Wildlife While Kayaking

Whenever I kayak, I always hope I’ll see wildlife, but honestly just being on the water is enough for me. It’s so calming to float along, watching the shoreline and the clouds overhead.

Then there are the days where I’m paddling along, taking in all the sights, when I suddenly see something swimming in the water or walking across the shoreline. When that happens, I drop the paddle across my lap and lift the camera to my eye.

Oh my goodness! It’s a beaver!

I’ve seen beavers swimming, and heard them slap their tails, warning me away. But I’d never seen one out of the water with my own eyes. Normally they are nocturnal, doing their business at night. When I’ve come across beavers in the daytime, they’re shy, ducking under the water. I read that they can swim under water for up to 15 minutes! When they swim, their nose and ears shut to keep the water out.

This one though, gave me a quick look and kept on feeding.

Perhaps it was more relaxed because I came along just after sunrise. Or it had become used to people on our quiet lake. Or maybe, I was far enough away that it wasn’t worried. (I was using my 600mm lens to follow it.) Whatever the reason, I was able to watch it forage for twenty minutes. What fun!

The beaver slipped into the water to swim along the shoreline and I focused my camera on him, expecting to get the big tail slap warning.

Instead, it crawled out onto the banking, showing off its tail, and munching on shoreline foliage.

Eventually, it slipped back into the water to keep nibbling on the breakfast it had collected.

I had to look it up, and I found that beavers eat leaves, roots and bark from aspens, willows, maples and poplar trees. They also eat aquatic plants. 

I hope I come across him again some day. My experience documenting his diet habits, was fun!

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Juvenile Bald Eagles

Every now and then, I think back to our 27 year stay on Lower Range Pond in Poland, and of the eagles that were so easy for me to photograph due to their nesting right off our point.

Bald Eagle with newborn eaglet, May 2013

Alas, they haven’t nested the last two summers, so even when I do go back to visit, they aren’t as easy to find. I loved seeing those parents soar in with a meal for their chicks, or hear their calls. I miss documenting them, as they raised their young.

This last week, I’d waffled on whether or not to pull my kayak from our new lake to go over to Range Pond for a day. But Monday was so pretty right here, I decided not to roam. Paddling the perimeter, I captured photos of Red-winged Blackbirds calling –

Red-winged Blackbird

and Kingbirds swooping over the water for insects.


I even saw a snapping turtle scurrying back into the water after laying its eggs. Returning to my own dock, I felt satisfied with my finds. I’m not sure what made me look up, but there overhead was this juvenile eaglet perched in the shadows of a pine.

Notice how it doesn’t have all white plumage on it’s head. I believe this puts it at 2 to 3 years old. Eagles don’t get their distinctive white head until they reach breeding age, between 3 and 4 years old.

I only managed a few quick, shaky photos before it flew across the lake. Still, what a find!

Tuesday morning dawned with the lake looking like glass, and it called to me again. This time, I was only minutes into my paddle when I saw the juvenile eagle fly from one tree to another on the other side of the lake.

Slowly, I paddled closer, and closer still, until my 500mm lens, zoomed out as far as it would go, could focus on it. I marveled at having seen this eagle two days in a row.

A crow called out as it flew over my kayak to land in the tree above the juvenile. It called several more times, almost like it was marking the eagle’s location. Other crows responded from all directions on the lake.

Suddenly, the juvenile eagle dropped from the shadows to take flight . . .

I snapped away, not having time to perfect my settings, hoping for the best.

Look at that wingspan!

It wasn’t until I’d gotten home and began editing both sets of photos that I realized these were two different juveniles! The first had a mostly white head. This one hasn’t gotten any of its white feathers yet, putting it at year old, maybe two.

Two paddles, two eagles, one lake Heaven!

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Trail Cam Visitors


In the last year, my trail cam has picked up many, many visitors passing through our little patch of woods at night, behind the house.  I thought you might like to see some of them!





And my personal favorite . . . a visit from a black bear!


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Writing Distraction – Barred Owl

This Barred Owl hung around my backyard most of yesterday during the snowstorm-ice storm. I was on a deadline to finish revising a third chapter for the week, hoping to turn them in to a writing partner by 5pm.

