Juvie Bald Eagle

We’re getting into the single digits here on Long Lake. And I headed into last summer’s photos to bump up the lake and tone down the knitting for this post.

This summer we saw this juvenile bald eagle a number of times and Steve got some great shots.

We are confident it’s a young bald eagle, but please let me know if you think our ID is off. Here’s another view of his (or her) not-so-national-symbol-looking self.

Bald Eagles take a long time to put their majestic on full display. Between the ages of one and four years they look so little like their parents that they’re sometimes mistaken for Golden Eagles. Their flight feathers and tail feathers are longer than their parents’ and that can make them look even larger than mom or pop.

Juveniles, also called subadults, typically have dark feathers, a dark to dirty yellow bill, with gray to slightly yellow eyes. When a bird is sexually mature, its distinctive bright yellow bill, white head, and yellow eyes appear.

We hope that this young one will make a permanent home on Long Lake.

It’s fall now

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Pulling in the docks. Pulling out the boats. Getting the house ready for winter. Laying in a supply of wood for the fireplace. Steve caught this water fowl in a pose that all the Long Lakers can relate to. Where did this summer go anyway? Wasn’t it just the 4th of July?

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But there’s no mistaking it. It’s late fall and pretty soon we’ll be seeing Long Lake iced over. For now, we enjoy the morning mist over the lake and the spicy colors of our hardwoods.

We found this tiny snapper in our lawn a few weeks ago.

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Steve picked him up from the lawn and set him near the water’s edge. He watched him slip into the lake. A baby ancient.

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We hope he makes it.

And the fishing continues. At least for the diehards, like Jeff.

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Long Lake Great Blue Herons

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This is one of Long Lake’s Great Blue Herons, probably bedding down for the night, since Great Blues do tend to sleep in trees. Down south, where our herons migrate to, this makes good sense because that way they won’t be some alligator’s evening meal.

This heron’s bed is the dead pine on the west shore of the lower lake, in the first bay south of the narrows.

If you watch the shore closely, in our lake’s most secluded spots, you will sometimes see the herons stealthily hunting. They walk, slowly, watching for fish that swim by, or frogs or small snakes. They hunt by sight, including in dim light thanks to having an extra dollop of rods in the back of their eyes. They don’t hunt by smell at all. In fact they have a very weak sense of smell–which is probably a good thing, considering the somewhat smelly stuff they eat. Fish are heron’s main food. They stab them with their sharp beaks. Then they have to make sure to swallow them head first, so that the scales and fins don’t get stuck in that long esophagus.

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This Great Blue looked a bit worse for wear when we spotted it a few weeks ago. We suspect that he (or she) was in mid-molt, but we’re not sure. Speaking of not sure, he and she herons look alike and are sized alike. Herons can sort it all out. But for human observers, that’s basically impossible.

We also wondered if this individual was a juvenile. If so, it was already full size. And, speaking of size, these guys are big. They have a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.5 feet.

Here’s a look at a heron wading in the shallows in front of our cottage, looking for breakfast.

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Great Blues are shy birds, easily spooked. This next one flew off and gave us a good look at the deeply bent wings in flight and those trailing legs.

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Thirsty fawn

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“Mom, I know it’s kind of early for us to be drinking. But I’m parched. If I don’t get something to drink right now, I’m going to faint.”

“You drink, I’ll watch. Drink quickly, little fawn. I don’t like the looks of that guy in the pontoon boat. He’s aiming something at us.”

“Mom, no, I’m not done yet. My mouth is still as dry as a mouthful of sand. The world is terribly hot.”

“When they aim, we run.”

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This pair was drinking in the late afternoon, on the east side of the last bay in the south lake just before the narrows. The doe seemed very aware of us, even though we were far off.

What’s up on Long Lake

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We aren’t going to have any loon chicks this year on the lake. But we have loons-in-residence and from time to time we’re the party lake this summer. Loons occasionally gather in social groups. We hear them flying in, sounding their loony-tunes flight calls. We see them doing their skittering chasing about.

The underside of a loon is always a surprise. Even when you know their beautiful plumage is topside only, that white underbelly still seems sort of unfinished. Like the black magic marker ran out of ink.

See how the loon has its feet crossed in flight, as if at the ankle?  I’m thinking that must help it to deal efficiently with wind resistance. If loons did all that foot waggling and scratching in the air that they do in the water, they’d probably fall like a rock.

Here’s a beauty of a definitely different sort.

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The Turkey Vulture. We see them circling in kettles that can number a few dozen individuals. But they don’t always travel in packs. This guy was a loner. Its fanned-out wing tips are a dead giveaway. Also, if you see a bird swooping down to something dead and smelly that’s pretty much a giveaway too. Oh yes, there’s that red head, all nicely defeathered so the bird can pick at carcasses and not have to do much grooming. There’s no mistaking that red head.

This fellow, cruising high over Long Lake, is a Great Blue Heron.

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Great Blues fly with deep, strong beats of their very wide wings. But from ground level, it’s the long trailing legs that tell you best what’s up . When Great Blues fly, they pretty much fold their necks into sort of an “s” shape. So, look for long legs, long beak, but you won’t really see a long neck. And if you’re suddenly being reminded that all birds are descendants of dinosaurs, you’re probably looking at a Great Blue Heron. These guys may set you to wondering if the dinosaurs are still extinct.

Here’s one everyone knows, the Bald Eagle.

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If Bald Eagles are flying high, they are more likely to be gliding than riding a thermal up in a spiral as a vulture does. On Long Lake the eagles often fly low over the tree lines. Their wing tips fan out, but not so exaggeratedly as a vulture’s. And unless the bird is very high or very backlit, the white head and yellow beak is the giveaway.