"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tern Lake Teaches Me a Lesson

Late at night, about an hour after sundown at Tern Lake, I realized I had learned something special today, “today” being Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017.  

After a long afternoon of clearing brush, I was searching for a part to a DR mower/string trimmer that I was pretty sure I had, but couldn’t find anywhere.  I needed it for the next part of the driveway-reclamation project I was working on before the brush overtook it entirely.

The second load of brush.

It wasn’t the first time I’d searched for it and for that reason my patience with the search was diminishing exponentially.

Finally, I went out to my truck for something and, in doing so, walked right next to my bright blue kayak.

“That’s it!”   I said aloud.   “I’m outta here.”   I got my cameras and life vest, loaded up the kayak, and headed a mile up the road to Tern Lake to do a wellness check on the swan cygnet, loons chicks, and red-necked grebe juveniles.

The swans were first, by their choice.   They were right next to the highway and getting even closer.

The cygnet is alive, well, and all decked out in juvenile gray plumage.

The loons were next because I knew where to find them out in the middle part of the lake.

There they were, the two youngsters growing fast and soon to get their adult colors.

This is amusing.   The rules of photo compensation dictate that when the subject is looking in a certain direction, you should give the subject "room" to look.   But what do you do when two subjects are looking in opposite directions?

I started paddling for the far southern side of the lake and changed my mind.   Instead, the upper reaches where the sockeye salmon were spawning became my new destination.

Along that journey, I found some familiar friends….

Barrow's goldeneye and chicks.

Camera shy.

I was a long way away when I saw this and wondered what kind of duck is pink.   Then I realized it was a dead, upside down salmon.

The salmon were indeed spawning in the gravel bed where the water is shallow.   I"m pretty careful in this area because bears like fish and I've seen bears here before..   I saw a couple places where the grass on the shore was matted down.

Then, I turned back, paddling directly into the sun before it dipped behind a mountain peak for the night.   Visibility was difficult, which is why I was right beside this wasp nest before I saw it and realized the wasps were home.   It was just above water level, or elbow-height for me.

I left as quickly as I could without creating a stir.

I spotted a female belted kingfisher far away and couldn’t believe my eyes when she sat still while I took 45 photos of her on this perch from my bouncing, moving kayak.  Ask any birder.   Having a kingfisher sit still for photos is near impossible.   

Oops.   There she goes!

 She moved to a far away tree and I paddled closer.

 Again she moved.   This time was magical.   She landed on a cottonwood limb in the only spot of sunlight that hit the tree.   

She was still there when I paddled away.

I saw an Arctic tern perched on a tree stump, and drifted  towards it as I took photos.   The bow of my kayak was under the bird before it flew away.  I think it was curious about what I was.   All the other terns left long ago.

And then I found the grebes, still in the vicinity of where they nested, but more difficult to find from the highway.  Alas, there were only two juveniles instead of three with the adult.   I hope the other was with the other adult, but I doubt it.



I've been trying to figure out what this is .  It's a burled log,.


 I was treated to the full "wounded duck" act when I apparently got near this duck's little ones.

Getting back to my truck required paddling through Scaup Alley as I’ve come to call the narrow band of water where they hang out adjacent to the pull out where I'd parked.  They moved on farther down the lake.

A blended family of greater scaup.    Not such a good photo, but look at the one to the left of top center.   It's getting ready to dive.   Lucky catch.

I picked up a small amount of litter in the pullout before I headed for the junction and home.   Just before I reached the junction, I spotted a photo op and made a U turn, but the birds didn’t cooperate so I continued along the lake, stopping where all the scaups were going about their business.

Sign at Tern Lake.

By this time, a long line of traffic coming north from farther down the Kenai Peninsula reached the junction and I wasn’t about to get involved in that.  Instead, I turned into Dave’s Creek to see if any mergansers were there.

Just as I crossed the bridge over the creek, I saw an unidentified bird flying through the overhanging trees.   I parked, grabbed the camera, and headed downstream.

And there it was—the first water ouzel (American dipper) I’ve seen on Dave’s Creek this season.    I’d given up checking when spring and mid-summer passed with no dippers.


It was long past sundown and the ouzel was in a shady part of the creek.   I had to bump the ISO on the camera up to 10,000 to get these shots.

There’s enough grain in those photos to fill a silo, but I didn’t care.  There’s at least one ouzel in the creek.

As I headed home, I was thinking about everything that had happened this day.  

Earlier in the day, I had some private time giving peanuts halves to a red-breasted nuthatch (be still, my heart) and a black-capped chickadee before the Steller’s jays showed up and created a circus.  One juvenile jay landed on my head, one tried to see if my fingers were edible, and one tipped over the container of black oil sunflower seeds.

At the lake, where I’d gone to escape my frustration at not finding something I needed, I saw the swans and their cygnet, the loon with the two young loons, two of the grebe juveniles, all the regular suspects, and had the amazing experience with the kingfisher.   Then, to find the dipper!

That’s when I realized I’d learned a valuable lesson.

When something isn’t going my way, perhaps it’s because I’m supposed to be doing something else.

Red-breasted nuthatch.


  1. You were obviously destined to check on your avian friends ... not continue with chores at home. Tern Lake, I think, flourishes even more just because you pay such loving attention to it and its inhabitants. I loved visiting with your buddies ... Smiles, Patti

  2. Great photos, Jeanne. Spending an evening like this is so much better than working on the driveway or looking for something you can't find.

  3. Amazing. Absolutely Positively Amazing Post. And fun fun fun to enjoy my way through it. I texted Patti today : What a challenge. Losing things. Finding them losing them / finding them over & over over again and again. It must be an aging thing.

    You closed with : When something isn’t going my way, perhaps it’s because I’m supposed to be doing something else. I of course call it the God Channel. I know when I am in it and I know when I am not in it. When things are NOT flowing then I know I am not where I need to be.

    Smiles .. Cap