Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An Expensive Twitch & Finding Treasure

Boasting never profits. I don't believe in karma, nor do I believe in a God who is just waiting to put me in my place when I fail in some way.  But looking back, I think this was a case of lapse followed by lesson.  Let me explain...

A week ago this past Friday, the week of the Snowy Owl irruption was winding down.  I had seen a snowy posting and picture of a Snowy Owl in Dundas which was only a short detour on my way to work.  I headed in early, all bundled up against the colder weather, anticipating a bit of a walk to try and re-find the bird.  Driving along York Road, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk in a scrubby tree top and shot a couple pictures through the window before trying to "roll" it down for a clearer view.  The expected result occurred and the wary bird flew away once it got a better view of what was actually inside the inanimate object with four wheels.

Red-tailed Hawk

Just as I parked to look for the owl, another car stopped behind me the driver asked if I was trying to locate the Snowy.  She asked if she could use my binoculars to check out what she thought might be the Snowy Owl up in a tree on the opposite side of the road we were on.  I gladly obliged but we were disappointed to find it was nothing resembling an owl.  Once we introduced ourselves, we discovered we'd met before at Grass Lake. (You can see Dianna Ouellette's photos here.)

As we walked, cautiously approaching blind spots behind small knolls and scrub, we discussed some of the interesting characters in the birding community we've met and know.  To be fair, there are actually three categories in what I just broadly labelled as "birders".  There are the pure birders who only come equipped with the binoculars and enjoy just the find and view of the birds they find.  Then there are really just photographers types who have chosen to make birds the victims of their large pieces of glass and shutters and Flikr accounts boasting their great shots. (I may be being a little ungracious here?)

I like to think I fall into a third category which is a combination of the two.  I enjoy wildlife including birds.  My enjoyment from this hobby is not strictly for the birds.  I do enjoy finding and learning about birds characteristics, habits, and habitats, and trying to predict where and when to find them.  But I also enjoy photography.  But in wildlife photography, there is an added challenge with a live subject and lots of different factors.  Birds or animals don't exactly pose in perfect light, with an optimal background, and certainly do not just stay put while you approach for the better, closer setup.  I make the comparison to hunters who, despite some people's view being critical of the end result, undertake similar challenges with needing to learn the animal's habits, movements, and gain the skill of anticipating movements and trying to out wit them to get a great shot.  I've had more than one occasion where I've worked my way around a bird or animal trying to anticipate either their movement or trying to get a better vantage, and as I approached felt my heart rate quicken and noticed I can't quite hold the camera as still as I'd like with the excitement of getting close. A lot of enjoyment is added with the challenge of getting a good picture! (I'm still learning so lots of disappointments get mixed in with a few successes.)

So, Dianna and I were discussing how some of the birders are less than friendly.  I've come to locations and conscientiously approached other birds being aware not to scare off whatever they're enjoying, but was made to feel like I'd just stepped into their living room right off the street, uninvited and with dirty boots still on.  I was priding myself on my own attitude being the opposite, mentioning to Dianna that I gladly try to share my good birding spots (even posting them on the link up top of my page) and sharing my binoculars with other birders even though that might mean I'm sharing the same photo opportunity.

The conversation also crossed to the topic of "twitching.".  Twitching is what birders do when they hear of a bird they really want to see, often dropping what they're doing and frequently, driving a good distance to see it.  We discussed this as well, and I mentioned, I generally don't do this, both because I don't have the time, but also, I stated (possibly with a bit of aloofness?) that I'm not after the numbers and lists, though I do keep a general life list.

Well, a long story with a lack luster ending - we didn't find the Owl.  However, the story doesn't end there. Since my visit was short, I made it into work for a regular start.  There had been another post over the last couple days about a rather rare bird find out at Fifty Point - a relatively cooperative female Common Eider. Once lunch rolled around, I decided I'd do what I had just said I didn't generally do, and head out to find the Eider.  I justified that it was not a distant twitch, and besides, I hadn't gotten to see what I'd hoped for on my drive in this morning - a consolation visit hopefully.

