Turtling on Homer Lake
Doe along the bank
Another hot and humid weekend in central Illinois. What to do with just a half-day to get out and herp in the heat? Time for some turtle-spotting.
I loaded my canoe on my vehicle and headed over to Homer Lake, a small body of water about twenty miles east of me. Homer Lake is a great place for turtle spotting - since there are a fair number of fishermen about, the turtles are less skittish than normal. If you're slow and quiet, you can get a lot closer than is usually possible.
Upon arrival I saw a small crowd of people gathered near the boat dock. Birders, without question, crowded around two spotting scopes. "Watcha looking at?" I asked. "Immature White Ibis," somebody answered. Cool. The bird had been hanging around Homer Lake for a couple weeks - possibly pushed north by the remnants of Hurricane Dennis. I took a look through a spotting scope at a bird normally found along the coastlines of the southeast.
I put my canoe in and headed to a quiet backwater along the north shore, a pretty good spot for turtles with a number of stumps and logs for basking. I was not disappointed - Painted Turtles were out in fair numbers. I reached into my field bag for my binoculars - doh! I had forgotten to put them back in the bag earlier in the week. I'd have to rely on the naked eye and my camera.
Strung out along the northshore amidst the basking turtles were a half dozen American Egrets, another bird not commonly seen this far north in Illinois. Perhaps Dennis gave them a nudge as well.
I shifted myself off the seat onto the bottom of the canoe, to keep a lower profile and give my camera a more stable platform. I let the canoe drift along and fortunately the small breeze was blowing from a quarter allowing me to stay parallel to the shore. I got fairly close to most of the basking turtles, which with one exception (a Redear) were Eastern Paints.of various sizes. One log protruded from the shore, and as I got closer a Green Heron came out of the thick vegetation and stalked out onto the log, watching the water on either side for a foolish minnow or perhaps a sleepy frog. I got fairly close and kept the camera going - it was turning out to be a great day for birding as well.
Not every turtle went into the drink when I approached, and several of those who did surfaced within a minute or two and after watching me pass, clambered back up on the log. This seems to be fairly typical behavior for turtles in public lakes with regular numbers of humans around. Turtles in more remote areas are a lot more wary.
Seventeen turtles later I ran out of logs along the north shore, and ran out of time too. Not too bad for a couple hours out on the water.
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