Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

DAY 10 – Clear Lake State Park, CA

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Monday, October 8, 2012
First thing in the morning, I go on a nature walk at the slough; a good part of it is on boardwalks that wind along the waterway. The water is low, thick and murky, just right for swamp-loving creatures. Soon I spot herons wading and hunting – Great Blue and Black-Crowned Night Herons – some mature and some juveniles. I occasionally and inadvertently flush a previously unseen Great Blue into the air, watching it take flight with its magnificent 6.5 foot wingspan and its loud squawking call, an undignified sound incongruous with its elegant form. Kingfishers rattle and zig-zag from tree to tree down the slough. Mallards and small diving ducks float peaceably.

A Great Blue Heron conveniently poses and preens on a not-too-far dead branch. (I wish I had had my tripod since between using the telephoto and the dim light it was hard to take a clear photo.) I then continue on to the empty swimming beach. I hear a loud repeated whistle. I know this call! It takes me a minute to remember it is an osprey and I spy one in a nearby tree tearing apart a breakfast meal that it holds in its talons.

After my own breakfast, I lug my kayak-in-a-bag to a small stretch of rocky beach to figure out how to assemble and inflate it for the first time. I am nervous about doing this correctly and wondering how I will like this new kayak. We debated for months about whether to bring my beloved recreational kayak or purchase an inflatable one what would travel more conveniently. With the hand pump and the manual I proceed slowly. Although there are few people around, just then, a man in his own inflatable boat pulls up on shore next to me. We discuss kayaking and birding.

As I continue to work on the kayak, he hovers, wanting to help and making suggestions. Thankfully, Chris shows up and relieves the man of his responsibility of helping a maiden in distress who actually is not in distress and just wants to figure it out for herself.

The kayak looks quite smart in its bright orange and blue shell! Tentatively, I launch it. It floats well and is quite stable; it is comfortable since all parts have some give. It tracks and glides smoothly. Although probably slower than a hard shell, I don’t care since I am not in a hurry. I like it!

I head to where I had seen some large white birds in the distance and find a flock of American White Pelicans resting on a shoal offshore. They are crowded together and are either busily grooming with their long beaks or apparently sleeping in neatly folded feathery balls. They are migrating from their summer breeding grounds to their winter home. They appear pure white with bright orange beaks and feet until they flutter their wings open to reveal black primary and secondary feathers. Their wingspan can reach an incredible 9 feet, similar to a condor!

I return for lunch and then go back to the slough to see what is up in the afternoon. The main site is sunning turtles (Northwestern Pond Turtles) who quickly and loudly plop into the water if I move too quickly or too closely. They somehow climb up logs and sometimes on top of each other.

Toward sunset I return to the kayak and, living dangerously, take my good camera with me. I am determined to photograph the pelicans. This is not easy to do while bobbing up and down in a constantly moving boat. The sun is setting and everything – especially the pelicans – are glowing golden. As the light disappears, they too disappear and become part of the deep blue of the lake.

Not until later when I look at my photos, do I realize there is also a migrating snow goose among them.

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