Great Weather for Paddling!
With so much warm, sunny weather of late, I have been itching to get out paddling with Wren. As a result, I’ve been driving around with my canoe on my car to make such adventures quicker to organize since the loading process can sometimes delay things. So with my boat pre-loaded, Wren and I were out fairly early the other day to check out the paddling and birding along Floodwood Road west of Lake Clear. I always prefer morning or evening paddles – particularly on a warm day.
Beginning with some Birding
We had been on Floodwood looking for birds a few weeks earlier but hadn’t had time to paddle. Like our previous visit, Wren and I started by birding along the road between Polliwog Pond and Middle Pond. While I still needed to be mindful of Wren and any passing cars as we walked, the road first thing in the morning was quiet. We walked onward, poking into the woods along trails with my camera in an attempt to get photos of birds. I didn’t succeed in that endeavor, but we did see and hear quite a few species including Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, Nashville, Magnolia, Canada, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hairy Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, among many others.
As the morning advanced a few cars began to travel down the road, so we bagged birding and headed to Middle Pond for a paddle. The sun was already high and warm by 8 a.m., and I was happy to get on the water before it became too hot. Middle Pond is a linear body of water that runs directly along the south side of Floodwood Road. A Common Loon called loudly as it flew overhead while I unloaded the boat and walked it to the water. There I saw a second loon out on the pond, I made sure I had my camera with us when we waded in from the shallow launch to push off.
Taking Photos from the Canoe
Wren initially sat and watched the scenery while I snapped photos, but she soon stretched out and dozed in the sun. I listened to Common Yellowthroats along the edge of the pond and to Ovenbirds and Red-breasted Nuthatches farther back in the trees. We made a wide arc to avoid spooking a Great Blue Heron as I tried to take a few photos of it, but it flew before I was ready with my camera – I managed a few shots of it in flight. We then set our course to check out the Common Loon we had spotted in the distance. I could see there was at least one baby loon with the adult, but when we approached more closely I could see there were not one, but two fair-sized young loons with the parent. I never did see the second parent – unless it was that initial fly-over bird.
My plan with the loons was not to pester them, but to try to take photos by keeping the sun to my back and to drift along slowly. In this way I snapped a variety of shots – many of which would not come out well. The adult dove constantly, sometimes bringing up a reward from the plunge and feeding it to the chicks. The chicks dove occasionally, but generally would stay on the surface, making soft begging noises for the parent. Wren paid the endearing family very little notice – she was more concerned with a few flies which buzzed around her and kept her from resting until I swatted them.
In this way we moved across the lake with the loons – sometimes close enough to take photos and other times watching them from a distance. A gentle breeze pushed us along and at one point the two young loons swam up towards us as we drifted! The parent surfaced nearby and I snapped away with photos. They slowly moved off in an unhurried manner. A short while later, Wren and I explored the sweet-scented water lily which dominates the western end of the pond, the young birds did the same thing! And again I was afforded a great chance to take some more photos. Even more fun than that was the chance to observe the family of loons so closely and to listen to the soft calls they made to each other.
Finally the sun was warm enough and the breeze was picking up that I decided to finish my photography for the day and head back. But before I put my camera away, I did manage a few shots of the Great Blue Heron, hunting not far from where we had originally found it. We zipped back to the boat launch and Wren topped off her time with a cooling swim. The sun was getting warm, after all.