I went for a drive today, to check out Leavenworth State Fishing Lake in Tonganoxie, and of course I took my camera. I was driving along a gravel road, looked down for a moment, and when I looked back up I saw a big red tail…and the hawk it belonged to, right in front of my windshield. The tail was completely fanned out and looked really red, and really huge. It swooped down from behind me, passed in front of me, and flew up into a tree beside the road. It was almost as if he was dive bombing me…I was buzzed by a red tail hawk! I of course stopped, and he didn’t seem in a big hurry to leave. Here are a couple of the pictures I took.
Fishing, for me, almost always means trolling. There are several reasons for this. For one, the tedium of cast and retrieve fishing drives me nuts, not to mention how it wears out my arm. It would be OK if you got a hit every few casts, but you can easily go 50 casts between fish, and for some fishermen THAT would be a good day. Then there’s bait fishing. Sitting in one spot, staring at your pole, waiting for a fish to bite. Total boredom. No, trolling is for me. Constantly changing scenery, just going for a drive around the lake—well, on the lake; and you never know what will be around the next point, or in the next cove. Which is one of the prime reasons I like to troll. For me, a fishing trip is a fishing trip/photo shoot, and what better way to find a good pic than to go out and look for one. Sometimes the fishing gets in the way of the photography. Sometimes the photography gets in the way of the fishing. But hey, there’s a better than even chance that one of the two will be good on any given day. And when both hit, WOW!
Here is a collection of pictures showing some of the surprising things you can run into while trolling around the lake. There’s a lot more than fish!
The first is a very entertaining muskrat. Over and over he would dive down to the bottom and come back with a clam. Holding it in his hands, he would chew away until he got the meat, then go down for another. He almost always came back with a clam, and generally with a spot of mud on the top of his head.
There are over 5000 different species of dragonfly. They are important predators that eat insects such as mosquitoes, flies, bees, and wasps. In fact, an adult dragonfly can eat hundreds of these stinging pests in a single day.
These are big birds. Weighing in at over 16 pounds, they are over five feet long and have a 9 foot wingspan. They are one of the largest birds in North America. They winter on the coasts, but only breed inland. You can see two in the pictures posted here that are in breeding condition – they develop a knob protruding upward from the upper mandible.
The Purple Finch is a small bird–5.5 to 6.5 inches long. They summer in Canada and winter in the Eastern United States. Some are resident in the Northeastern United States. I don’t see as many as I used to here in Kansas—sad because they are such beautiful birds. Because of warmer winters the southern line of their winter migration has moved north as much as 400 miles in the last 40 years. Their population has also declined in the East due to House Finches. A more aggressive species, House Finches generally out-compete the Purple Finches whenever the two species come together.
Double-crested Cormorants may look clumsy, even comical out of the water, but in the water they are swift and agile swimmers. They are a big bird with a solid build and a 4 foot wingspan. Unlike most birds, they have solid, dense, heavy bones and feathers that are not water proof. This makes them set very low in the water, with nearly their entire body underwater. These are the characteristics however, that make them such good swimmers. They can dive up to 30 feet deep, swim 38 miles per hour, and stay under for 30 seconds. They will typically fish for an hour, then they must sit on a perch to dry out their feathers.
Why is it that the Vulture gets such a bad rap? Really nice coloration: brown to black feathers with a red head. Well…a really ugly head. But, they do an enormous part in keeping our environment clean. And, they go to great lengths keeping themselves clean. They are constantly preening themselves, and often bathing in water. It is vital that they keep themselves clean after eating to prevent serious infections.
They are often seen spreading their wings, especially in the early morning. They lower their body temperature significantly at night and spreading the wings to the sun helps get their body temperature back up for the days activity. It also helps dry the feathers and exposes more of them to the UV radiation of the sun, helping to kill off unwanted bacteria.
Pardon the W.C. Fields and the Jungle Book references below–just couldn’t help myself.
The first time I saw a Coot was very early in the AM at Perry Lake, and I immediately thought, “What in the world kind of duck is that?” Well, there was just enough light to take a pic good enough for ID, and as any Coot will tell you, “I am not a duck.” A beak not a bill, and HUGE lobed feet instead of webbed feet. I’ve taken many pictures of them since, one series in particular made for quite a story.
An Osprey’s wingspan can be nearly 6 feet. Wings so long and yet so slender. Their diet is 99% fish and a family raising young–they lay 2-4 eggs–must have 5 or more fish a day to keep all the bellies full. This responsibility falls to the male.