Late October waterfowl

These female Mallards moved off from a group of about 50 female Mallards that have been sunning themselves on the skinny beach near the cut-through at the island in the lower lake. The big group is making a bit of Long Lake history. A group like this hasn’t been seen at least in the dozen years we’ve been on the lake. The group sits, splashes about, dabbles around, and just generally does all things duck all day long. Very weird. It seems like they should have someplace to go by now.

These three seemed to be practicing their yoga asanas. When the females are in the water that cobalt blue patch isn’t seen. Nice of this individual to stretch enough to give us a good view.

Mallards are very vocal ducks, especially the females. In fact, they are one of very few ducks that actually quack.

The adult Loons left the lake in September, early September we believe. And we’ve decided not to worry, but there seems to be only one adolescent loon left on the lake. The sibs hung out together, for the most part, in the first weeks after mom and pop flew south. But now we see only one. One of the chicks was a bit smaller and we’re hopeful this one is just playing it smart, bulking up for the long flight south.

On October 14th, this adolescent approached our kayaks within about 15 feet. Steve took his photo. We paddled into Ghost Bay and this guy paddled in too, calmly floating near us, diving, and then resurfacing close by. We’ve not heard any vocalization. I guess when there’s no one to talk to, a loon just keeps their own counsel.

We will worry if this guy isn’t headed south in the next 2-3 weeks.

Common Mergansers are back on the lake. As with the Mallards, we are seeing only females. We’ve been seeing them in small groups swimming in the shallows. They dive and come up with mostly major sloppy stuff spilling out of their bills. Or they come up empty. For no reason we can discern, they are prone to episodes of water scooting.They flap their wings, flap their feet, rise up just a few inches off the water, and scoot ten or fifteen feet. They are the slapstick comedians of the waterfowl world.

This trio of females was a real surprise. They are Surf Scoters. They aren’t rare. But we’ve never seen them on Long Lake. From a distance, we thought they were American Black Ducks. But then those two white patches on the sides of their heads caught our attention. And then we noticed their spectacular large bills. A Surf Scoter’s scientific name is Melanitta Perspicullata, which basically means Black (duck) Spectacular. Someday I hope to meet a male Surf Scoter. His bill is even more bulbous than the female’s. And, instead of dull gray, his bill is white, yellow, and red, set off by a white forehead outlined in black. Now that’s spectacular!

Stay Put

This is the Staying Put Wrap, an Erica Kempf Broughton pattern available on Ravelry. It first caught my eye because, well, because it did. I thought it was pretty and I liked the idea of a small shawl that would stay put. It didn’t hurt that the color-changing yarn called for by the pattern is Noro Taiyo, an Aran weight. I’d had one skein of this in my stash for a few years and hadn’t found the right pattern for it. It was a single skein relegated to the sale bin. It sort of followed me home.

And the other yarn needed to be a worsted. But which worsted and what color was a difficult choice. I chose an old stand-by: Plymouth Yarns Worsted Merino Superwash Solid. And, as you see, I decided to tone this down a bit so I used an off white. I am very satisfied with the way the yarns played together.

Here’s a look at how nicely this wrap sits on shoulders.

You may notice, from comparing the size of the wrap to the size of the hanger, that this is quite a petite wrap. That’s OK. I am 5 foot 3. I used to be 5 foot 4, but that’s another story. It’s pretty. And it definitely stays on the shoulders. This shape is the reason for its good behavior:

Pretty cool, actually. Pretty thing. And it was also a fun, quick knit.

Birds of a feather flock together…and not

Gulls know how to do the flock thing for sure. Pity the next human visitors to that raft. Hopefully they came with a mop. It does make you wonder though. It’s not like someone spread a breakfast of bagel bits on the raft and hollered “come and get it.”

You hear that distinctive wail of the loon and you never figure they’d gang up or have a party. But they do. And here on Long Lake.

Then there are the true loners, like this Great Blue Heron walking slowly through the shallows looking for tasty morsels.

Apparently if the vantage point isn’t quite right, they’ll try for a better view, though.

The Eastern Kingbird is often seen hunting solo for insects. But they work in pairs to feed their young.

Kingbirds don’t look particularly menacing. But if you come near their nest before the chicks fledge, look out. How do I know? They nested again this year in the cupholder on our dock bench.