I drove out and headed to the Marina side of Fifty Point Conservation Area.  There was no one around on that side, and I could see a few photographers on the east side milling about, so I assumed they hadn't found the bird yet.  I walked out and clambered on the large blocks of armour stone shore protection breaks.  As I leaned over to steady myself just as I got to the water's edge, my binocular strap slipped through the plastic "foldback" and bounced off the rock, into the water.  The air inside kept it floating with the strap just beneath the water level.  I was on an angled rock which was wet and covered with moss and I struggled to quickly put down my camera without losing it to the water too.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a set of bubbles pop out and the strap moved down a foot and stayed.  Could I still get it?  I was still trying to find a place for the camera so it wouldn't add to the disaster.  More bubbles, and the strap disappeared from sight.  Drat!  Contrary to my dear wife's questioning later, no I was not going to roll up my pants in -5 deg C weather and freezing cold water and try and find them.  Not at that point and not on a return trip with scuba mask!

Well, I tried to put that behind me and headed out to the other side and soon was told by another lady with evidence on her camera screen the Eider was further along the bluffs on the along the water's edge with the two Long-tailed Ducks it had been keeping company with the last two days. I headed out, with hopes of a consolation find.  But nothing, anywhere was to be seen.  How could I have missed it.  The Common Eider is the biggest duck species in our area and so it shouldn't have been hard to see.  By that point I was feeling frustrated and trotted back with my tripod hanging off my camera case backpack banging against my leg.  I've got to figure out a better fastening method some day!

A female Common Merganser stayed uncharacteristically close to the shore of the small beach I was crossing and I tried unsuccessfully to steady my breathing from my trot and capture a wing stretch.

female Common Merganser
(notice the just barely visible white chin patch
differentiating from the Red-breasted Merganser)

Once the merganser had had its pictures taken, it flew away and drew my eye with it out into Lake Ontario and there, definitely larger than the rest of the birds, was a bird that was surely the Eider. Resorting to alternative ways to look at birds in the distance without binoculars, I took a fully zoomed in picture and checked the closeup preview.  Sure enough... the twitch subject.

female Common Eider

I climbed up the big rocks of the marina inlet wall and just as I looked over, the Eider turned around and headed out of the channel and back towards where it had come (and I had missed seeing it).  I caught one picture before it slipped out of view. With a quick scramble to the light marker at the end I was able to get a few more pictures as it paddled out to the deeper waters.

a parting "word"

Well, I got home that day and shared my woes about the lost binoculars, but also discovered that a loose leg of my tripod had let go during my travels that day. This day was going to prove expensive!  I put out a quick appeal on the Hamilton Birders group that night and thankfully Barry Cherriere saw both my post and the leg and grabbed it for me.  He was kind enough to meet me a couple days later to return it cutting my potential losses in half for that Friday past. (Thanks you Barry!) So if you see any good deals on binoculars or have an old pair you'd like to sell, shoot me an email.  Maybe this will teach me though, that lifting your nose about others habits and then following them yourself on the same day... well, more humility is in need.

This post made me think of something else too that is some what related.... chasing things, seeking big finds, accomplishments.  We're all wired to enjoy particular hobbies, interests, or specific things that bring us joy and excitement.  And sometimes we'll go to great lengths to find and get them. The twitch phenomenon... we're all looking for great finds, for things outside of ourselves that we wonder at and admire and give us a purpose outside of ourselves.  Ever wonder why?  Well, I believe that is because we were created with that built in to our very being.  We can't help it!  People everywhere are drawn to admire something or someone that is seen as greater than we are.  Heroes, people of amazing accomplishments, athletes, motivational leaders, etc, etc.  Why?  Why as humanity do we all tend to want to put someone else on a pedestal to look up to? Again, it's built right into our nature... we innately know we're not "it."  So is there anything wrong with chasing after the rare bird, the next enjoyable experience, the big career accomplishment, the satisfying achievement?  Nope, but there's a funny thing about these pursuits - they never seem to satisfy or last.  We always need to find the next "lifer" or the next great photograph!  It never seems to end.

There is one treasure who doesn't disappoint - He created us with that desire to pursue and find and worship with the focus being Himself.  And even though we are quite good at turning away, ignoring Him and actually earning His anger, He pursues us like a treasure and pays an ultimate price to save us from our mess.  He cleans off the mess of our sin and cleans us and restores us to the way He originally created us to be - created in His image, bearing limited portions of His character.

Someday He'll return again, and dead or alive, we'll all see Him and find out what we were really "twitching" for but never really knew it.  Some will realize that what they were seeking after was better than they could have imagined.  But others I'm afraid, will be terribly disappointed to find they were sorely deceived with what this temporary world had to give. Again, not that hobbies, careers, or even family are bad - far from it.  But the ultimate treasure that lasts for eternity is not found in these things, but in finding our Creator as our Saviour the knowing the joy because of the grace He has given for the debt we owe.

