Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: bike, nature

After camp this afternoon, Chris & I went up to the Skokie Lagoons for a little kayaking!
We’ve pedaled our bikes through these lagoons for years along the North Branch Trail
and never once even considered kayaking before. This year, it was finally time!
And as luck would have it, there is now a convenient rental location right off Tower Road,
right on one of the lagoons! So we gave it a brief “test drive” last Monday as a quick break
in the middle of our afternoon bike ride. Today we planned ahead & left the bikes at home –
with full intention of kayaking after work instead of biking!

So we hopped into our rented kayaks and started off. Last Monday we headed south
and went around the closest island. Today we decided to go north up to the
Botanic Garden and back. About 6 miles. With map in hand… we paddled off.

It was a beautiful afternoon with some dramatic clouds rolling through. There were
a few moments of “dark clouds” as we questioned if we were going to rained upon.
Luckily, we didn’t – the clouds blew over and the sky cleared up. With more beautiful
clouds to contrast against the beautiful blue skies.

As the sun started to go down, the water lilies had already closed for the evening.
I can’t wait to paddle again a little earlier in the day to see the blossoms wide open.

As we paddled through the lagoons, Chris and I got to see a lot of waterfowl and trees.
We were surprised by the number of Great Blue Herons we saw flying all around us.
Up close & personal, swooping & squawking, flying from tree to tree. Dozens of them!
Along the way, we also had to get out of our kayaks and portage across three small
embankments. And for the novice… let’s just say, neither of us looked all to graceful as
we tried to maneuver our way out of the boat, and then back in without flipping it over.
Let’s just say, the opening in the kayak isn’t as large as I would like it to be… to get my
legs, thighs & butt wedged in there! Like threading a needle… while still afloat?!

And then we turned another corner, around the river bend… and we spotted this incredible
tree full of waterfowl. How spectacular is this? The “tree” was in constant movement as
the birds flew in, and flew out, and interacted with each other. On a side note?…
let’s just say that the green bushes below this tree were a lot “whiter” than they should be!
Sadly… I don’t know my birds well enough to identify this tree-perched grouping?!

EDITOR’S NOTE: After this initial posting, I was informed by my birding-friend
& fellow potter Karen Avery that these flocking water birds are actually called
Double-Crested Cormorants. Who knew?!
– – – – – – – – okay, well I guess she did?!!!

Now these waterfowl I can identify… a row of female mallard ducks sunning themselves.

As we came around the final bend, and paddled towards the shore to finish our journey,
one last glimpse back and there was a wonderful sunset in the making! A perfect end
to a perfect afternoon… and a nice “alternative” to pedaling up to the gardens!
Close, but not quite the same… paddling, instead of pedaling!


C Yalater

August 31st, 2010

Possibly Double-crested Cormorants, here for breeding or migrating. I”ve seen ’em in swamp trees in Skokie, Libertyville, Schaumburg, etc.

September 1st, 2010

That was my guess too. At first my guess was Mergansers… but that’s just because that’s the latest bird I’ve heard the name of?! No other reason… so of course now I’m guessing that “every” unknown water bird is a Merganser!!! Wrong, huh? When I got home and checked my bird book – that’s when I realized the Merganser is totally wrong, and the Cormorant is a better guess!

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