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Canoeing Alongside Geese (Part IV)

canoe-trip-314We meandered onward up the channel. Larry said, “There’s an otter right ahead of us.” It was swimming directly ahead of the canoe, several feet away. We observed it for a few moments, only its head and tail stuck above the water surface, then Larry corrected himself, “nope, a muskrat.” A minute later it noticed us and dived under the water. It swam around a clump of alders – swimming under the water’s surface. I heard it pop up behind the alders. Then it peeked out behind the alders at us.  I turned just a little bit, hoping to get a photo of it but he was gone, behind the alders and under the water. It was thrilling to know muskrats were there and to see one, though briefly.

We watched the minnows in the water; like a whole other world beneath the water surface – the vegetation looked like an aquatic forest. Insects skipped across the water. Midges buzzed past our ears. An insect was sitting upon a water lily leaf; my first thought was it was a moth, so I said, “Moth.”

Larry corrected me, “Actually cadisfly.” as he came up alongside the leaf. “Do you want to take a picture of it?”

I said, “No.” I probably should have said yes and backed up to take a picture, although it may not have stayed there.

We continued onward. The song of male red wing black birds continued to fill the morning. I always enjoy watching them because their wings go out and up, tail feathers lift upward, chests puff out when they sing. Larry said, “The big red apple.” The red on their wings does indeed appear bigger when they call. “Look at me, aren’t I so handsome?” Larry said.

I took in the trees hanging over the channel. This was the perfect spot – trees and water. Peaceful. Solitude. Birds calling and fish jumping didn’t break the peace and solitude in the least but only added to the wildness and wonder. I appreciated the bounty and diversity of life here. Wonderful to be a part of it all, if even only for a moment – soak in the solitude.

canoe-trip-324The channel became a little smaller, and we went around some bends. And there was the tree where the great blue heron still sat. “Great” was indeed a deserved title for the magnificent bird. This time as we approached, it flew away. Larry said, “Kingfisher ahead not far from the dead tree over there.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get a very good look at it before it flew away. Tree swallows were swooping about in the air. “Sand piper to your right. Right to your right. Right next to you.” I finally saw it as it flew away. “Spotted sand piper.” A flashy pair of wood ducks swam in the channel ahead of us, such grace and elegance. They were incredibly beautiful birds. It was the first time I’ve been able to observe and take in wood ducks at such a close range to be able to fully appreciate how elegant they are. I marveled at the drake’s red eye. They also flew away as we drew near, but not before I was able to take a couple amazing photos of them.

canoe-trip-329We then came upon another family of geese, “I hope we don’t disturb them too much and they’ll just go up on the bank,” commented Larry.  I couldn’t see the geese, and thought they were in the water ahead of us, Larry instructed, “Left, hard left. Right up along the bank, a family of geese.” I was able to get a glimpse of them as they disappeared on to the bank. The channel became very narrow; the trees overhanging and snags lay partly submerged in the water. I heard the wild sound of a sandhill crane somewhere beyond the trees, my heart leaped at the sound. Larry paddled the canoe through the opening in the old dam. Ahead, a log hosted a sunbathing turtle. I thought to myself, ectotherms aren’t the only ones who enjoy lying in the sun, but many endotherms enjoy it too. “Do you see that turtle?”

“A map turtle,” replied Larry. I wasn’t fast enough to take a picture of it. It disappeared quickly into the water.

“It’s warming up enough now, they’re going to start coming up out of the water to sit in the sun and warm up,” Larry explained.

canoe-trip-335As we passed by the log, I spotted the beaver lodge. it had become so over grown, it was almost completely concealed by the vegetation. I’m not sure I would have seen it if I hadn’t known to be looking for it. The logs were piled together creating a domed lodge.  I took note of the tree that was drilled with holes by a woodpecker and the log we climbed out on last October. I found the presence of the trees all around us relaxing and I enjoyed their reflections in the water. There isn’t a better way to start the morning. We rounded a bend and the bridge came into view. Between the lodge and bridge were a lot of stumps whose trunks were sawed by beavers and hauled away. The curly pond weed was starting to flower. There were some places thick with algae, bubbly green blanketing the water’s surface.

A tree had been gnawed on by a beaver but not cut. Larry said, “Wow, they do not like that ash tree. First they stripped its bark, and then they amputated a few limbs.” – I told Larry it looked different then it had. – “We’ll poke around a little bit upstream.”

A few moments later, Larry asked, “Did you hear the kingfisher?” Then he imitated the call. I think I heard it, but I didn’t see it.

canoe-trip-398We went under the bridge. I marveled at how deep the water was there. I said something to Larry about it. “Yeah, this is part of the old Zumbro River channel before it was impounded. The channel to the left stays pretty deep too.” We went into the little alcove, the same one in which we saw the beaver in March. There was small path through the vegetation to get to the pond like area , but it had become pretty overgrown. I saw some turtles on a log; they slid off into the water so fast. “Lot of painted turtles.” Larry said over and over again, “Turtle. Turtle.” Noses were sticking up out of the water in many places; it took a few moments to notice that’s what they were. Larry paddled the canoe to the north bank, near a clump of alder trees. I saw a small mammal skitter across an opening between the alders and rushes. Three dead elm trees stood on the bank, Larry wanted to examine them. He got as close as he could with the canoe. “Hopefully I won’t get too wet. Hope it won’t go over my boots.”  With his pole, he walked to the front of the canoe and stepped on small clumps of vegetation. He looked around the trees and soon returned to the canoe.  We then went across the pond, along the east bank back to the south end of the pond. Referring to a clump of alders, Larry said, “There’s where you spotted the beaver.” We kept going out of the pond and back toward the bridge. A red wing black bird perched on a stem, walking down it to the water, seemed to be getting something. “There’s a painted turtle!” Pause. “There are two!” I exclaimed.

Larry said, “There’s a lot of that right now. They’re mating like crazy. I wonder what their courtship is like. Hey babe, I move slow but…”

I replied, “I don’t know. They don’t sing or chirp like frogs and birds.” Curious. We arrived at the bank near the bridge. I stepped out and pulled the canoe further up to make it easier for Larry. We loaded up the canoe. Larry picked up a silver maple pod and said, “These start to fall in conjunction with the water level going down. Water level is up. Then as it starts to recede there’s exposed mud. The silver maple pod drops and grows. Isn’t it a wonder?” With that we left.

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