"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our sins—it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 - Another Snowy Owl Irruption Year?

Based on the number of Snowy Owls seen at this point in the season, it would appear we are seeing an irruption here in the western area of Lake Ontario's shores.  As of today, at least five Snowy Owls have been seen (I saw the one off of LaSalle beach today as well).  Unfortunately one has been hit and killed by a vehicle on Eastport Drive in Hamilton.  Peter Thoem posted pictures yesterday of his four finds around the Hamilton area.

On Thursday last week, I followed up on a Hamilton Birders Group report that there were Snowy Owls at Tollgate Pond and Windemere Basin.  My first stop at the man-made, enclosed, "pond" portion of Hamilton Harbour resulted in no bird, so I headed to Windemere where the owl was immediately spotted on the first island.  First, did not mean close, especially for zooming in with the rather blustery, sustained winds of the day.  The camera was in a constant state of vibration, so semi-crisp pictures were hoped for only when there was a slight respite in the wind speeds.

Likely a female Snowy Owl on a Windemere Basin island.

Snowy Owl - just slits of eyes showing

Snowy Owl

I didn't notice till editing the pictures that there seems to be a few feathers of what appears to be a wing sticking up from behind the rock just above where my watermark is on the right side.  If you click to enlarge the photo, you'll see at least three feathers.  I didn't think Snowy Owls predated on winged creatures but on rodents and such.  That is there typical menu up north, but my reading shows they will capture winged birds including ducks and the like.  Impossible to tell what very likely was a previously completed meal. Typically, Snowy Owls sit and wait and watch for prey with their amazing eye sight.  They are heavy birds, weighed down with all their weather protective feathers and down, and it takes more energy for them to pursue and capture food on wing.

Snowy Owl and evidence of prey just showing.

From the southern most part of their summer breeding range, its over 2,500km.  For a bird that is not built for migration, that's a long trip.  Some of the birds end up dying of starvation as they don't end up finding suitable hunting grounds, or become victims of dodging abnormal vehicle traffic compareed to elk and caribou in the tundra.

Snowy Owl - eyes partially open

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Case of Misidentification

A couple weeks ago I headed out to LaSalle to see what the early shows of migrating water birds would be at this perennial hot spot over the cooler and colder months of the year.  As I arrived, I made my usual, eager first check of the open knot whole of the tree by the parking lot for the Eastern Screech Owl I have yet to see with the same results as all the other times - nothing. 

But my excitement was soon to be returned when I passed an older gentleman who had the look and confidence in his delivery which made me eagerly believe that there were apparently a pair of bitterns down by the boardwalk, on the water side.  Bitterns are quite secretive birds, and the stretch of trees between the boardwalk and the sandy shore of the lake is not very wide.  I was somewhat confused, but quickened my pace none the less.  I was looking in the brush as I approached, and kept casting glances to the opposite side where there is more long grass which is more typical of how it likes to  conceal itself. The time of year also seemed suspicious, but who knows, maybe a pair that were slow breeders and are in a mad rush to migrate south?

Bumping into another set of men with cameras, I mentioned the previous gentleman's note to me, and they pointed up, into the trees.  Sure enough, there were two, streaky, brown birds perched in the tree branches over our heads ahead of us.  However, they were not bitterns, but Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Herons.  Who knows, maybe the gentleman was having a good chuckle somewhere, or he simply had the bird names mixed up. I'll never know as I never saw him again. Unfortunately, I had to give the other two men that bad news as they had in fact thought they were looking at bitterns.  But, they were just as excited with the correct ID as they'd not seen this bird before either.  My own look at a Bittern still goes unsuccessful so far though.

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
posing as a bittern.

The rest of my visit wasn't filled with anything else new in the bird department, but I did get some nice pictures of a pair of Carolina Wrens (only one of them really).  They were busy chirping at each other as they foraged on the forest floor and around fallen logs.  They were quite preoccupied and I was able to creep up quite close to them.  In fact, I should have counted on my stealth more, as I took opportunity of one of the birds turning the corner around and behind a log.  When I came on it, we both stopped and looked at each other, hardly more than five or six meters apart.  I hadn't gotten my camera ready.  When I moved slowly, it only partially moved away and allowed a few moments for a couple shots.

Carolina Wren foraging for bugs.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

As I walked back to the car, one of the White-breasted Nuthatches must have been jealous of all the attention its neighbour had gotten, and posed right in front of me.

