Muskrats and other critters


We recently spotted this muskrat gathering his salad fixins’ early one morning in Ghost Bay. This critter is a rodent, but he’s no rat. According to Wikipedia, muskrats are the only species in the genus Ondatra. They are adaptable and omnivorous, rather ratlike actually. But they aren’t a member of the rattus club.

Muskrats are most active at night, and near dawn and dusk. But we’ve been seeing quite a bit of activity on Long Lake at other times as well.

This little guy was puttering about one morning, around 10 o’clock, very near our cottage in the first bay on the east side of the big lake after you leave the narrows.


It’s been critter central lately on Long Lake.

This painted turtle was stationed at the south end of the narrows sunning himself on the log on the east side. You know the spot since you know the lake. Turtles have been sunning themselves on that log for many years. Not this guy, though. This guy was sort of tea-saucer sized and must be fairly young.


By now, most Long Lakers have met our lake’s new loon chick, shown here near one parent while the other one dove for breakfast.


The 4th of July weekend on Long Lake must be a major challenge for loon chicks. This little one made it through to Sunday, so the power boaters and tubers must have been on the lookout. Parent and chick were very relaxed as we paddled by early in the morning on our way to Ghost Bay. This photo was taken with a long lens, but the parent was aware of us and still didn’t yodel an alarm or go into vulture pose.

What a great time to be at the lake!

Long Lake’s (un) Common Loons


In early June, this Common Loon was sitting on the nest on the west side of Belly Button Island–the island in the north part of Long Lake. Its mate, who shares nest-sitting duties, was out fishing.  Great news: by June 17th, when this next photo was taken, we can announce a successful nest.


Here’s our one loon chick, riding on a parent’s back. The mate was nearby, apparently the father because he was nervously posturing in vulture pose. He did this even though we were very far off with a telephoto lens, quietly proceeding in our small pontoon boat with its peppy 15 hp outboard.

The pair is a little nervous now, rightfully so. Long Lakers will all hopefully give the family a wide berth. But there are Bald Eagles looking for lunch. Big pike lurk about. And I don’t like the look in the eye of that big-headed, turkey-platter-sized snapping turtle. You know, the one with all the green moss clinging to its back. Hopefully this young one survives to its October adolescence.

The pair nesting on the island near the public access seems not to have fared well. Early in the week, the loon was on the nest. Since we saw their nest activity even before the nest went into full swing on the bigger island, and incubation periods being what they are, the chicks in the lower lake should have hatched first. Instead, on June 18th–with both loons fishing in the lower lake, I kayaked close enough to the nest to see that it was empty. Not even any egg shells. And no sign of any chicks in the lower lake.

But the next day, we saw this loon back on the nest. The empty nest. It was squashing itself way low, even though we were far away. It was bobbing its head up and down–down close to the water.

mourning_loon_lowresIt’s very wrong-headed to anthropomorphize animal behavior. But these loons definitely tempt in that regard. We’ve taken to calling this photo The Mourning Loon.

One chick, one precious chick. Please let me know if you’ve seen another. We’re still hoping maybe they’ve got it stashed someplace we haven’t seen.

If we keep our fish hooks at a distance, our power boats throttled back in their vicinity, and our fingers crossed, Long Lake can help a new member of this threatened species launch itself southward come fall.