A Great Place to Paddle
If you are looking for a nice, quiet paddle in southern Hamilton County, check out Mason Lake. Located along Rt. 30 near the southern end of Indian Lake, it's just south of Lewey Lake State Campground.
Wren and I pushed off onto its quiet waters on a recent evening and we looped the lake in search of birds and other wildlife. Black-throated Green and Yellow-rumped Warblers sang from the neighboring woods, joined by both Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos. Mason Lake is fringed on one side with marshy habitat. I pointed our bow into the snaking channel through the vegetation and we found many Red-winged Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and a few Common Yellowthroats in the process. We also found a mother American Black Duck with a string of six babies and they slipped into the weeds and out of view.
As the low shadows of evening lengthened, Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes began to sing from the woods surrounding the lake and I paused to listen to them on the tranquil waters. I soon also noticed three Common Loons fishing in the middle of the lake and we paddled towards them in an attempt to get some photos. The loons didn't pay us much mind but moved around in pursuit of the fish they were chasing, and so, we finally headed to the take-out – ensuring there was enough light to set up camp. A Merlin flew overhead calling as we reached the shore.
A Night in Camp
Mason Lake sits along Perkins Clearing Road and I had already checked a few of the campsites which dot the road so that I knew what was available once we were done paddling. We drove to one of the sites near the marshy end of the lake and set up camp in the twilight – Wren nosing around for signs of what wildlife species had passed through. It was dark by the time I had cooked my dinner and we ate a quiet meal while listening to Green and Mink Frogs call from the water. A coyote howled in the distance and Wren watched the darkness a bit nervously. "It's fine," I assured her, and I cleaned up and got us ready for bed – I sitting in the tent with my maps and notes to plan the following day.
The night was peaceful and we slept well after a long day in the field – waking to hear two Barred Owls at some dark hour. I never did check the time and rolled back over – I love listening to night sounds from my tent – but at that moment I was more interested in sleep! The following morning came early. Filled with bird song, I laid in my bed again identifying birds – knowing that I needed to get up and start the day but feeling too lazy to do so. Wren seemed happy for sleep as well.
Early Bird Alarms
But the birds were too loud and my mind was waking as I identified them in my sleepy state – Red-eyed Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Belted Kingfisher, American Redstart, Least Flycatcher. I finally got up and out of the tent with Wren close on my heels. We ate breakfast in the cool morning light and then set out for a walk along the road, adding more species as we went about our morning – Northern Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, and Eastern Wood-Pewee, among others.
After the walk we drove further up Perkins Clearing Road to places where there is early successional, edge habitat that can be good for species like Mourning Warbler. We didn't find any Mournings on this trip, but as we walked along stretches of the road we added species like Black-and-White Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, and Indigo Bunting to our day. We were starting to create a nice list of birds in a small area. I tried to get photos of the Black-and-White Warbler and the Indigo Bunting, but after largely missing in those attempts, we drove back to camp and began to take down. Wren explored while I packed up. We headed off on our day in the field – sure to return to camp there again.