Long Lake: bird’s eye view

Is there any wonder what the loons see in Long Lake? Here’s the view from 200 feet up near our house. August 7, 2017. This is the north section of the lake. That’s Belly Button Island looking like it’s just a tad away from “our” bay. And if your eyes look beyond the island, and turn left, you’d be in Ghost Bay.

Loons are very bad at landings. And they are even worse taker-offers. They beat their wings like crazy, hitting the water, and almost seem to be walking on those long feet of theirs on lift off. And landings aren’t graceful either. They end up skidding to a halt. So a long lake is perfect for the loons. Our lake also has two islands, which is ideal because loons prefer to nest on islands.

Here’s this year’s twins at three weeks.

And here they are just one week later. They still look a bit unpromising. But looks deceive. These guys are already diving for their own food and staying under water for longer and longer lengths of time.

The parents have obviously been feeding them well. Hopefully the twins will be strong and flying well by late October so they can make their flight south.

Loon News

When the loons arrived on the lake, they weren’t all seeing eye to eye. It was sometimes more like beak to beak. There just seemed to be a little more tussling than usual this Spring. Plus there was lot of that scooting-around thing they do.

We’ve had loon chicks hatch as early as mid-June. In fact, back several years ago they hatched on Father’s Day, which always seemed sort of a nice coincidence. After all, loon dads do their sitting time on the nest, just like loon moms. And when the chicks are born, both parents work hard to feed the young ones.

We were concerned when we realized that there were no nests on Belly Button Island–the big island in the north part of the lake. Not to worry. One pair set up their nest on the west side of the small island just across from the public launch. And apparently the other pair just stood guard over the five loon nesting buoys at the big island, sort of faking everybody out.

The small island, especially on the west side, is a calm spot on the lake. So, good choice loon. Oh, except we’ve also seen a big snapping turtle laying eggs on the island and worried she’d decide to go after the eggs on one of the rare occasions when the nest was bare. Then, with just those few feet of water between the island and the land, the risk of raccoons, skunks, mink, otters, and fox getting the eggs seems high. In fact, just about everything walking or flying will raid loon nests sometimes, including gulls, ravens, crows, and there’s even some reports of Bald Eagles chowing down. Very worrisome.

But this pair was vigilant.

And, we are pretty sure that it was sometime on July 3rd that the chicks hatched and headed out on the water. Well, first on a parent’s back.

That red-eyed parental stare cuts right to the chase: “These twins can’t dive yet. Do not run them over. If you run them over I know where you live and we’ll be at the end of your dock yodeling all night while your trying to watch Game of Thrones.”

We didn’t applaud their timing. The lake is so busy over Independence Day. But, babies are born when they’re born.

Here’s another first-day photo.

Happily, the twins made it through their first challenging days. Here they are two days later, on July 5th, already looking like their parents are good providers.

By July 8th, the parents were leaving the chicks bobbing around while they both dove for food.

We can’t protect the twins from the big snappers, or the bald eagles or the giant pike or the rest of the hungry things.  But we can be sure they don’t get whacked by a tuber or run over by a PWC. So, let’s all look out for the little fuzzballs! Hopefully, come October, we’ll find out they’ve gotten a good start on Long Lake and are headed south for the winter.

Dragonfly Moult

This dragonfly just crawled out of its nymph carcass. It chose the webbed strap of our colorful kayak cart to finish its moult and then dry off its wings in the sun.

In its nymph stage, just like in its adult dragonfly stage, these guys (or are they one guy) are fearsome predators. Google “dragonfly nymph feeding” and you can watch many YouTube videos that are a way too gruesome for my little blog. I don’t think anyone comes here to watch worms, tadpoles, and feeder fish be chomped and gobbled up by something that looks like it inspired Ridley Scott’s Alien.

With its moult complete, this dragonfly will eat just about every bug it can get its mouth near. It catches bugs like mosquitos, flies, mayflies by using its legs as a basket to dump food into its mouth. Dragonflies basically eat constantly, And they are among the most efficient predators on the planet. Some estimates saying they capture 95% of the prey they set their eyes on. One look at that mask of theirs (the large hinged lower lip) lets you know these guys mean business.

Oh, dragonflies don’t bite people unless you really really provoke them, say by holding them when they want to fly away. They seem to be drawn to colorful clothing. If one lands on you, just sit quietly and enjoy it.

If you watch birds, you are birding. If you watch odonata (the Latin name for the dragonfly species) you are oding. We enjoyed this weekend’s oding. Dragonflies are buzzing around Long Lake in great numbers right now.

Lookin’ lively

We’ve been seeing Bald Eagles regularly on the lake already this year. This one had been fishing. More likely scrounging.

A tasty morsel, for sure.

And there have been turkeys aplenty this year too. This tom was looking for a date and putting on quite a display.

Even though Bald Eagles may have untidy table manners, I am grateful that Ben Franklin didn’t win the argument about which bird should be our national symbol. Turkeys may be smarter in the bird IQ department. But there’s something about that head and beard that just don’t cut it for me.

A big snapper has been sunning on the small island just across from the public access dock in the lower lake.

If your small boat can make it through the narrow cut-through, watch for the trail of tamped down grass. Snapping turtles and turkeys. Two critters that remind that life is long on this planet earth.

Spring on Long Lake

This was the evening of April 29th. As the sun sunk low, the sky above the tree line was a faint yellowy orange. Then suddenly this color burst out. And the lake echoed the color, spreading it right to the edge of our paddle boat.

The final arbiter of all color descriptions is Crayola. First Yellow-Orange, then Orange, and then a deep beautiful Sunset Orange. The transition hardly took two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Amazing.

And the loons are back. Definitely a pair around what we call Belly Button Island in the north part of the lake. And another pair in the lower lake. There are singles stopping by too. This loon was swimming in the narrows last week.

From the sublime, to the sublime, to…well, the Canada Geese are back. Would someone like to board their dog on our lawn from early June to about mid-August? Golden Retrievers and Labs are especially invited to apply.