What a Day!

Yesterday I decided to get back in the kayak after a month of staying out of the water. Between the extreme heat/humidity, and being gone on a Minnesota roadtrip, the kayak withdrawals were starting to get to me! So off I left, with Rubber Ducky loaded in the back of the truck. I unloaded the kayak, carried it to the launch site, and began making my way to my favorite spot where I usually see wildlife.

Today’s paddling was extremely tough. Not having kayaked there for about a month, the American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) had overtaken the small pathway that existed among the heavy stand of Lotus. And if tough paddling wasn’t enough, I must have sounded like a herd of elephants coming through the Lotus! But once I cleared the Lotus, I came upon the clearing that has rewarded me so often. As I sat there, waiting for the sun to rise, the peacefulness of the time brought me back to all the good times I’ve experienced at this location.

A few moments later, I heard the unmistakable gnawing sound that the beavers make when chewing the Lotus stalks. As I patiently waited, I suddenly saw a small wake moving toward me in the water. Having seen this scenario many times, I knew a beaver was swimming towards me and Rubber Ducky. I lifted my camera to my eye and prefocused on the moving wake. A short time later, the wake stopped and a few bubbles appeared at the surface, followed by this scene at the edge of the Lotus:

Beaver close-up


This adult beaver sat motionless for a couple of minutes, watching me. Then, as quickly as he had appeared, he again submerged and headed off, leaving another wake behind him. Again I sat in the kayak and enjoyed the peacefulness of the early morning. A short time later, just prior to the sun rising above the surrounding woods, a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) flew in and landed in a nearby tree. Moving slowly, I inched the kayak towards the tree and made this image:

Green Heron


After shooting this guy for a few minutes, I repositioned the kayak in the clearing so that I could keep my eyes on the entire area. Not much else happened in the morning. After waiting ~ an hour, I decided to paddle back to the launch area and head home.

After arriving at home, I unpacked my gear and went inside the house. After changing clothes, I decided to do some yardwork before it got too hot. We have had a huge wild grapevine that has settled in under our large back deck and has been growing up the deck and over the railings. I needed to remove it so that I could clean/recondition the deck this fall. So I grabbed my lopping shears, gloves and hat, and headed out back. I jumped into the middle of the growth and started cutting and tugging to rid the deck of this invasive plant. After cutting a rather large piece off and pulling it free from the mass, I noticed some movement on the deck railing. Walking over to the railing, I peered over the top and here is what I saw:

Praying Mantis close-up


I expected this large guy to say “Take Me to Your Leader” at any time, but he quietly sat and watched me watching him. Although I had seen Praying Mantises many times before, I had never seen one quite like this. He was about 3 1/2 inches long and was all brown, except for a thin green patch along his sides. Maybe this isn’t even a Praying Mantis, but it certainly looked like one.

I photographed him from several angles, finally finding one with the background I was looking for:

Praying Mantis close-up


As I moved about photographing him, he would also move, trying to put the railing between me and him. After a few minutes, he decided that he didn’t want to be photographed anymore. So he flew from the deck to some of the plants in the garden below. I photographed him one more time before he vanished in the plant’s foliage:

Praying Mantis


All in all, quite a day! But given the conditions at the kayak location, I think I will focus on the Prairie Meadow for the next couple of weeks. By that time, the Lotus should begin dying back and I can once again kayak the area at my leisure!

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