March 31, 2018
by Natalie Wiest
The forecast for Saturday, March 31, was too good to pass up an opportunity to paddle after a too-long absence. I posted a last minute trip to the Paddling Forum and was joined by 9 others also in need of a paddling fix. Sheldon Lake, next to Sheldon Lake State Park, was our location and the put-in, also a long time since used, was the gravel parking lot off of Garrett Road. That was a good choice as all who approached from Pineland Road reported a mega-collection of boat trailers and getting to that paved boat ramp would have been very difficult. Earlier heavy rain had the lake quite high so we had a good blackwater swamp access to the deeper waters to the south. Aquatic vegetation hadn’t had enough time and warm weather to choke the passage out, and off we went.
Here is Alice enjoying a stretch of open water, and Joe and John enjoying the first batch of nesting birds.
Islands in the lake are favorites for nesting. We were pleased to see every one of our local herons and egrets, minus the reddish which prefer saltwater. The ones we saw are cattle egrets, snowy egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, little blue herons, green herons, black-crowned and yellow crowned night herons, and tri-colored herons. Anhingas and cormorants were there too. I bet the place is alive with spring migrants right now.
Another critter in abundance is the apple snail. It’s a non-native snail that lays its pink colored eggs on branches, reeds, and tree trunks next to the water. Here is one that is in the process of laying her eggs:
Brad and Hagen enjoyed their day on the water, and here is another view of the open waters on the south side of the lake:
Notice the aquatic vegetation just ramping up, and the cypress trees just recently greened.
On the blue end of the scale, here is a clump of nesting little blue herons. If you look real close at the cropped image, you can see both the characteristic blue color of their beaks; and the blue eggs underneath a few of the birds who stood up on our approach. When the birds begin standing like this, we know we are getting too close and it is time to back off and not disturb them further.
It was a very pleasant day on the windy lake, wish you could have been there with us.
Joe Coker approaching the takeout.
The author, Natalie Wiest