Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Button Bay State Park

I took this past Monday off from work and J and I set out to have another interesting biology/geology adventure. Button Bay's name comes from the button-like clay concretions lining shore of Lake Champlain. Apparently, there are also plenty of fossils of Ordovician age located on Button Point . I say "apparently" because we didn't really take the time to look. I regret this...but it was at the expense of oohing and aaahing over snakes, osprey, turtles and herons, so I don't feel terribly guilty about it.

We got to the park around 10:00 am and rented two kayaks for a four-hour time slot. It was supposed to rain around 4:00, so we had just enough time to take the boats out and get them back before the rain started. We started out at the boat launch, which is really just a rocky slope complete with rotting snakes and algae. At the launch, a Northern Water Snake was resting out on the rocks in the sun. We successfully avoided him and managed to get the kayaks into the water without getting soaked.

J in front of Ship Island (Button Point to the right).

Unfortunately, the first half of our kayaking expedition was done without cameras in hand. Neither of us were sure about kayaking on Lake Champlain, which is often quite wavy. We didn't want to risk getting our cameras wet.

After getting our sea legs, we kayaked out to Ship Island, which was only a few strokes away from the shore. I'm pretty sure we could have just as easily walked to the island; the water was incredibly clear and shallow.

We didn't get out of the kayaks at Ship Island, mostly because the island's flora was incredibly dense. Only a small rocky beach seemed fit for exploration and J and I were much more interested in the snakes swimming just off-shore. We managed to corner a Norther Water Snake between our kayaks to get a closer look.

Northern Water Snake caught in the middle of a meal .

After exploring Ship Island, we paddled over to Button Island, which was home to lots of geese, gulls and bees. We left our kayaks on the eastern side of the island and walked along the shore of the island to the southernmost tip, where we were forced to move toward the center. We walked the center of the island back up to the north point. At the northern point of the island, gulls and terns were resting on a rocky outcrop. We had to dodge goose crap and bees to get to the outcrop, but it was worth it. We came upon what must have been a goose nesting site. In the water, I saw an unhatched, unbroken goose egg and decided I had to figure out what was inside. So, we got back in the kayaks and paddled around to the outcrop. On the way out, we somehow got within six or seven feet of a huge Canada Goose without noticing. I finally found the egg and tried to get it out of the water without using my hands, but my kayak paddle wasn't cutting it. So, instead of handling a rotting egg manually, I decided to break it open underwater (it was actually already cracked). The egg must've fallen in the water early on in the hatching process because a perfect yolk came out.

After the egg excitement, we decided to paddle back toward the mainland shore. Just as we were approaching the tip of Button Point, two dime-sized fuzzy spiders decided to have a brawl on the rim of the cockpit of my kayak. Now, I am pretty freaked out by spiders as it is, so to have two of them get all agro just inches from my legs was terrifying. I begged J to get them off of my boat, all the while not letting him near me until I had landed the kayak and gotten out of the way. The spider incident was distracting enough so that I missed the fossils that were apparently just under my feet.

So we got back in our kayaks and headed north along the western side of Button Point. The beach-like shoreline disappeared and instead, walls of what I think was limestone rose from the water. We paddled lazily and munched on some walnuts and bread and finally came to a nice little inlet that promised to have interesting wildlife; it was shallow, had lots of trees growing in the water and was lined by tall pines. No sooner had we gotten into the inlet when a freakin' huge Osprey launched itself from a pine tree, clutching a small rodent or fish in his talons. He was AMAZING! We just sorta stared at him with our mouths gaping open and made sounds like "uuuunnnnghhhh" and "oooooohhhhhhhh."

The Osprey flew back in the direction we'd just come from so we turned around and headed back in hopes of catching another glimpse. And we did! He was perched in a dead pine tree, picking at his catch.

One of the many Painted Turtles we saw.

Since we'd left our electronic devices in the car, we didn't know what time it was (the sun wasn't a good indicator, since we didn't know what direction we were facing) and we decided to head back towards the boat launch. On the way, we passed almost 20 turtles, all resting along the same stretch of beach. They were definitely Painted Turtles, though at one point I thought I saw a snapper. Some were the size of flattened basketballs and others more baseball-sized. When we floated by, then slipped into the water and minutes later, we were surrounded by little triangular turtle heads, poking just above the surface of the lake. We also scared a heron and some ducks on our way back in and J commented on just how clumsy the ducks looked as they tried to take off from the water. I noticed that they pushed off with their feet several times during takeoff.

J watching a heron fly away (just up and to the left of his head).
If you click on the picture, you can look at it in more detail. Notice
the turtle peeking out of the water just below the tail end of J's kayak.

When we got to the car, we realized we still had two hours of kayaking left, so we grabbed our cameras and went out again, in hopes of recreating our initial journey. But we didn't go out without donning more sun screen. By 2:30, we were being eaten alive by black flies, were completely exhausted and were alarmingly sunburned. So, we turned in our oars and headed home.

I got the world's most ridiculous sunburn, which caused me to have an upset stomach and slight chills. Still, I had an amazing day (and an amazing night's sleep!).

1 comment:

Zach said...

Holy crap, that's awesome! I wish I had a kayak...there are plenty of lakes and streams 'round these parts that are just begging to be boated in. No turtles or snakes though. :-( Just one species of frog that's hard to find.