Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prisque Bay Calling #2

Just south of our island encampment on Prisque Bay lie two tiny islets, oddly named Head Island and Inside Head Island. Opposite them, on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, lies another speck on the marine chart, the unnavigable (except by paddlecraft) Mud Channel.

At the mouth of this narrow canal, which felt utterly untouched by humans, we spotted this lone heron. Curious to watch this relatively common, yet still mysterious, bird in action, we silently glided closer.

Herons generally like to feed on small fish. And their long legs, which undoubtedly look like plant stalks to their unsuspecting prey in the shallow water below, are ideally suited to this. We watched for several minutes as the bird took steps so gentle they produced not a ripple on the murky water's surface. During that time, several small fish met their untimely ends. Then the real drama began:

Suddenly, the hunter grew very still as something stirred in the water next to its leg. Patiently, it waited, and then it struck, and when its long bill emerged from the water it contained a writhing baby snake. For several minutes, a long struggle went on, as the reptile tried, in vain, to free itself by wrapping itself around the heron's bill, at points nearly hitting the giant bird's eyes with its tail.

To no avail. Eventually, the snake succumbed, and was instantly devoured.

Exhausted ourselves after watching such a struggle, we, too, returned to camp for a long, lovely afternoon of staring at the water and doing nothing. Then, after another comatose night in the tent, we set off for the four-hour paddle home, which we leisurely broke into two days by stopping at our usual waypoint, Gereaux Island. On the way, we lunched on one of the "30,000 islands" that dot the shore along the way. This one was just big enough for two people and two boats. I had to back up right to the water's edge to get this shot.

The last day returned us to Britt, and our waiting car. This was very likely the last time we'll get to this unique corner of Georgian Bay this summer. There will be other, smaller trips, no doubt, but there was certainly a lingering feeling that something had ended during the long drive home.

Still, we will carry the haunting beauty and utter silence of Prisque Bay with us through the long winter to come.

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