April 3, 2017, just before ice out

This photo was taken on April 3rd. It had been warm. It had been cold. It had snowed only a few days before. It had rained. Near the shore, the first few feet of water was clear of ice. The ice finally stopped its vocalizing. Everywhere else on the lake that we can see, except close to shore, was still covered with ice.

The ice in the shallow water was frothy. Almost snowy looking. And the ice over deeper water was already showing the color of the water underneath.

A few days later. No ice.

Soon Jeff will be out fishing. The kids will be tubing. And we’ll be checking on Ghost Bay and the Narrows keeping our fingers crossed that the beavers didn’t munch too many birch trees this winter.

Bird’s eye view

Actually, this is a drone’s eye view. This is the first bay north of Long Lake’s narrows. The drone is at 400 feet, which is as high as a drone can legally go without an FAA waiver.

The drone is over the ice, looking east, with County Road 459 curving out of view. Obviously, this is a wide-angle lens. Those are mostly ice fishermen tracks. The drone operator is standing next to the middle house’s dock. And the middle house? That’s my favorite spot on the planet. Our place on Long Lake.

An interesting view. But so stark.

Vernal equinox sunset

wintersunset_lowres

Long Lake is beginning to wake up. The lake ice has been groaning something fierce for the last few days. This is the day that the sun shines directly on the equator and there’s almost exactly equal amounts of night and day. It was cold enough today that the water at land’s edge has refrozen. But the ice at the edge is just a thin clear crust. If something swam by you’d see it perfectly. I haven’t seen anything swim by though.

The branches that ice fishermen set in their holes to warn of thin ice are still standing up straight. And the surface of the ice shows snowmobile and ATV “scars.” Why that happens, I don’t know. But as the ice melts the paths habitually taken this winter show up clearly.

Scrawny looking deer have been visiting every evening. They drank at the water’s edge a few nights ago. Not tonight though.

We are anxious for ice out and dock in.

Merlin visit

merlin

We noticed this guy when he swooped down to the seed-feeder and then chased after a chickadee. We definitely root for the little chickadees and, in fact, think they should be our state bird since they don’t bug out in the winter like the Robins do. The chickadee escaped unharmed.

The Merlin sat on this branch in a nearby white pine, focused on our feeder pole. All activity ceased at the feeders. No chickadees. No nuthatches. No finches, even though the feeders had been Grand Central Station before the Merlin arrived. The Merlin sat on the branch for about 10 minutes. Around then, a Blue Jay started pestering him. The jay flew very close to the Merlin, landing on either side of him on the same branch. The jay seemed to hit the Merlin at least once. Apparently, with his “cover” blown, the Merlin decided to go find better hunting grounds.

We initially misidentified this Merlin as a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The two birds are similarly sized, and do look somewhat alike. But, apparently, the Merlin’s mustache stripe is a give-away. Sharpies are not mustachioed. And they have a longer tail and a less elongated body. Merlins are small birds of prey–ranging only between 9.5 and 11.5 in length.

According to the Cornell ornithology website, Merlins have two modes: scanning areas patiently from a tree, and flying at top speed in pursuit of small birds. We were fortunate to see both modes. Merlins are known to hunt in pairs at times. One Merlin will flush a flock of waxwings and the other comes in for the kill, taking advantage of the confusion.

When nesting, Merlins are squatters. They use an abandoned nest from a crow, raven, hawk or magpie.