Scott Rykken was at his lakeside cabin in Douglas County Sunday when he noticed something peculiar.
It wasn't just the nesting common loon that had stationed itself on a platform built by neighbors a few years ago. It was the small turtle with big sunning dreams, attempting to amble its way up the body of the bird, which remained calm the entire time.
"Never have we seen a turtle even attempt to climb on the loon," Rykken told Bring Me The News.
After a few failed attempts (in which the turtle slid off), the curious reptile managed to position itself right on the loon's back, where it could best enjoy the sun. All while a muskrat - new to this spot on the lake this spring - lounged nearby.
Rykken, a retired science teacher who takes landscape and wildlife photography, managed to capture the stunning moment in an image. Rykken shared the image on Facebook, including to a birding photography group. Within 24 hours it had more than 2,200 shares, with commenters lauding the shot.
"I have never seen one like it," Walter Piper, a scientist with the National Loon Center, told Bring Me The News about the shot.
Piper said that while loons coexist well with both muskrats and turtles, the species "simply do not interact very much." But because loons are "not easily pushed off their nests," he said it's not too surprising a turtle "might creep onto a loon's back and a muskrat might rest on the platform without alarming – or displacing - the loon incubating eggs there!"
Rykken said the loon "never showed any signs of being angered in any way. She even put her wing up once to help the turtle from sliding once it got on top."
The turtle was on the loon for about 10 minutes before sliding off again, he said. He's selling prints of the photo (and others he has taken) on his website.
Said Piper: "That is quite an extraordinary scene."