Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thoughts On Wildlife

I just got back from 5 days of camping. I took multiple books & plenty of paper (thinking I would read & write profusely), but I barely finished a chapter & came away with only a couple pages of scattered observations. I actually spent most of my time sitting by the lake, noting the patterns of wildlife each day. I didn't feel compelled to think of much else. Why bother?

The water was smooth like glass as first light began to make it's way through the trees. Shadows seemed to melt away into the lake itself & the reflection of the forested hills formed & shimmered on the water, gradually becoming all vibrant green. There was a notable chill in the air, appropriate for September I suppose. I filled my blackened coffee pot with water, lit the stove & waited. Loons were predicable in their early morning passages, heralding their presence with shrill whistles & mournful vocalizations. They would stay a considerable distance from shore, disappear into the depths & pop up somewhere completely unexpected. A small group of common mergansers usually followed within the hour. They made the circuit more often than the loons, coming closer to the shoreline throughout the day. Two bald eagles appeared alternately in the late afternoon, always flying back & forth to the same group of trees on either side of the lake. A visual search from a nearby trail yielded no clues as to the locale of a nest, but there was something about knowing they were there. Chipmunks, hummingbirds, stellar jays & chickadees kept us company during the day & a lone female blue winged teal made rounds through the campground close to dinner time. She would float by, quacking incessantly & looking for handouts. My companion & I stopped what we were doing to greet her. While she never came to shore, she seemed to appreciate our attention & stayed with us for an extended time before moving on. As the day wore down, the wind would come up & the waters got choppy. Boaters made their way back to dock for the night & a pair of nutria braved the current home. The sun dropped down behind the mountains & swarms of dragonfly nymphs & moths erupted from thin air & thrashed about wildly on the surface of the lake. Hungry fish leapt like breaching whales, taking advantage of the smorgasbord. It lasted but moments & as the afterglow faded into a dark reddish, purple haze, all became still once more. The lake lapped at the shoreline, inching up over rocks, creating a soothing rhythm as darkness swallowed all.

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