A Morning Paddle

On Central Minnesota lakes the activity levels on a summer weekend can be quite high. Though, going out on a mid-week morning solitude is almost attainable, with the effect enhanced by quiet mode of transport such as a kayak.

Recently I was out on a calm morning, heading out while many were thinking of a second cup or maybe even pot of coffee. It was after the golden light of early morning but it wasn’t yet the harsh light of the afternoon sun, with a few clouds to provide some occasional shade.

I paddled across the lake to areas that most swimmers would consider gross. Though it is these areas that I find the most interesting, with no boring bluegrass lawns or altered shorelines. These areas have a large variety of aquatic and terrestrial plants and the animals that rely on these plants for food and shelter.

On my paddle across the lake I saw many loons, an eagle snagging a fish from the lake’s surface, and a great blue heron standing on a pile of cattails with black terns swooping at its head. Once across the lake I pulled out my camera getting it ready for action, though I wasn’t sure what that action would be.

When I rounded the corner to head into a little nook off the bay, I spotted another great blue heron, this one was engrossed in its morning preening. I slowly paddled towards the heron, I wasn’t aggressive in my approach but I also wanted to avoid acting like a predator stalking its prey. As I paddled towards it I watched its behavior, making sure that my presence wasn’t making it uncomfortable. Animals just like humans get annoyed when their personal space is invaded.

After some time spent watching the heron I decided to paddle a bit further into this nook, leaving the heron to finish its preening. I raised the kayak’s rudder and was cautious how I paddled, wanting to avoid damaging any of the lily pads that almost cover the lakes surface here. In this area there are flowers of white and yellow lilies dotting the lake’s surface, with songbirds and dragonflies busy catching bugs.

After taking a few photographs I decide to paddle across the bay to the area around the lake’s inlet. When I am about halfway across the bay I notice a tan mound in the shadows along shore, but this mound is moving. With the light breeze that is currently blowing at my back, I set my paddle down and “sail” the rest of the way across the bay. The wind is only strong enough to blow me a kayak-length into the lily pads, leaving me far enough away from the deer that she only gives me the occasional glance.

After spending some time watching this doe eat lily pads, I back out of the lily pads the kayak is hung up on and turn the kayak to the south. At the tip of the point I am now pointing at is a dead birch tree an osprey is using as a perch. I take a few bird-on-a-stick shots but can tell by the osprey’s behavior that is about to return to fishing. With my eye to the viewfinder and my finger on the shutter I wait until it springs from the tree and begins to extend its wings before I trip the shutter.

As the osprey returns to fishing I begin the paddle home so I can get my second cup of coffee.

-EAK, July 2014