An amazing time of day
It was a beautiful evening as I unloaded my boat for a paddle on Cheney Pond, one of my favorite little gems to explore in the Adirondacks. The mosquitoes were pestering me as I unloaded the boat, but once I pushed off onto the mirror surface of the lake, I left their annoying hum in favor of the deep, vibrating thrum of the bullfrogs which droned from various places around the shoreline.
The magic of loons
I stopped and listened to the frogs, but I soon found myself distracted by a trio of adult Common Loons not far from the launch. They were swimming and diving together in search of food. I crept closer with my camera handy, hoping for a shot, and the loons calmly went about their business, ignoring me. I pulled in my paddle and let the light breeze push me past them, snapping a few shots now that my hands were free. Then I sat and watched them as they worked a little farther away from me.
Suddenly one of them began to yodel a refrain which was quickly taken up by one of the other two birds, and the two called back and forth from one to the other. The sound reverberated through the hills, amplified as if an entire raft of loons was calling, and I felt strangely transfixed. The anthem transported me to some mystical wilderness paradise. I sat still for a long time listening as their calls echoed loudly all around me, and the loons continued moving along their route in the middle of the pond. They paused from their calling, and then abruptly began again. Paused, then began again. I felt as if I was somehow removed from my own body.
As I sat there I began to notice that the one bird didn’t make any calls – or at least it didn’t seem to do so. I figured it was the odd bird out in the trio and that the other two were likely a mated pair. And although I didn’t see a chick with them, I hoped that perhaps it was quietly tucked on the side of the marshy areas of the pond, or perhaps it was still an egg in the nest. Loons have nested late this year in the Adirondacks.
My musings continued. I saw that the loons were slowly getting farther from me so I quietly paddled a bit closer to listen to their resounding duet at full volume. Had my eyelids the strength, I could have sat there listening to them all night. I was reluctant to move on past this magical performance. But, when the trio slipped into a wide cove, I paddled past them on the far side of the pond, trying not to disturb them. Their tremulous calls punctuated the evening air from time to time throughout the rest of my paddle.
Marshes, birds, and the Boreas River
I began to work around the marshy margins of the pond, hoping to spot an American Bittern out for an evening meal. The high water levels allowed me to probe the reeds and vegetation farther than I usually can, but I came up empty on the bittern-finding endeavor. I did, however, accidentally spook a Great Blue Heron and I watched and listened to a chorus of evening songbirds including Swamp and Song Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Blue-headed Vireos, and Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers.
I looped around past the sandy beach on the far side of the pond which looked inviting for a swim, but I chose to remain in the boat rather than to take the time for a dip. I eventually made my way to the outlet of the pond where it links to the Boreas River. For folks who want to lug their boat (a lightweight boat is best), a short, rutted trail connects the pond to the river, but the beavers on Cheney have been quite busy this year, having erected an impressive bulwark, which makes the way more difficult than it has been in the past, particularly with my big canoe.
So I left the boat and simply explored their handiwork, finding the footing of the overgrown trail to be tricky enough without the canoe – the beaver’s work isn’t exclusive to their massive dam. My reconnaissance confirming that I should not attempt to bring my boat to the river (I really didn’t have enough daylight to justify it anyway), so I gingerly walked back to the boat through the vegetation and over the mud and ruts, finding that my biggest mistake of this venture was that I had aroused the local mosquitoes who instantly set up a blood drive at my expense. They were joined by a contingent of black flies and I was swatting myself free of them as I pushed back off onto the water in favor of less bugs in the middle of the pond.
From there I continued to work my way around the edge of the water, looking for wildlife and listening to birds, pausing now and then whenever I’d hear the loons call again. I passed them a short time later – there were only two – and I assumed the third bird had headed back to its own lake. Perhaps it was just feeding on Cheney.
I finally made my way to the take-out with the sunlight beginning to fade and a tail-slapping beaver eager to usher me to shore and off of its pond. I loaded up the boat and once all my gear was back in place, I recalled my desire for a swim at the beach, and so I took a quick dip from the launch, rinsing off the sweat and grime from the warm day before I headed on my way. It was a nice way to top off a beautiful paddle.