Racing Moose: Trip Report

Posted by Robert N Pruden on Jun 23, 2005

I did a paddle at Islet Lake today. I was out with Elliot yesterday but did not take my camera and so I missed many incredible opportunities for photography. Today I made up for that by heading out on my own. I originally intended on staying until the full moon illuminated the lake but storm clouds blocked that idea from the onset. I therefore took it upon myself to do my best to find excellent photo ops wherever I could find them.

I started the trip by arriving at the same time as two other paddlers who happened to be paddling a Waters Dancing Solace 16. That got us talking about Waters Dancing boats and building. I was anxious, as usual, to get on the water, just as anxious as they were so we kept the talk brief and set about getting on the water.

The wind was gusting to 30 km/hr today so I could not stay in one spot without making corrective strokes. That made obtaining good images difficult but I made up for the unwanted movement by taking plenty of photographs in order to get a few good ones. The air temperature was warmish at 18C with increasingly cloudy skies that eventually rained and hailed on me. To say the least – I love it while the weather dumped its worst on my head. I wore my Filson and my dry top so weather was basically a non-issue today.

I was greeted by the sounds of grebes all over the lake today. They are still in the nesting stage with eggs aplenty in many nests. I found that grebes do not do anything when I approach their nests other than keep their distance. I was careful not to disturb any aspect of any nest I chose to photograph. Grebe eggs tend to be light beige or white with a lot of dirt splotched on them. The nests sit just above the surface of the water by about an inch or two and rest on a submerged mass of weeds piled from the bottom of the lake up. All nests I found were sufficiently far from the shore to make it very difficult for any land animals or people to reach the nests without sinking in deep sucking mud below the shallow water they were perched in. I do not think the grebes counted on Rob in his kayak to come along and start taking photographs so they were understandably nervous while I was doing my digital dance.

Grebe link:

In order to try to get decent photographs of some of the many beavers that live in the lake, I stayed in one spot right beside an actively used lodge for twenty minutes. I was rewarded with lousy images while the beavers occasionally slam dunked right beside me after being startled. As usual, the younger beavers were less aware of any danger by my presence. I managed to watch one youngster play around at the front door to the lodge before it realized that I was there. Nest time I go to Islet Lake I will take more time to get better images.

The air at Islet Lake during this time of year is very fresh and clean. It is scented by the flowing saps of poplars and the resinous evergreens present in profusion on all islands within the lake. The air is permeated with the sounds of myriad species of birds. I spotted my first Northern Oriole today. I did not know what it was till I got home and looked up its picture in my birder’s book. The bird has black head feathers with an absolutely amazing color of orange on its underside that gives it a very fluorescent fiery look. See the link to get a good look at what it looks like:

It wasn’t long after I started today’s paddling that I heard the two mating pairs of loon that Elliot and I spotted yesterday. The sound of the loon often stirs my creative writing abilities to try to put down a few descriptive words to describe how loons make me feel. I did not have pen in hand today so I did not write anything. I do plan on taking my pen and paper with me for my next Islet Lake paddle. You can bet your last dollar I will come up with something interesting to read. The loons I heard made sounds I have never associated with loons. There was the usual lowing, throaty sound prolonged long enough to echo through the dusky evening while the loon was still calling out. There was also a shrieking sound that was almost a squeal yet still obviously originating from a loon. I have heard that sound before but never associated it with a loon. The following link takes you to a site where you can hear the loon sounds that I am trying to describe:

One interesting discovery I made in the duck grass was a Red Winged Black Bird nest with three eggs in it. I knew the nest was there because I surprised the bird so that it flew away from the nest. The nest was woven into the reeds, binding several strands of reed together then built up until it was quite deep, perhaps four to five inches deep. The mother was obviously disturbed by my presence so I made sure not to touch anything but to look quickly then get out of there. These birds are one of my favorite march birds, I love their songs and sounds. See the link to hear how they sound:

Now I will get on to the most interesting occurrence of my trip today. While I was paddling along side the shore of an island I spotted something weird in the water. It was large. I originally thought it was a cormorant spreading its wings in the distance. There are a couple of dozen of these birds living at Islet Lake. As I paddled closer to this oddity, it got bigger, bigger than I would have expected a cormorant to be. Then it turned its head and my brain identified an all to common image in the water. That wasn’t no cormorant – it was a friggin’ moose. It was a young ‘un trying to swim across the lake to a small island. It was making this attempt while the rain was falling. You know what I did from this point on. I do not have to tell you. Yeppers, I paddled my ass off as if the moose was a can of Guinness. I was all over that aquatically inclined beastie in no time. The moose saw me coming and dear god, it tried to swim faster but Dayum! The dude in the Lightning 17 was faster. I managed to get two photos of the moose at different angles. I was going to leave it alone after I got my pictures but hell ya, I had to get closer. If you recall my bear sighting while I was doing my big river trip back in 2003, you will be able to recall how I chased the bear to get good pictures. The bear spotted me a comin’ and took off like a shot. I fully expected the moose to do the same thing but it couldn’t – it was already swimming as fast as it could. I ran parallel to it for a while but then decided to run up right behind it till I was almost ridin’ on its back. The poor harassed Bullwinkle was breathing hard and fast so I took pity on it and left it to its own avails. It made the mainland and disappeared in the brush lickity-split.

The rest of the paddle was a simple sprint to the putout site. I wanted to keep paddling but there was no full moon to enjoy so I tied the VJ to the roof rack and drove home. I will try to get back on a calm evening and stay till after dark so I can paddle in the moonlight. I will also attempt some good poetry about the Islet Lake Loons. Here’s hoping I come up with something.

Robert N Pruden

You have to see these pics



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