Whenever I’d dig into my manuscript though, the owl would swoop around the backyard and back into the woods, having me up from my computer, running from window to window with my camera, looking for it all over again.

The owl It was always perched  juuuuust into the woods enough for me to know it was there, but not have a good photo opportunity. It was a grey day, which is hard enough to take photos in, but the owl kept to the shadows of the pine boughs, too.  I actually watched it hop branch to branch to stalk a frequent visitor to our feeder, a squirrel with half a tail.  It was almost like a half hour game of cat and mouse. Fascinating!  I’m happy to report, the squirrel won!  I think it has nine lives, that one.

I’d just about given up on seeing the owl fully,  when about 3:30 it swooped for my feeder full of Mourning Doves. Again it came up empty. But I didn’t!

I have a two hour delay at school today due to icy roads. And here I sit, sipping coffee and watching the woods for the familiar huge wing span. I wonder if that Barred Owl ever did find dinner last night?

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Cormorant Taking Flight

Summer is slowly coming to a close, the nights are getting cooler and in a matter of weeks, some of my favorite wildlife will head for warmer climates.  So every chance I get to wildlife watch, whether by foot or by kayak, I take it!

For the last two weeks, I’ve noticed a frequent visitor to the pond . . .

a solitary cormorant.

If you look back in my posts, you’ll see that a cormorant (perhaps this one!) was one of the first birds I encountered on the lake by kayak this Spring.   It was perched on a tree branch, which is not something I see every day! Especially when it “hangs” its wings to dry them.

Lately, I see it perching on docks.  Which is where I found it last Monday.

This was quite a treat, because normally I only see it as it glides through the water past my dock, diving now and again for its next meal, much like a loon.  In fact, at first glance from a distance, you might think its a loon. It’s about the same size.  It has a long neck like a loon. It’s sleek and dives silently.  But as you can see from my photos, the cormorant’s bill is yellow with a hook in it, which helps it catch its prey (mostly fish).  Its eyes are blue and there are no white markings like this loon. (Which I also saw that day)

In my experience, cormorants tend to be a little skittish. So when I saw this one perched so prettily on the dock of a neighbor, I stopped paddling long before I was close enough to lift the camera to take photos. I just watched and let the wind drift me closer and closer.  I’d probably taken 30 or so pictures, when the cormorant stiffened.   I thought maybe it’d seen me, and I poised myself to take some rapid fire flight shots.  Then it tipped its head back to look upward.

When our visiting heron came soaring over the treeline, I realized the cormorant had seen it (or heard it) long before I had.  I swear it even ducked a little.  I don’t blame it though, look at the heron’s wing span!

This heron went all the way to the other end of the lake, where it likes to forage in the grasses.

I turned my camera back to the cormorant and took a few more photos.  Then a few more.

All of a sudden, with no tell-tale warning signs at all, the cormorant leaned forward and half flew, half fell off the dock. It did it so fast, I couldn’t even catch the moment.

But I did catch it hopping across the water flapping its wings . . .

as it made its way across the lake from me.

Until finally, it took to the air.

It didn’t go far though, just enough to be out of reach of my camera lens before it landed and went on its way.

I hope to get out again soon, before it leaves us. But if I’m craving photo time with this beautiful bird, I have only to go to our coastline towns where cormorants and loons “hang out” until our lakes are free of ice once again.


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The Heron on Little Wilson Pond

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 . . .

The charge!

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!

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Moose Sighting!

In the early days of running Poland Spring Campground, before it got too busy, we used to see a moose run through the 20’s (campsites) every spring and then again in the fall.  Once, it even stopped to look in a camper’s trailer window! Imagine her surprise to wake up and find a moose looking in at her!

But I wasn’t into photography then. So I don’t have any photos to show you.  I do remember it being an amazing sight, as I’d never seen a moose in the wild before. They were tall and fast and solid!

But this summer, the first summer without the campground, I knew I needed to find a moose to photograph.  Lucky for me, I have an Aunt with a camp on Ragged Lake in T2R13.  Territory 2, Region 13.

It’s up in Northern Maine, off logging roads deep in the woods.  What better place to find my next wildlife subject? I dreamed of kayaking and coming across a moose foraging on the edge of the lake. He’d dunk his head in the water and then lift it out, water dripping, water lilies hanging off his antlers. Oh the pictures I’d get!