They sort of fake you out because they tolerate your presence while they sit on the eggs. But once the eggs hatch, look out. Once the eggs hatch and you’re just minding your own business quietly trying to unmoor or moor your pontoon boat’s dock lines these birds are fierce. And they don’t just fly around above and squawk menacingly. They dive bomb right at your head and aren’t satisfied until they’ve actually hit it. I thought for awhile if you didn’t talk and if you didn’t look in their direction, they’d leave me alone. They proved me wrong on both strategies. We surrendered our dock bench to them for the duration. But we weren’t willing to surrender our boat rides and so we paid the price. No injuries though. Not to us and not to the Kingbirds.

We see Flickers alone or in pairs, often pecking around in the dirt looking for bugs and other protein.

This guy was just resting a bit, near as we could tell.

There are some birds that all Long Lakers can identify at a glance, like this Gull giving a Bald Eagle a hard time.

The Gull knew a threat, to young we assume, and went after the Eagle. There were some interesting aerobatics. At one point the Gull bounced off the Eagle, doing no apparent damage to either.

Cormorants seem to be more frequent visitors to Long Lake. We may even have a few permanent resident Cormorants this year.

Long Lakers aren’t freaking out though. Sure, Cormorants fish almost as effectively as Jeff does. But we don’t get much by way of walleye stocking these days. And besides a few Cormorants just do their bit to increase our lake’s biodiversity.

Speaking of biodiversity, please leave a comment if you recognize who this pair is. We spotted them in Ghost Bay on August 18th.

I thought they were adolescent mallards. We did have a brood of mallard chicks this year. But these upper bills have an overlapping point at the end, more like a merganser and unlike a mallard. If they are mergansers, maybe in their eclipse plumage, they must have forgotten to check the calendar. Plus they must have lost their GPS because we should be seeing Common Mergansers only briefly in the early spring or late fall. Please leave a comment if you recognize this pair.

We’re getting into the migration season again on the lake. It’s such a fun season and we’re fortunate that so many species decide to land and spend time on our lake. Actually, though, I must betray my biologically incorrect bias and confess that if the Canada Geese would just keep flying I’d be fine with that.

Imagine Knit

Sometimes yarn surprises. At least I think so. The pattern I knit this up in is Michele, by Sarah Punderson. Free on Ravelry. Looking at the pattern photos, you see a dignified, low key, beautiful DK weight slouchy hat.

A guildmate of mine mentioned that when she saw my yarn choice for our knit-a-long, she thought I must have screws loose. Well, no. She was actually very polite about it and said something like that she’d plan to watch with interest. And, no doubt, much skepticism.

But this is one great hat. Really. It is. I’m tooting my own horn, I know, but this hat makes such a lively statement that its wearer and everyone around will put on their happy face. And how can you not love that bulls-eye crown decrease?

I know. Not everyone’s cup of tea. Our yarns start out life in our stashes like this.

And then they turn into this.

This Mountain Colors Twizzle in the Mardi Gras colorway turned into a great Rikke Hat. Rikke, designed by Sarah Young, has been knit and posted on Ravelry about 9500 times since it debuted in 2010. These yarns will pool, but tamed by the garter stitch, they work out really well. I especially like how the brim pooled differently from the body of the hat.

Sometimes you start out thinking that your wonderful skein of fingering weight Jilly, by Dream in Color, will turn out to be a shawl. And it would have made a really nice one.

But, instead, you find Martina Behm’s great one-line free pattern, Wolkig, and then your Jilly turns into something else entirely. A little silly rather than classy. Behm’s sample is a lovely pale gray. Really beautiful. But I like my version. Glass heads thinks it’s the cat’s meow.

Here’s a closer look. This pattern is worth downloading just for the fun of figuring out how the heck one round, repeated over and over, turns out like this.

I even like my Wolkig, flipped inside out.

Wolkig. It means “cloudy” in German. That is a perfect name for Behm’s gray version. Mine? I might call it something more like “cloudy with a chance of meatballs.”

Long Lake double rainbow

Isn’t that something! Actually somethings. A double rainbow. The day was sunny. There was a cloudburst. Out came the sun again. And rainbows appeared.

The bright rainbow is a primary rainbow. In a primary rainbow, the arc shows red on the outer part and violet on the inner part. From what I’ve been reading, a primary rainbow appears when light is refracted as it enters a water droplet and then it’s reflected (somehow) on the back of the droplet and gets refracted again as it leaves the droplet. Light. Such a trickster.

In a double rainbow, a second arc, the one higher in the sky, has the order of its colors reversed, with red on the inner side of the arc. This is light playing with a water droplet again. Somehow the light is reflected twice on the inside of the droplet before it exits. Light. Such a show-off.

Here’s another slice of rainbow on the same afternoon.