Lake Shenandoah loony Sunday extravaganza

March 30, 2009

Sunday afternoon I set out for Lake Shenandoah after hearing word that common loons were visiting the area. By the end of the day, I had a few good shots and some really sore muscles.

032909shened

In the beginning, I walked the perimeter and scanned the lake for signs of a loon (The species of aquatic bird is common in the north, but not in this state). It wasn’t until I had nearly reached the dam on the far end of the lake that I spotted a single loon in the water.

For a few minutes, I shot from the bank before renting a row boat to creep in closer. As I let the wind slowly drift me toward my target bird, I scanned the skies and quickly noticed another incoming bird. Soaring above and making a few passes was an osprey. I quickly braced myself in the boat and made a few frames as he (or she) went overhead a few times.

I’ve got a favorite shot, but I’ll likely be putting it in the book, so it won’t show up online. Instead, here’s another fun outtake:

032909birded

After the excitement died down I returned to the task at hand by attempting to navigate closer to the loon. After a while I dropped anchor and noticed the loon a few hundred feet out. I made a few images, but wasn’t satisfied. Then the bird dove. Loons can dive for a few minutes at a time while they hunt fish, so I didn’t think much of it. When it resurfaced however, it was clear on the other side of the lake, killing any chance of a good photo.

With nowhere else to go, I sat in the middle of the lake and observed several passing birds for a few minutes.

Then I decided it was time to go back in and the fun started. As it turns out, the winds on the lake were a constant 17 mph with much higher gusts and that makes rowing against it extremely difficult. For over half an hour, I awkwardly battled the waves to close the distance to the parking area. Nearly every five feet I would begin to lose momentum and the current would take away what little ground I had just gained. Eventually, when I made it to the nearest bank, I jumped onshore and towed my rental back toward the lot.

Not wanting to give up just yet on the loon, I made another round of the trail and soon found the loon floating again near the dam. I made a few images, including this one:

032909shen2ed

This particular bird is a juvenile, so the patterning isn’t quite as bold as an adult. Unfortunately my lenses couldn’t quite handle the distance so I didn’t have much to work with. But in the end, I guess I still met the day’s goal. Now if only we could get some more nice days for the mammals to come out!

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