Brrrrrr….

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.

Long Lake double rainbow

Isn’t that something! Actually somethings. A double rainbow. The day was sunny. There was a cloudburst. Out came the sun again. And rainbows appeared.

The bright rainbow is a primary rainbow. In a primary rainbow, the arc shows red on the outer part and violet on the inner part. From what I’ve been reading, a primary rainbow appears when light is refracted as it enters a water droplet and then it’s reflected (somehow) on the back of the droplet and gets refracted again as it leaves the droplet. Light. Such a trickster.

In a double rainbow, a second arc, the one higher in the sky, has the order of its colors reversed, with red on the inner side of the arc. This is light playing with a water droplet again. Somehow the light is reflected twice on the inside of the droplet before it exits. Light. Such a show-off.

Here’s another slice of rainbow on the same afternoon.

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.