You never know what you're going to see when you spend a few minutes outdoors in North Dakota. No matter how many times I tell myself that before venturing out, the most memorable moments still seem to arrive unexpectedly. Let me share a few memorable moments with you that occurred during my visit to Harmony Lake this past week.
A little background here I've had Harmony Lake on my list of places to visit and write about for far too many months. From what I'd heard, Harmony Lake was a pretty neat place. I knew it wasn't a particularly big lake, but the story behind it is plenty big. Those details can be found in this week's outdoors feature.
When I arrived at the turn to Harmony Lake I noticed a painted turtle sunning atop some bent over cattails in a small wetland. Between the turtle and me was a duck brood with their heads tucked under their wings. None were disturbed by my presence. I couldn't help but think there might really be something to this "harmony" thing. When a great blue heron encountered a few yards farther down the road accepted my presence, it only reinforced these thoughts.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN - - A mink peers over the edge of a fishing pier. It certainly is not the friendliest pose, but it suggests the mink was not too concerned about the photographer.
I parked my vehicle near the lake's boat ramp, breathed in the fresh air and began walking the shoreline. A brood of Canada geese sitting on the shore quietly slipped into the water, but not until I was within a few steps of them. I actually felt a little guilty disturbing them.
While I was looking at the scraggly and still emerging cheek patches of the young Canadas on the water some movement to my right caught my eye. It was a hen mallard leading a very large brood into the water. I'd walked right past them without noticing. They must have ducked low in the grass along the lakeshore upon my approach. The calmness of the wildlife made me think that they'd either never seen a person before or that they were purposely demonstrating the real meaning of "harmony."
After pondering those thoughts I cautiously walked up the ramp leading to the fishing pier. I was being particularly quiet and watching my shadow carefully. I was hoping to get a glimpse of any fish, big or small, that might be visible from the pier. I spotted a few minnows, took a few photographs of the area and then turned off my camera and secured the lens cap in place.
As I often do when the opportunity presents itself, I paused a few minutes to listen to the quiet. With the exception of the amicable wildlife, no one else was in the area. Sometimes silence really is golden.
The perfect quiet was broken by a slight swishing sound in the water below the pier. I thought it was perhaps a small bass working to swim out of shallow water and reeds. As I leaned forward slowly to see over the edge a long, furry critter climbed over my left shoe, brushed my leg and walked onto the pier.
You'd think such a surprise would be startling, but I guess the whole "harmony" thing had taken effect. I didn't flinch other than to turn to see what had just stepped on me. It was a mink. It was only two feet away, sitting up and staring right at me. Apparently satisfied that we were going to get along just fine, the mink walked from one side of the pier to the other, stopping to look carefully over the edge. I guess he was looking for minnows too.
While the mink was peering over the edge of the pier, I managed to turn my camera on and get the lens cap off without bringing any undue attention to myself. The mink continued checking several points off the edge of the pier and then walked right back past my feet and slipped back into the water very near from where he had emerged.
I looked over the edge and there was the mink, partially submerged among the cattail reeds but looking right back at me. After a minute or so of direct eye contact, the mink moved deeper into the cattails, creating the light swishing sound I'd heard earlier.
As I walked back to my vehicle I stopped and turned around, wanting to say something nice while parting, but realized that all that needed to be understood had already been communicated.
Harmony can be a very good thing.