The early summer sun is hot, but an occasional, cool breeze raises goosebumps on my arms. I’ve settled down into a comfortable chair on the end of this dock with a book, my camera, binoculars and a notebook. My plan is to sit quietly and see what comes. It’s Thursday and this small lake is quiet. Only the weekends bring activity and even then it is just a couple of fishing boats or a pontoon. Today, it feels like my own, private lake. The water is calm, creating peaceful, clear reflections of the trees and sky. Quite a contrast to the chaos of the little, never-ending ripples of wind across the water yesterday.
Chartreuse pine pollen decorates the water’s surface in abstract patterns. It sits so delicately atop the water, that the pollen appears to remain dry. The waves collect the pollen in thick lines along this windward shore of the lake.
The water is clear enough to see the five feet to the bottom from where I sit. Last fall’s leaves carpet the lakebed and small bluegill occasionally dart by. Dragonflies are laying eggs on the calm water, alighting for the briefest of moments at the surface, then off again. Busier than a beaver. Their coarse bodies, fuzzy heads and elegant wings rarely stop for long, making photography in the mid-day warmth a challenge. The best photo opportunities come in the cool morning hours before they’ve warmed enough to be on the move.
The bullfrog’s twang in the distance, a baritone to the soprano symphony of the background chatter of songbirds; robins, chickadees, phoebes, swallows and kingbirds. A surprisingly loud, deep, mating call from a never-seen bittern sounds like the gurgling of a plumbing problem – a banjo in the symphony.
A painted turtle studies me from afar. Slowly and cautiously she moves closer, stopping often to lift her head studying me. Ultimately, she decided to join me at the end of the dock.
I suspect this is “Afternoon Turtle”. We’ve known her a couple of years. She spends every sunny afternoon basking on the dock tire, fairly tolerant of us, so she earned herself a name.
Another painted turtle soon came by, approaching in the same slow, curious manner. It didn’t take him nearly as long to come up to the dock.
He wanted some space on that tire, too. Afternoon Turtle hissed. He turned his head and gave her some space. There was room for both of them.
A loon is preening out in the middle of the lake, rolling over on his side, exposing the stark white of his belly while he cares for his feathers. Finally, a big stretch and flapping of his wings before settling in for an afternoon nap.
Earlier he was fishing in his predictable loop around the lake, passing right by this dock without any concern about me. He’s alone this week. His mate must be on a well-hidden nest. I kayaked the edge of the lake a few days ago and was unable to find her this year. I hope they are successful with their chicks.
The thick, meaty head of a mature snapping turtle breaks the surface about 50 feet away. She lingers and her body bobs at the surface revealing the size of her carapace, like a spare tire afloat.
I wonder if this is the turtle that I watched digging to lay eggs in a sandy yard two nights ago. I’ve seen their tracks in the sand, but in all my years vacationing, here I’ve never seen one in the flesh at this lake.
I got a little reading done, but mostly I just watched and enjoyed my quiet afternoon on the dock. A beautiful day.