Frogs and birds
“I like mink frogs,” I thought to myself as Wren, my dog, and I pushed off onto the waters of Cheney Pond the other day, listening to their characteristic knocking calls from the cool shallows. They were adding a new voice to the morning which had started with a walk along the rough and rocky road that leads to the pond from Blue Ridge Road. That walk had already given us a list of birds, including Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Northern Parula, Winter Wren, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, and Swainson’s Thrush.
The mink frogs were soon joined by green frogs as we paddled along the shoreline. We continued to find more and more birds from the mixed forests which surround the pond. Wren – fresh from a morning swim — lay in the sun dozing and watching the world pass by. But each time I nosed our bow into the edges and marshy margins of the pond, she lifted her head, sometimes sitting up for a better view.
An American bittern
As we were prodding one of these nooks along the lake, an American Bittern flew in, landing in the vegetation near us while a Red-winged Blackbird voiced its complaint and dived at the bittern from above. The blackbird eventually gave up on its efforts and we were left watching the bittern which in turn was watching us as we sat nearby on the water. I quickly took out my camera and snapped some shots trying to take advantage of the bittern landing so close to us. Not surprisingly it did not stay long. It soon lifted off the water and flew to a neighboring marshy patch along the lake.
We continued on, crossing the pond to another patch of marsh out of which a Great Blue Heron lifted to fly farther into the wetland. I was about to turn and paddle on, but the impressive display of dragonflies hunting low over the vegetation caught my eye and I paused to watch them. We – and by this, I mean mostly Wren – had been dealing with a growing contingent of deer flies, horse flies, and ankle biters surrounding our canoe. I found, however, that there were fewer of these insects pestering us near the dragonfly army. A few of the dragonflies landed on the gunwale of the boat, and I wanted to take them with us for protection during the rest of our time on the water.
Checking out the Boreas River
But we eventually moved on, this time to nose our way through the channel which connects Cheney to the Boreas River – an excellent extension to the route if time allows. The boggy and brushy vegetation along the channel held Alder and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, a flyover American Bittern (perhaps the same bird we saw earlier), Common Yellowthroats, Swamp and Song Sparrows, and Chestnut-sided Warblers, and we snaked back to the large beaver dam which creates a large disparity in the water level between the pond and the river.
I took a break from paddling so Wren could exercise a bit. We walked the short overgrown, muddy, and rutted (so watch your step if you go!) path to the river where I threw a few sticks for Wren as she enjoyed some freedom from the confines of the canoe. The water felt amazing on what was becoming a warm (and soon to be hot!) day. I wanted to carry the boat down to the embankment and paddle the Boreas, but with the heat growing and the bugs increasingly hounding us (sorry, that had to be said), I decided that would have to wait for another trip.
After another swim for Wren we walked back to the boat, and began to paddle back along the shoreline toward the put-in. A lone Common Loon swam toward us and I stopped to allow it to approach as far as it wanted. It dived up and down and I thought how nice it must be to swim all day on a hot day. The loon eventually moved farther away, so I worked our way back to the take-out, continuing to listen to the chorus of birds along the shoreline as we went. Once back on land, I loaded the boat while Wren topped off her trip with another swim. There’s no better activity on a warm, sunny day for a labrador retriever (or a person), after all.