For our last full lab of the semester, my ornithology class took canoes down to the Elk River. We put into the water where the Elk runs into Woods Reservoir.
Trip highlights include:
- A great look at a Prothonotary Warbler. This warbler is unusual in that it nests inside old tree holes instead of making a twig or ground nest like most other warblers. It is found along waterways and lake edges.
- Seeing a Great Blue Heron grab a big watersnake. The snake wrapped itself around the heron’s beak and neck like a whip around a post. The heron thrashed and leapt, perhaps feeling the sting of the snake’s bite, then the snake escaped. The heron kept probing in the water, but this snake was not about to come back.
- Three Ospreys wheeling overhead, whistling loudly.
- Two Black-crowned Night-herons, flying right over us, giving a great look at their head plumes and bright legs.
- A mother goose on her eggs, flopped out with a “broken neck” — playing dead as a ploy to remain unmolested by these strange paddling primates.
(note: photo links above are not from this trip (I wish), but from Robert Royse, an outstanding bird photographer)
Trip lowlight: dozens of trotlines tied to branches overhanging the river. These are unattended fishing lines, mostly aimed at turtles, but anything that grabs at the large hooks on the lines gets snagged. Two years ago we found a heron that had died in a tangled trotline. Not so pretty, but 100% legal (as long as you don’t set more than 100 trotlines at a time…). This method of fishing is like deer-hunting by lashing shotguns to trees, then attaching tripwires to the triggers. You’ll get some deer, yes, but at what cost?