bit naked – so I simply kept paddling for the area where I noticed the splashing.
As I approached the area, I saw the heads of two or three North American River Otters poke up among the weeds and lilies and then immediately dive back down, and we slid quietly toward where they were feeding. There were one or two young otters – fishing with their mother - and I imagined they were having more success in catching fish than the angler along the other side of the lake. When we were still a short ways off they dove for the last time and they were gone. I moved up slowly, and I sat and waited with my camera ready. No sign of them. We slipped around the edge of some cattails and I kept watch again while listening to Alder and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, a Magnolia Warbler and a Red-breasted Nuthatch along the shore. Wren dozed with her head propped up on the yoke. Still nothing. The otters had disappeared – they, like the loon, were evidently camera shy.
Exploring the Marsh
We followed the contour of the lake back toward the outlet where I wanted to poke around its accompanying marsh. A couple Ring-billed Gulls glided low over the water as an Osprey cruised above them – also on the lookout for fish. As we reached the cattails we watched a Great Blue Heron strike the water in a missed attempt at catching food. Soon after a Belted Kingfisher flew by – it seemed just about everything was interested in finding fish, frogs, or tadpoles for breakfast. Everyone that is except Wren – she was resting, but she may well have been dreaming about the tortillas, cheese, and other goodies she had found discarded near the campsite on shore. She would doubtlessly renew her search once we had returned.
I followed the edge of the marsh, as the sweet-scented water lilies grabbed at the boat like hands, and I pushed through them with increased effort. A Common Muskrat dove in front of the boat. We paddled a short way out of the outlet, but with the sun growing high and warm, I didn’t feel like fighting the lilies and water shield anymore. So we turned and made our way back to the boat launch, stopping to photograph a mother Mallard and her three fair-sized young on the way – which seemed to be the only photogenic animals out on this day. I loaded the boat and Wren cooled off with a swim before resuming her tortilla patrol. It was time to head home to do some work before hitting up a local lake for an evening swim.