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The Subtle Wonders of the World: A Nature Essay

Science, nature and the environment, with regard to human impact, are subjects to which Chris applies his passions for research and writing.

Nature's Wonders

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The feeling of being watched was surreal. I turned one way and saw nothing. When I turned the other way, I was not surprised to see, just a few feet away, the jet black face and red eyes. A black and white checkered necklace interrupted the ebony that colored the long slender neck. I held its gaze then turned back to the task at hand, which happened to be catching fish from my kayak.

The loon and its mate had a nest at the northwestern part of the lake. I enjoy fishing after dark, and one night, around midnight, the silence was shattered by a song of the parents-to-be. I have heard many loon songs on many lakes across the country, but I have never heard such singing as I did that night. A couple of days later, I saw the baby for the first time. I wonder if the song was the parents' celebration of the first egg hatching. The second one came along a few days later.

Loon in Northern Michigan

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This small northern Michigan lake had a positive reputation for excellent fishing. I was devoting my covid time off work to making it earn its accolades. My favorite fish to catch for eating is bluegill, also called brim or bream. I know. No serious fisherman should admit to purposely looking for these small fish. The name, bluegill, is commonly used for several members of the sunfish family, such as red-ear, pumpkinseed, and bluegill.

It's true that many lakes are crowded with various sunfish species. Any fisherman who ventures out specifically for bluegill will catch a plethora of the two to three-inch versions, often to the point of embarrassment. The challenge is to find the eight-inch and above individuals. The biggest bluegill I have ever caught measured twelve and a quarter inches.

Bluegill

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The next time I visited the lake, all the loons came out to visit. The two chicks were tucked away on the mother's back. Once they got within ten feet of my kayak, the babies slipped into the water. I proceeded to catch a three-inch bluegill and tossed it over the side. As soon as the little fish hit the water, papa loon disappeared beneath the surface. It came up a few seconds later with my fish in its mouth. Each time I threw a small fish into the water, either the mother or father would retrieve it.


Then I caught a ten-inch bass. I looked at the male loon and chuckled my dare to him. The bass barely hit the water, and the loon was on him. It took some work, but the big bird got it down.

One day, I was fishing without the loons' company, which was fine with me because they tend to scare the fish away in a wide area. My bobber went under, and I responded with a tug. As I reeled the fish in, my excitement rose. This could be the largest freshwater fish I have ever caught. When I pulled it up to the boat, it was a three-inch bluegill with a twelve-pound loon hanging on for the ride.

Red-eyed Loon

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This lake is home to more than tiny bluegill and loons. Once, an ominous figure rose out of the depths, the water magnifying and distorting the image so that it reminded me of some prehistoric beast. The snapping turtle surfaced and bumped my red and white plastic bobber. I was concerned that it might go for my bait, so I gently reeled in the line. As the hook slipped across the turtle's neck, it snagged. I wasn't pulling hard, so it didn't sink too far into the flesh. The snapper slowly swam toward the boat. It was as though it knew I would remove the offending hook. It came to rest at my immediate right. I reached down and plucked the hook from its massive, wrinkled neck. At the same instant, the turtle's head shot forward, lightning-fast, and snatched the biggest bluegill on my stringer. It tugged until the fish came loose, then swam away with its prize.

This was a big snapper. I estimate it was thirty inches from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. But that is not how turtles are measured by those who do such things professionally. They measure the carapace, or shell, from front to back. My guess is that this turtle's algae-covered shell was fifteen inches long. Based on that length, it probably weighed forty pounds and could have been anywhere from fifty to one-hundred seventy years old. It's that kind of experience that has me doing all the hard work and the turtle swimming off with my fish.

Snapping Turtle

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Here is one final update on the loon fam. The last two times I've been to the lake, only the adult male has visited. Each time, I caught one fish and threw it back. The loon retrieved it like usual, but then began a series of dipping the fish and lifting it into the air as it swam across the lake. Either papa loon was on a diet, or the chicks were hungry and wanted fish tacos for dinner.

I wish I had better photos of the loons to share with you. I don't have any of the turtle. I found that the loons were rather shy. I tried to reorient my kayak and point my phone to capture a photo, but they moved directly behind me. I'll add more photos to this article if I can get them.

The world is full of natural wonders for us to observe if we will do two things. First, we have to get out into nature, or we will never discover anything for ourselves. Second, We might need to change our definition of natural wonders. They aren't always the big, flashy things like the Grand Canyon or giant dinosaur fossils. The most amazing experiences can be as simple as the cry of a loon at night.

