BRENT PENNINGTON At the far north end of Bradys Lake, PA, the lake narrows as it turns to marshland, the channels often blocked by beaver dams such as these.  Afternoon of 22 May 2015.

As I was leaving Tobyhanna Lake I glanced at Google Maps on my phone and remembered that Bradys Lake was only about 10 miles away, and figured that the day was young, I was loving being on the water, so I might as well head over.

I’d only been to Bradys once before, the previous April.  It was an exploratory paddle before spring had really returned, and this rather large lake, which is tucked away three miles down a dirt road in the middle of the State Game Lands, was still rather barren.

BRENT PENNINGTON At the far north end of Bradys Lake, PA, the lake narrows as it turns to marshland, the channels often blocked by beaver dams such as these.  Afternoon of 22 May 2015.

Despite the birding bonanza at the beginning of my paddle, I’m really not a fan of Bradys Lake.  Which is a mellowed version of what I was saying when I was on the water, which was more like “I hate this place!”  The birding may have been great, but the lake itself is little unnerving, and despite my preference for paddling well away from other people, in this instance I was actually thrilled to see two other humans as I paddled back to the launch.

Bradys Lake is man-made and, unlike the other artificial lakes I frequent, it seems that Bradys lakebed wasn’t well cleared before it was flooded, if any clearing was done at all.  The water is wine-dark, a deep brown and in some places almost black, impenetrable to the eye even along the shore at any depth over two to three inches.  As a result, I find that while paddling my paddle often catches snags and stumps in the water – or the kayak even slides over or hangs on things – that I cannot see.

It’s a little creepy and, coupled with the remoteness of the lake in general, and the distance to its far northern end, I started to really wish someone was with me.  When I finally spotted two fishermen not far from the boat launch on my return leg it was a relief.

BRENT PENNINGTON Cedar Waxwing at Bradys Lake, PA, on the afternoon of 22 May 2015.

But back to the good stuff, I came across a flock of Cedar Waxwings within a few minutes of launching.  There were about five of them, sitting together in a tree in a secluded little bay, and I was able to fire off a few frames before the spooked.  Waxwings are, to me at least, more of a late-summer bird, so finding a flock at this time of year was a surprise, and I was a little off guard when I recognized them.

BRENT PENNINGTON Red-eyed Vireo at Bradys Lake, PA, on the afternoon of 22 May 2015.

Only a few minutes later, now along the shore opposite the boat launch, I came upon a batch of trees and brush that seemed to be literally filled with birds.  I first spotted a Red-eyed Vireo moving along one of the trees in a quick succession of hops, clearly seeking out insect snacks as he went.  A moment later a pair of Baltimore Orioles moved through, followed by a Gray Catbird and the Song Sparrow in the photo below.

BRENT PENNINGTON Song Sparrow at Bradys Lake, PA, on the afternoon of 22 May 2015.

Some time later I had a flyover from an adult Bald Eagle, and along the way I spooked a few Wood Ducks, those fascinating and lovely paddlers who never let me get within photo range.

BRENT PENNINGTON An adult Bald Eagle soars overhead at Bradys Lake, PA, on the afternoon of 22 May 2015.

Unfortunately, my sunny day was deteriorating rapidly as dense clouds marched in from the northwest.  I paddled on to the far northern end, where my progress up the inflow creek was blocked by a beaver dam.  I turned back, fearing rain and feeling a little too remote for my own comfort on that damned dark-water lake.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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