Unfortunately, the days Dave and I picked to visit had a threat of thunderstorms, and were cloudy and rainy. The first afternoon, we took in the views.

Spencer Mountain, as seen from my Aunt’s dock. A most amazing sight!

The next morning, instead of kayaking like I hoped, my Aunt drove Dave and I up and down the logging roads, including the Golden Road, stopping at every bog and stream along the way. It was so interesting!  At every turn, I hoped . . . .

After 2 hours, I thought we were going to miss out. Perhaps it was too cloudy.  Too humid. Wrong timing.

But then, on the last leg of the loop back to camp, David said from the back seat, “There!”

(And this is where I remind my readers, I have a very powerful camera lens, I’m not as close as this pictures appear)

I got out of the car, quietly focusing, but keeping the car door open. Just in case.

He was gorgeous! Foraging in the swamp, he kept one eye on me, but he didn’t stop eating.

I snapped tons of photos, one after the other.  Of the six hundred I took, these are the best.  And this is my favorite . . .

Doesn’t it look like he’s smiling at me?

Late afternoon, back at camp, the sky cleared a little. Enough for my Aunt and I to get in the kayaks for a short trek.

We got a little wet when the rains started to roll in, but we didn’t care.

As the sun set that night,

We made a pact to get up early the next morning, as it was supposed to clear up and be beautiful. Dave and I needed to leave by noon-ish the next day, but that would give the three of us plenty of time to paddle to my Aunt’s favorite cove.

The day dawned bright and sunny. We could see Spencer Mountain clearly.

I saw eaglets and loons in the distance, but alas, no moose were seen that day. But wow! What a gorgeous and interesting kayak ride that day!

I didn’t want to come in . . .

But somebody reminded me that there were places to explore on the way home, too.

Until next year, Ragged Lake and Spencer Mountain!  I can’t wait to visit you again, Aunt Ginger! This was surely one of the highlights of Summer 2018 <3

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Ashley: A Media Sensation

After my Maine Author Day booth at the Maine Wildlife Park was packed up last Saturday, I couldn’t resist going behind the scenes with a photographer pass to see this little media sensation up close and personal. Meet Ashley (park name for her), the orphaned moose whose adorable video went viral last month.

A huge shout out to Curt Johnson, who patiently answered all my questions about Ashley and how she came to be there, in spite of it being a busy time at the park for a photographer pass.

Ashley is doing well. Please know though, that raising a moose calf isn’t easy, as they have very specific dietary needs. Getting her through the summer is their main goal right now. What was most fun to watch, was her interaction with the fawns in the pen behind her. Curt tells me they are great friends!

Sadly, I’d forgotten my short lens, and had to make due with the 500mm in a small space. But I’m hoping to get back there to try again. And oh, what a hardship that would be . . . she’s just so darn precious!

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Northern Flicker Sighting

Look who came to visit me yesterday, a Northern Flicker! Another of my favorite birds. I was surprised to see him spending a lot of time on the ground on the lawn, and at first I thought there was something wrong.

I just love the red heart-shaped patch on the back of his head.

Back at our house in the campground in Poland, I only saw them on the feeder in the winter. After looking at the photos I took, and reading more about him online, I realized one of their food sources is ants underground, and they’ll peck away at the ground much like other woodpeckers peck at trees.

It didn’t take long before this one heard the click, click, click of the camera all the way across the lawn from my porch. It sat still for at least five minutes.

Then suddenly, it stretched its wings .  . .

showing the yellow underside of their wings. So beautiful!

It scratched a little itch.

Puffed up a bit . . .

and then it was gone.

It was such a cool, unexpected sighting!  I hope he comes by again soon.



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Cormorant Sighting

A couple weeks ago, I noticed this Cormorant perched on a branch to dry its wings. Look at its webbed feet ~ perching like that can’t be easy!

I always thought Cormorants were more or less identical to loons in their behavior. They swim like a loon, can dive for long periods of time, will dive 100 feet for a fish and are seen on lakes and the ocean. But where a loon typically nests on the very edge of a lake (because they can’t walk on land very well), a cormorant will nest in trees that are near or over water, on islands, or on sea cliffs. I’ve now put a nesting Cormorant on my photography bucket list!

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