The Call of the Loon

Snapper Hunter, Don't Miss This

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 09, 2020:

Bill, I should probably put the word fishing in quotes when describing my time on the water. Occasionally, I reel in my line, sit, and listen to nature's choir. The variety of sections is amazing. I hear amphibians, avians, insects, and mammals. The volume at times becomes deafening. So if we ever do go "fishing", be prepared for only a few fish, but some rich experiences.

Billybuc on August 08, 2020:

I've never seen a loon "in person." Heard them on tv, but I think it would be cool to be on a lake listening to them. In fact, it would be pretty cool to go fishing with you. I miss fishing. When Bev retires in two years, she and I are going to buy some fishing gear and make that a regular activity.

Stay safe and healthy, my friend!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 04, 2020:

Ann, Thank you for this beautiful response to my article. I am excited to hear about the birds you have attracted. My time off work has more than been paid off by the experiences I have had with the loons and the turtle. These are the unforgettable, irreplaceable moments in a person's life.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 04, 2020:

This is breathtakingly amazing. Those loons are wonderful. We don't have them in Britain but I wish we did. Your photography is excellent.

Being able to have nature to yourself like that is so rewarding, isn't it? I experienced that on a much smaller scale when Covid first struck and we elected to self-isolate for 12 weeks. Of course it was Spring and the wildlife was all around as usual - except that this time we heard more, saw more and seemed to be accepted more as the local birds came to our garden, took food and weren't bothered by our presence after a short while. They seem to know when there is no threat. We already have resident blackbirds and thrushes but this time there were goldfinches, woodpeckers, dunnocks and the inevitable sparrows and blue tits, among others.

Your writing evokes atmosphere, serenity and the interaction between human and nature at its best. I love the story of the turtle.

This was enjoyable, informative and a lesson to us all, Chris. Thank you.

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 03, 2020:

Shauna, I enjoy this very much. The bee hovering was the result of hours taking a couple of hundred shots. Finally, I was able to get one shot that worked. I am very pleased with that photograph. I'm glad you enjoyed the essay.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 03, 2020:

This is the perfect way to spend your time away from work, Chris. Your photography is beautiful. How did you happen to capture the bee hovering by the flower? That looks like something out of National Geographic magazine!

The loons are beautiful. They have a very haunting cry. When one cries to the other, I'm reminded of the music you'd hear in a Western just before a dual shoot-out.

I enjoyed this essay, Chris. I hope you post more like this.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 02, 2020:

Eric, you have a lot to be proud of. I'm glad you found this article worth hanging onto.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 02, 2020:

Peggy, I'm glad you enjoyed this article. I enjoy writing personal essays about nature.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 02, 2020:

Pamela, I'm glad you found the article unique and enjoyable. Nature is a great healer.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 02, 2020:

If I am not humbled by God's nature then I may never be proud of my nature.

Great work here friend one that will be carried by me.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 02, 2020:

Thanks for sharing your fantastic nature experiences with us while you were fishing. I almost felt as though I was there with you. Keep fishing and reeling in fantastic stories like this one.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 02, 2020:

I relly enjoyed reading how you were supplying fish to the loon family. I think it is very healthy to get out into nature, especially now during the Covid 19 time. This is a uniquely different, enjoyable article, Chris.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 02, 2020:

Priya Barua, Fishing...my way....requires a willingness to sit for hours with your mind wandering and contemplating whatever topic you consider to be worthy of your time. It is all about expectations. If you expect to catch a lot of fish, you will likely be frustrated. If you expect to ponder the questions of life, you might be totally satisfied.

Priya Barua on August 01, 2020:

I'm hardly the type to explore nature, preferring the bustling raucousness and pollution of cities (lol). Found your account interesting. Always thought that fishing is a task that requires a lot of patience.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 01, 2020:

Liz, thank you. It pleases me to know that my article took you to the lake so you could experience the things that I experienced.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 01, 2020:

You narrate a vivid account of the nature at the lake. Many people have got closer to nature and noticed more during the COVID period. But your article is the clearest picture I have experienced. The reader feels like they are with you at the lake.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 01, 2020:

Hi, John, It's nice to see you. My late wife was a science teacher. She specialized in finding the wonders of nature in the most inconspicuous places such as rocks. My father also influenced me. He enjoyed fishing as well. Thanks for visiting.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 01, 2020:

An enjoyable article, Chris. Even small interactions we have with nature are so incredible. Nothing beats sharing our world with the other creatures and interacting with them. I wish man would stop destroying their environment and displacing them. Loved the videos too.

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