White-tailed deer

Deer have been visiting us nearly every evening. They aren’t as scrawny as is typical for March. That must be because, except for two spells of frigid weather, we’ve had fairly moderate temperatures. Repeatedly this winter, there’s been snows, and then thaws. The deer must have been able to find more food than during a usual winter. And they’ve been in larger herds than we recall from other years.

Soon after Steve shot this video with his iPhone, more snow arrived.

The deer keep coming. A few are habituated to our bird feeder. They are eating what must mostly be oiled sunflower seed husks. Well, the finches have been coming in large flocks and one of their pastimes is picking a seed out of the feeder and dropping it on the ground. So there must be at least some sunflower seeds down there too.

This deer hung around and ate under the feeders long after the rest of the herd left the property. In fact, she wandered off a few times and then came back for more. She knows we’re watching and is hyper-alert. But still she eats her fill.

Chowing down under the feeder isn’t anything new. Almost exactly one year ago, check out what we caught on our game camera one night.

Even if their habits along our county roads suggest that deer aren’t the sharpest crayon in nature’s box, they are beautiful and interesting creatures.

On the wing…and the paw

Well. I’ll be. Here’s the news. This pretty cool nature photo wasn’t taken by Steve. I took this one. Through the great room window. With my iPad. (But Steve cropped it.)

This Pileated Woodpecker was chowing down at the paddle suet feeder for quite awhile. He was making a big mess, dropping the chunks of suet that the squirrels so appreciate. There is a red mustache on his face, so this really is a he. Pileateds at the feeder are skittery. You’d think they had eyes on the sides of their heads or something. Sometimes even if you get up from a chair 15 feet from the window they fly away. This one let me rise and approach the window with my iPad. But he flew away just as I snapped a few photos. I thought I’d missed him. I found I had this photo instead. It’s just after the pileated flew up from the feeder.

Such a magnificent bird.

It’s been a bit of a drought this winter in terms of nature posts. I’ve been knitting up a storm and my blog reflects that. But nature continues to capture our attention.

Sticking to the theme of bird feeder adventures, and of my own photography, check out this sorrowful fellow.

Close, but no cigar.

This raccoon’s saga continued for a bit. He was emerging in the daytime to poke around at the seed and suet droppings under the feeders. And he was emerging from under our main deck. That was somewhat concerning to us, so we decided to try to trap him and move him to another location.

We set out a humane trap. With a little lunch buffet laid out inside the trap. I put a paper bowl of crumbled up aromatic brie, a soft cow’s milk cheese. I really didn’t know if raccoons like brie but I don’t and we had some left over from the holidays. Brie in a paper bowl in the trap, with the door open. We put the trap out toward dusk and brought it inside the garage after a few hours. If we caught the critter, we didn’t want it to have to spend a scary night inside the trap. First evening. Nothing. Second evening. The aroma of the brie must have been too much to resist. I was in the great room when I thought I heard something. Sure enough. A raccoon. In the trap. Pawing away trying to get out.

Steve had his hatchback ready to transport. The plan was to drive several miles away and then release the raccoon. I didn’t go with Steve. I heard a raccoon cry once when I was young when dogs chased it up a small tree. It’s not a sound I wanted to hear again or inflict. Steve says the raccoon was quiet and calm. In fact, it polished off the rest of the brie during the ride.

Steve released it. And came home. We watched out for it in the days after, thinking the brie might have been so delicious that the raccoon would find the way back to our place.

There is a raccoon prowling about at night. But we don’t know it’s the brie-lover. And it isn’t living under our deck.

Here’s a view of the water flowing at the dam at the north end of Long Lake. Can spring really be just around the bend?


Less than three weeks ago, we were shedding jackets paddling up to Ghost Bay in our kayaks. And on Friday, November 10th, this! Our weather station said it was 12 degrees just before dawn. Official reports put it at 8.

On Saturday, Long Lake played host to a raft of Buffleheads, both male and female. They were bobbing up and down like crazy, no doubt trying to bulk up for the rest of their migration south. These tiny, big-headed ducks pass through in spring and fall–with the occasional itinerant individuals at other times. The males have that big white bonnet on the sides and back of their head. The females have the smaller, white side-patches on their heads. We don’t typically see this many in one group.

And then? And then, first came one lone Canada Goose paddling around the bay in front of our cottage in the north end of the lake just beyond the narrows. Maybe a scout? We hoped not. Next there were three. And then, this.

They aren’t coming ashore, yet, even though they may look like they are thinking about it. Maybe our adirondack sentinels and the beginning of our snow fence will keep them at bay. In bay, rather. “These aren’t the lawns you’re looking for…move along.”

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!

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.