Headed out to Thetis Lake in the (fairly) early morning for my first West Coast paddle in a month. Not as early as I have been, but I was still on the water by 8 am. This wasn't one of the days when the Kestrel's prow was the first force to break the water; there was the beginning of a little breeze. The sand on the beach was already churned up by multiple paw prints, and an aroma rose up from the pines on the beach, that, had I been a dog, would have been just like reading the gossip column. Or maybe Twitter.
Several swimmers were already plying the lanes in the Lower Lake as I came out of the side arm, and turned left towards the channel into the Upper lake. Progress promptly slowed as I paddled under the footbridge and discovered that being later meant that the water lilies were out.
In amongst the lilies, I saw fluttering on the water - a butterfly or moth on its side (the wiry antennae and angled wings suggests moth, according to the Audobon Field Guide to the Pacific North West). One wing was held fast by surface tension, the other flapping. Before I'd slipped a helpful paddle underneath it, its fluttering had brought it up against a leaf, and it clambered up and righted itself. The leaf was small, so having quartered it, the moth stepped off it, skittered a few steps on the water, and then toppled on its side. More fluttering brought it up against another leaf, where it climbed aboard, stepped off and fell over once more. Eventually it seemed to figure out the difference between leaf and water, or decide it needed to dry out, and I took a couple of photographs of it on its leaf. I can't see a match in the field guide for the colour and those wings, though muttering - as they drummed into us in med school - "common things are common". The top hit on Google for a simple search on "butterflies 'Vancouver Island'"is a website by Jeremy B. Tatum on Butterflies and Moths of Southern Vancouver Island. Flipping through that turned up Hemithea aestivaria (Common Emerald), a European import, though it's supposed to be seen in June.
When I eased myself away, I caught a glimpse of a point of white, which proved to be an orange and black butterfly (resting with wings spread) further on in the lily-field. I didn't get close enough for either a photo or a real appreciation , other than the strong impression of white bands, before a gust of wind launched it - which is probably just as well given the time I've spent trying to identify the first. Swallowtail or monarch is my first ignorant guess. And as I pulled in at the end of my paddle, something yellow and black (as stained glass is yellow and black) flitted past my head and into the trees.
Up to the top of the Upper Lake, where a tumble of roly-poly dogs were spilling on and off the trail into the water. Decided I'd rather not have one or more decide my kayak was the biggest damn stick they'd ever seen, and kept clear of the edge. Back along the north side of the lake. One kingfisher, seen from afar by the white flash of its wing, on one of the islets. It showed me its profile, and its blue wing, and then dive/skipped into the lake before flying off to the far side. In a spruce, the white flash winked at me. I never saw it again. Passed carefully through the waterlilies around the islet at the south-west of the lake - there's a sunken log that near-holed my kayak (or so it felt like), last time I was there. Didn't see it for paddling straight into the glitter of the sun in the water. Spotted one of the many, many little frogs that live amongst the lily pads, a dark green nub on a pad that was there only long enough for me to think 'there's one' before it vanished with a plip and some rocking lily leaves. Lots of unseen plips and rocking lily leaves.
Down into the southern arm of the Upper lake, my favourite part: many lilies, including an intriguing pink lily that I spent some time maneouvering around trying to get the exact effect I wanted, with the sun shining through the petals and giving a hard metallic sheen to the pads. The dark water, reflection of the trees behind, and the sharp reflections of the petals were bonuses. Lots of waiting for the wind to catch, giving up waiting, paddling into position, and then having the breeze pounce on me. Tethered the camera to the paddle lanyard to give me reach, and a chance of retrieving it if it fell overboard.
At the south end of the arm, there's a fallen tree whose remaining branches make distinctive reflections in the water. Today, there wasn't the perfect glassy symmetry of completely still water.
En route back, I encountered four different sets of kayakers, a family with little boy zipping around in stubby Necky, and a man and woman in inflatables, she photographing waterlilies. I was studying lilies by light and shadow in the mouth of the channel when there was a chop-chop, and a tight quartet of wet-suited swimmers emerged from under the bridge followed by a stern young man in a red kayak. On the other side of the bridge were more swimmers and two more kayakers, and in the arm up to the beach, two women in identical yellow fiberglass boats. On the beach, four more kayakers were setting up - there was an Ocean River van in the parking lot. So I went off to a little bay in the side and entertained myself trying to get a decent, close, non-blurred photograph of a dragonfly. I'd just given up in resignation and closed down the camera when I turned my head to the side I had not been watching and beheld the one hovering within touching distance. Of course it didn't let me get the camera up and focussed. But the confirmation that they would come close and they would hover made me persist. I won't say how many 'see that blur there' shots I went through to get one where the colour of the bug was half way recognizable.
With the last set of kayakers launched, and before the dogs could spread out to cover the entire beach, I headed for the sand. On-load was large-dog-free, to my relief. "He's very friendly," carol the owners, but when I'm hoisting 40 lbs of kayak overhead, it makes no difference to my unease whether it's 30 lb of friendliness or 30 lb of hostility that's charging at me! There seemed to be a certain similarity to the exchanges between dog-people meeting each other and kayak-people meeting each other: "What kind is yours?" "How old is it/how long have you had it?"