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A double-crested cormorant doing a Nessie imitation at Crab Orchard Lake.

Nessie lives!

Virtually everyone knows the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.

Nessie, as the monster is affectionately known, lives is Loch Ness, near Highland, Scotland.

In Scotland, a loch is defined as a lake or a bay or arm of the sea. Nessie’s presence has made Loch Ness the most famous of all lochs. For the record, the body of water covers 21 square miles and reaches a depth of 744 feet – plenty of room for a monster to live and roam.

Nessie was first “discovered” in 1933 when Alex Campbell, a part-time journalist, captured a photo of the monster. Since that time, a cottage industry has grown around proving, or disproving the existence of the Monster.

Most rational people, and I may be giving myself too much credit for including myself in this group, have scoffed at Nessie’s existence. In fact, I’ve never taken Nessie remotely seriously … until last week.

With a spare hour and a camera on my hands, I ventured out to Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge at midday.

As can be expected given the heat and time of day, there were few animals out and about.

There were few songbirds flitting about. No turkey feeding cautiously in the fields. Not even a deer was stirring.

Undeterred, and still unwilling to go to the office, I drove across the Wolf Creek Causeway.

The usual suspects were gathered.

Several swallows buzzed the surface of the water, grabbing a midday meal of insects. Ring-billed gulls gathered on one of the fishing piers. Red-winged blackbirds sat on thistle plants, squawking loudly, probably complaining about the heat.

And, in the shade of towering trees, great blue herons and great egrets fished in the shallows.

While it was gratifying to see life of any kind, there was nothing particularly photogenic … that is, until a double-crested cormorant poked its snake-like head through the surface of the water.

For the next several minutes the cormorant swam parallel to the roadway, diving for fish every 30 seconds or so.

Suddenly, I became obsessed with getting a photo of the cormorant at precisely the instant his bill penetrated the surface of the water. The shutter fluttered quickly as the camera documented a half-dozen dives.

Since it never surfaced with a fish, the cormorant grew tired of this exercise and flew away. And, frankly, I’d had enough myself.

Later, while studying the camera I was disappointed to discover none of the photographs captured the image I desired — not even remotely.

Yet, upon closer inspection, there was a startling discovery.

Nothing in the legend indicates the Loch Ness Monster can fly, yet somehow Nessie appeared at Crab Orchard Lake.

I have the photo to prove it.

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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