A Fine Morning for Whitetails and Loons

A couple of young bucks knocking around this morning at Creve Coeur Lake.

I headed over to Creve Coeur Lake this morning to take advantage of the first break in the rain for the last few days. I was well hidden in one of my favorite places in some flooded timber (chest waders or kayak required) long before daylight with the promise of partly cloudy conditions to come.

It was still dark when I saw a beaver up on its haunches, grooming away on the far bank. I have to admit I was excited because I don’t have many pics of these nocturnal mammals. The beaver was a far piece away so I quietly slipped my 1.4x teleconverter on my 500mm lens to try to close the distance between us. It only took a few seconds but when I looked through the viewfinder where the beaver was supposed to be it was long gone. Oh well, maybe next time, I thought.

A few minutes later, still pretty dark by the way, I heard some splashing and looked off in the 10 o’clock position and saw two young bucks going at it with their not-too-impressive antlers. I swung my lens and made the featured image, sharper than expected in such miserable conditions.

Shortly after sunrise, I could see that the prediction of “partly cloudy” was another unforced error by my local weatherman. I could tell it wasn’t even going to be “mostly cloudy.” Yep, it was cloudy all the way but at least it wasn’t raining. But heck, I had already seen a couple of bucks sparring so I couldn’t complain.

It wasn’t long before the wind picked up and I wished I had worn another layer over my neoprene chest waders and lightweight duck hunting coat. I forgot how chilly I was when I noticed about six large birds circling overhead that reminded me of cormorants but I knew they were something else. Could they be loons? I wondered.

About that time I noticed a group of deer across an inlet from my position, just getting ready to wade/swim right to me. It had happened before so I followed the drill of getting an image early and then folding up around my camera into a ball and keeping still until they came on past me. The last thing I wanted to do was disturb their regular morning routine or worse yet freak them out completely.

A group of whitetails prepares to wade right to my position.

A minute later, all five of the whitetails waded right past me, some only three feet away, but I held steady as a rock, head down until the final fawn was behind me. It always feels great to be immersed in the unfolding of a new morning without being noticed.

Once the deer were gone, I sat in my turkey chair thinking about those birds (loons?) I saw high overhead. A few minutes later I heard a lonely trill far out in the open water. Yep, it was the trill of a loon.

The wind continued to pick up and I started shivering a little so I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay much longer. As I sat there daydreaming about loons I sensed something or someone looming over my right shoulder only a foot away! A chill ran down my already chilly spine as I swung my head to the right wondering how anybody could have made it to my position in the flooded timber without me noticing. Well, it wasn’t a person after all. Instead it was a young buck that had walked up right beside me from the rear.

The buck was close enough to pet as a loyal farm dog and a moment later it was in front of me sniffing at my wader boots under my blanket of cut-leaf camo! I didn’t want to scare it, causing it to burst into the air like a quail so I quietly said, “Hey little fella, that’s my boot your sniffing.” In response, the teen-age buck lifted its head, quietly turned toward the deep water to my right, stepped in and began swimming away. Only then could I swing my tripod and get a parting shot.

A young buck steps in the water and swims away after sniffing my boots.

I stuck around for another thirty minutes until about 9:30 but I couldn’t take the cold any longer. On my way out I saw the loons, five or six of them at least a quarter mile out in open water. I watched through my lens as one caught a large gizzard shad and I thought about how nice it would be if it were closer. Maybe I was being greedy; I had already had a fantastic morning.

Later as I was driving to the north along the lake toward home I saw the loons again but this time they were closer to the bank. I pulled into the next parking lot, jumped out of the car and re-assembled my camera, lens, and tripod. My goal was to make it to a large pine tree where I could hide as they worked their way north.

As I fast-walked northward along the lake toward the pine, all of the sudden one of the loons popped up from under water almost within shooting range. I looked at it and it looked at me and I did something silly without even thinking. I began calling to it in a lame rendition of the sound I had heard earlier. I’ll put it this way; if anybody would have been near me, they would have laughed.

Next, the strangest thing happened. The loon began swimming right for me, calling all the way. I called some more and the loon responded and then something downright ridiculous occurred. Another loon swam to the first and joined in the calling, both swimming right for me. It wasn’t long before they were so close, they were filling my camera frame.

Common loons swim right to me in response to my lame attempt at a call.
A rare treat! A pair of loons closing directly on my position.

You can only imagine how excited I was to be in such proximity to a couple of loons even though the shooting conditions were marginal and the loons were in non-breeding plumage.

A final image of one of the migrating loons.

On the way home, I had a generous streak and notified all my bird-loving friends on Facebook that at least five loons had just landed at Creve Coeur Lake for some fishing and resting time. I hope a few of them made it out to see these beautiful visitors from the north. They sure made my day.

Happy Naturing,

DB

Email: Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images/Print Information: https://dannybrown.smugmug.com

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.

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