Feeling my relaxing summer days coming to an end, I ditched the housework and school prep in favor of a kayak paddle. The sun was warm, the water calm. I paddled slowly, taking in all the sights and sounds including some unusual wildlife that’s been popping up on the lake lately.
These adorable floats always make me smile.I wonder what our local wildlife thinks of them?
I heard the distant call of what might have been a young eagle or osprey looking for a handout from their parent. And I also watched a Kingfisher as it made its way down the lake. But I wasn’t able to focus my camera on either one. This summer I had seen cormorant, loon, osprey and more. But there was no sign of them today.
These painted turtles posed for me though!
Usually they roll off their log when they see me coming! They must be savoring the last of the summer sunshine, too, before they have to think about going deep in the lake mud that doesn’t freeze where they’ll hibernate.
Looking at my watch, I realized an hour and a half had already flown by! “Perhaps I should head back,” I thought to myself. But just as quickly, I decided, “One more corner to explore -”
And I almost missed seeing it . . .
Honestly, I think this heron saw me first!
I put down my paddle, and floated for a minute or two. There wasn’t any wind right then, so I didn’t have to try to stay in one place. Eventually, the heron turned away from me to go back to foraging in the grasses.
So I picked up my camera and began my research.
I love the way they blend in with their surroundings. And they way they silently move. Sometimes, they wave their head and neck like the grasses move in the breeze.
I thought for sure the heron had had enough of me, when it spread its wings, but it was only hopping from the water up onto the beaver hut in the back corner.
Even that was done silently!
It stood still there, for six minutes or more. Again, I thought to myself, “It’s eyeing you.” The breeze had picked up a bit, pushing me slightly closer, so I paddled back and made sure the nose of my kayak was pointed away from the heron.
Once again, it spread its wings . . .
to land gracefully back in the water.
Whew! I really thought it was going to fly away that time!
It stood stone-still again.
I waited, camera poised. And I waited. And I waited.
Herons are nothing if not patient. But my arms got tired, so I lowered the camera. Then I had to paddle backwards again. All the while the heron was still. Eventually it started to crouch down, its beak closer and closer to the water, a tell-tale sign that breakfast had come near, so I raised the camera once more .. .
And a minute later, he charged!
Sadly, it looked to me like he came up empty handed, so to speak.
Unbothered, he continued on his way, slowly turning and walking toward a shadier area in the corner. He seemed to be on a mission this time, though. What could it be?
It was then that I saw the turtles.
I knew from research I did for the Cooper and Packrat series that herons eat mostly fish and frogs and snakes. But there had been reports of them eating turtles, even snappers!
Now that would be something to see, wouldn’t it? How did they do that? The couldn’t swallow the shell, couldn’t they? So as this heron made its way around the shoreline, I got my camera ready.
He’s so stealthy! Weaving in and out of downed limbs and grasses, hardly a ripple was made in the water.
And the shadows definitely work in his favor! Can you find him in the picture below?
I watched ever so closely, trying not to move, taking it all in with photo after photo. It’s hard, it really is, because turtles are one of my favorite animals, too. There are times that I wanted to jump up and holler, “run away!” to the turtles. But there’s something about watching wildlife in action: how they move, the noises they make or don’t make. This, THIS, is how I love to research and get the information I need to write descriptive wildlife scenes in Cooper and Packrat’s books.
As the heron moved out of the shadows, I held my breath . . .
Look how he blends in with the rock!
And there! The tell-tale look downward . . . the crouch . . .
But not the charge I thought!
Notice how the turtles didn’t even roll off the log! That’s how quiet the heron is!
And sadly, I think our heron came up empty again. So I wondered, would it turn to the turtles now?
No, he kept walking along the shoreline, coming out of the water, looking for a new place to fish.
It was time for me to go home, though.
I wondered if I’d see the heron again this fall, what with school starting and my time on the lake being a little more hard to find. I turned back for one last look, and saw that the heron had found a great spot to wait and watch for its next meal. (Fish like the shadows too, you know)
I hope he found it!