Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Heron Gets Its Perch

Memorial Day weekend finally saw us out on the water for our first paddle of the year. Our friend Karin had come down from Traverse City, and I have found that having a guest is a great way to put the breaks on the daily routine and get us out of the house. She brought her kayak along, and we were lucky to have a spectacular day Sunday to get out on the water--warm, filtered sun, little wind.

I had decided to try out a new lake, one down in the Pinckney State Rec Area. South Lake is a place I where I have worked with a DNR volunteer crew doing invasive species removal. The north side of the lake is a fen, a globally rare ecosystem where groundwater wells up through limestone, causing the water to be alkaline. (You can read more about fens here.) Because of the pH, fens support very specific plants that don't grow anywhere else.

We paddled around and down to the far south end of the lake, where the few houses were situated. I could hear common yellowthroat warblers singing everywhere, but only caught a few glimpses. We watched a huge red-tailed hawk and an osprey, and were scolded by scored of red-winged blackbirds. I generally lagged behind, stopping to watch birds, hoping for some good shots.

A small creek led to Snyder Lake, a much smaller lake but one with near vertical drop offs 10 to 15 feet from shore. It was pretty amazing--on one side of my canoe I could see bottom a foot or less deep, on the other, blackness. Some fellows at the boat launch said it was about a 30 foot drop. That doesn't sound like a lot but that's a three story building!

I poked around for a while, and when I finally caught up to the girls a great blue heron took off from somewhere farther down the shore and flew past.

We'd been out for over two hours and backs and butts were getting tired. The girls had started paddling back but again I lagged behind. Then I saw the heron on the far side of this little lake, stalking prey. I paddled over but just missed getting shots of it catching and eating a small fish. But the bird continued to hunt, so I got as close as I dared, parked myself up wind so if the breeze came up I'd still be close, and waited.

The heron walked along slowly, watching...

...then it crouched down and tilted its head towards the water.

Then this happened: (remember, you can click this image to see a slideshow/full sized images)


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