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.

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.

On the wings

The first dustings of snow have fallen. And yes it’s “sticking,” though there’s no accumulation yet to contend with. Long Lake is teeming with mergansers, black ducks and buffleheads. But I’ve still not boasted properly of all the winged things we’ve seen this year.

We had more Bald Eagle sightings than any other year. Since the eagles don’t migrate we’re hoping to continue the sightings through the winter. But it will be more difficult now that we can’t float around on the lake. Snow shoes will be an option soon though.

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What a creature. What a great blue-sky day that was.

We watched a Great Blue Heron patiently stalking prey on the shores of Ghost Bay for at least half an hour one early morning. We tired of watching before the heron tired of stalking. When we are patient ourselves, and quiet like the heron, we can drift around in our kayaks and not disturb the hunting. A few times the heron looked like it was doing the heron equivalent of salivating, but we didn’t see it catch anything.

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We watched this osprey in one of the dead trees in the south lobe of the lake, very near to the narrows, for a good bit. Steve was minus his best camera for wild life photography, so maybe the tree is the star more than the osprey. But what a pair!

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And when the sea gulls are not trying to snitch french fries from the Alpena McDonald’s/Home Depot parking lot, they can be quite the dignified bird.

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This one was perched, late in the fall, on what remained of the “this-will-kill-your-prop” now-submerged rock pile near Belly Button Island.  We imagine it hadn’t gotten to stand on those rocks all summer because it wasn’t anywhere near the top of the pecking order. There are still some gulls on the lake. Maybe this one is still sitting on the rock, making it look like he can walk on water.

There is some disturbing news, though. We were quite sure this year’s adolescent loon had flown off nearly a month ago. Steve saw it take flight and head high and upward. We are hoping that the little goofball didn’t get mixed up. But whether its “our” adolescent or another who just happened to make its way somehow to Long Lake, as of November 15th, with the snows closing in, there is still an adolescent loon on the lake.

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Honestly, this one–who we haven’t seen up close for a few weeks–looks to be smaller and somewhat lighter colored than the young one we watched all summer. We worry it’s this year’s chick, which certainly seems likely, and that it’s ailing. This photo was taken in early November. But we saw him yesterday, November 15th. He’d caught a fish.

Last year the adolescent didn’t leave until mid-November, so it’s still possible this one will take flight and head south before the lake freezes. “Fly, fly, fly!”

Long Lake’s Bald Eagle

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This guy was high, high up in a white pine on the east side of Long Lake, sort of looking toward Belly Button Island. That’s what we call the big island, anyway. As far as I know, it doesn’t really have a name.

This eagle was definitely lord of all he surveyed. We watched for several minutes while he perched. We moved on and then saw him flying across the lake.

It seems like there’s been a lot of Bald Eagle sightings this year. Hopefully, we’ll have a nest on the lake and we can enjoy a pair for many years. Wouldn’t that just be the cat’s meow?

Lunch on Long Lake

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Yum.  A nice big pike for lunch. We think this Bald Eagle likely caught it earlier, ate part of it, and then came back for more. By then the Turkey Vultures had been working on it.

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At one point, five vultures were tearing away at what was left. When the eagle came back, they flew up to a nearby tree and watched until the eagle again had its fill and flew off.

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