Early autumn kayaking

eak-miles-of-lagoonsRich and I went kayaking again last weekend. It was cold and rainy, typical early October weather in the Chicago area, but the lagoons are always so beautiful that we couldn’t pass up the chance.

The Skokie Lagoons go for miles. We haven’t learned how to portage yet, so we stuck to areas accessible on one level. We still saw loads of lovely wildlife. Here’s a sample view of the vistas. You can see the trees aren’t turning yet.

eak-water-rat-lairsIn order to avoid two large parties of noisy kayakers we hugged the shoreline for a mile or two.

You can see how this cottonwood is leaning over into the water. Cottonwoods love to have wet feet. (Did you know that rayon is made from cottonwood fiber?) Eventually they suffer ant colony damage, and then they rot, but they do it very gracefully, and in the meantime they host literally millions of lives: birds, raccoons, squirrels, bats, frogs and toads, a dozen kinds of insects… and here, water rats.

Notice the little black gaps where a rat can swim under the tree roots and then climb to shore, up inside the safe, dark corridors of its lair.

eak-cormorants-drying-off

Are those birds, or a lot of little Ms?

I never get tired of watching the cormorants swim, dive, pop up with a fish and swallow it, and then take off clumsily into the air. These are double-crested cormorants. Up close we could see their blue, blue eyes.

They hang out in gangs on bare trees and spread their wings to dry out.

eak-bald-eagleOn this visit, before we even got into our kayaks, we saw a bald eagle swoop low over the lagoon and stoop feet-first as if to pounce on a fish.

It didn’t quite hit the water. Instead, it made a startled, clumsy, flippy-floppy-flappy retreat.

A second later, a cormorant popped up out of the murky green water.

A second after that, narrowly escaping the eagle as it skimmed, probably embarrassed, over the cormorant’s head, a big silver fish broke the water.

Naturally I didn’t have my camera to catch this little drama. But here’s the bald eagle hanging out in another part of the lagoon.

eak-bald-eagle-harrassed-by-crowOnly a few minutes later, a handful of crows showed up and yelled rude things at the eagle.

Crows will hang around and harrass anything up to and including a bulldozer, if they think they know something to itseak-fungus-on-log dispraise that they can repeat at the top of their lungs. Think fourth-graders on a playground.

These guys hadn’t a hope of budging the eagle, but you can see this one is determined to keep an eye on it.

These fungi were so beautiful I had to get a shot of them.

Notice the green stain where lagoon water has soaked into the grain of the log. The log was wet, of course, because it was raining.

A party of ducks sat on the low end of the log, bathing. I couldn’t figure out how to get my camera to take video.

eak-heron-caught-a-fishI did get lucky on this shot. The lagoons are crammed with big wading birds. You can see a great blue, a great egret, or a black-crowned night heron just about anywhere you look.

We came around a corner and spotted this one stabbing at a fish.

Looks like it’s getting salad with that, too.

 

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