Sunshine is the artist of the on this bright silver-blue afternoon as I finish my photography session on the new Feather. It is 3:30, so the sun is casting unique shadows due to its angle to the earth. The air is hot and yet clear. These are the factors that are important to me when I am hoping to catch a few good shots of the Presque Isle scenery, and the sun is high in the sky. There are just too many people using the Multi-Purpose Trail to hope to see any Presque Isle wildlife, so I decide to go out to Graveyard Pond Trail and see what might be happening there.
As I begin to walk down the trail, thin shafts of sunlight pierce the wood’s high canopy and create a shadowy wonderland , as the tree branches move in the light breeze. It brings back a quick lesson I learned when I first began playing with a camera. At a photographic seminar in Cleveland, a world-renowned photographer uttered one short sentence that will always stick in my mind. He said, “Light is the high priestess of the landscape.” Without the RIGHT LIGHT, no really great photograph is possible.
As I continued, bird song seemed to be dripping from the trees. As I slowly and quietly moved down the trail, the lagoons were on my right, and a heavily wooded area to my left. Wildflowers of all types were poking their heads out of the trail’s grassy edges. It was wonderful, and yes, it was quiet. With any kind of luck, maybe I would get to see some of Presque Isle’s nursery population. This is the time of the year when the newborn are now getting out-and-about more often.
With a harsh and noisy squawk, a small Green Heron alights in the boney dead branches of an old fallen oak tree near the lagoon edge. I am sure, he sees me as he has his head cocked my way, seemingly ready to take immediate flight at any time. We study each other. He moves first. Hesitating, he darts from branch to branch for about five minutes in a sort of watchful indecision. I am now sure; I am his problem. At last, with a farewell squawk, he flies away down the lagoon pond.
I now notice, just across the pond in an area full of cattails and water lilies, that I can hear the deep-throated croak of a bullfrog. His constant call is echoing in the stillness. I know from experience that these big guys do not move much or far, so I pull out my 300mm lens and put it on the camera to use it as a spotting scope. I am hoping that I can find him in the tangle of water plants near his sound.
After nearly five minutes of looking, I find him. He is near the edge of a cluster of lilies and other water plants and appears to be sitting on submerged grasses and lily pads. With the bright sun, his reflection in the tranquil water seems to create a double image. This would be a wonderful shot; however, I would need a much larger lens and a tripod to make it worthwhile.
The quiet on the trail today is amazing. I am the only one here, and just the birds and the bullfrog want to
make any noise. As I walk a bit farther down the trail toward the picnic table at trails end, I see a Great Blue Heron swoop in and land near the shoreline ahead. He slowly makes his way along the shallows looking for a fish or snake for dinner. He walks a few feet, stops and does not move a muscle for a bit and in a flash comes up with a small fish. Herons are great fishermen, and it is neat to watch them stalk the shallows of Presque Isle. He is quiet, I am quiet and the lagoons seem to enjoy the solitude as much as I do.
So I’m startled when something splashes and moves not three feet from my legs. A muskrat head emerges from the near-shore cattails just in front of where I am walking. He is busy nibbling on some small cattails along the shore and does not even notice me. I do not seem to exist. He keeps right on eating, and runs within two feet as he moves to what he thinks must be a slightly better or choice cattails. After a little while, he slips under the water and heads out across the pond and reappears amid a large group of young water lily pads. This must be desert, because he really begins to munch these down. Suddenly he dives down into the deep water and is gone.
All of a sudden the bird song goes quiet and the bullfrog stops his croaking. What’s up?! It does not take long for me to find out, as I hear yelling and laughing sounds making their way down the lagoons. The wildlife picked up on this a full minute before me. Three women in kayaks are making a journey though the lagoons. They are having a ball, but their four-mile round trip on these lagoon ponds is likely to take 12 miles of paddling as none of them can paddle in a straight line. They are moving side to side, into and out of the weed beds as they move down the waterways. It looks like they are having fun, and I am sure an hour or so from now they will gather some skills of navigation. I am happy they are getting out on the park and seeing the non-traditional areas.
I take a few pictures of the kayaking women and within a few minutes two more kayakers come around the bend and join them. I find and old log and sit down to take some notes and a beautiful dragonfly settles n on my knee. I notice he is carring a small bug and is enjoying a quick lunch. I enjoyed this short nature adventure, and I am sure all the kayakers and dragonfly did too. Presque Isle is full of small adventures and thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze. Visit the park and enjoy what is there 365 days of the year.
See you on the park!!
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