White-breasted Nuthatch

I'll have to get back to this location again soon, I'm sure the various diving birds have increased in numbers.  I saw my Uncle John this past weekend, a birder as well, and he recently had gotten a nice set of pictures he showed me of the selection that's building there.

Until then...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving at the Lodge

I missed posting a few pictures from our fall outing up north to the Lodge for Thanksgiving.  We alternate between both our families and this year was with Holly's family up north.

female Mallard in fall morning light

One of the mornings I headed out early to see what might be out in the crisp temperatures meeting the morning light.  There was not much; most birds have migrated south from the Bancroft area by this time of year.  Oddly, there was a lone female Mallard in a small bay of a little lake on the opposite side of the Lodge property. It kept calling and calling its comical quack, seeming to hope someone would listen and give it company or join it to head south.  Later in the week, a second female joined it and the calling stopped.  I rarely see ducks on either lake in the summer, so I wonder if they are isolated migrants.

female Mallards

While sitting patiently at the same location, I watched a female Kingfisher that was still patrolling the edge of the lake, constantly scolding anything around with its distinguishable call.  They are so hard to get anywhere near and this is the closest it ever came to me, on the other side of the little bay.  Interestingly, Kingfishers are one of the few birds where more colour and distinguishing features belongs to the female.  In the picture below you can just make out the faint markings of a second band on its chest below the top band of powdery blue and bronze.  The male is more simple with only a single, blue band.

female Belted-Kingfisher

In the same location later in an evening, a Common Raven silently and calmly flew over the tree tops.  Their throaty calls always bring back my memories of working way up in Northern Ontario where families of these birds would wake me at 4am with the early summer morning light of the northern latitudes.

Common Raven

A walk in the woods didn't result in anything more than a few Chickadees and a Downy Woodpecker, and then two curious Hermit Thrushes.  Only curious enough long enough for me to get a couple pictures in the very low light of a fall afternoon.

Hermit Thrush

We went for a walk one afternoon to Egan's Chute which is beautiful spot. According to the locals, the fall colours up north this year were very quick because it had been so dry in the prior weeks.  The leaves let loose and carpeted the ground quicker than usual so when we got there, not much was left to enjoy.

The first drop of Egan's Chute

a progressively closer view

and closer yet

The picture below was taken a shutter speed of 1/2500s and ISO 1600 to freeze the turbulence of the water as it plunged over the rocky fall. Quite interesting shapes and textures.

a closely zoomed shot of the bottom left portion of the picture above

Back at the Lodge the Eastern Chipmunks and Red Squirrels were all very busily preparing for winter, gathering and storing seeds and food, and collecting leaves to plump up winter lodgings and sleeping holes.

Eastern Chipmunk gathering winter lodging materials.

Eastern Chipmunk

Till next time....
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Housekeeping Post

After spending all day yesterday cleaning up my basement workshop, I spent a bit of time cleaning up my picture files last night and noticed I have missed a few notable items from this year... so I thought I'd lump them into one cleanup post.

Back in September of last year, I went biking during a Sunday afternoon on the old rail trail, starting from the Jerseyville Road parking lot.  Along the way we just about biked over these two Dekay's Brownsnakes.  They were quite cooperative for photos.  They are quite common in Southern Ontario and prey on food like earthworks, snakes, and other insects. Picking them up is not difficult and they are somewhat passive as snakes go for adventurous kids (or adults) to hand hold.

Dekay's Brownsnake

Dekay's Brownsnake

Dekay's Brownsake

In March of this year, I stole an hour while visiting family and headed to the Beamer Hawkwatch tower, located on the top of the Niagara Escarpment in Grimsby, and joined the knowledgeable raptor counters on the tower for a short time.  The highlight was seeing a new life bird... a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  It was not close, so my record shot, though definitely clearly identifying the bird, is heavily cropped.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

In August of this summer, my family all gathered at my sister's place and camped out together before a day to celebrate my parent's 40th wedding anniversary.  While there, my brother and I were able to get some shots of recently moulting or hatching cicadas.  None were actually doing it at the time, but there was one rather fresh cicada and a number of their excoskeletons still hanging on trees.

brother Dan and Cicada.



These insects are part of the audio experience of mid summer for many people... the slowly increasing volume of the buzzing, and then slow peatering out, is a sure sound during a hot summer afternoon.  These creatures feed on the sap of trees and plants, and lay their eggs in groves they cut into tree branch bark.


Cicada with exoskeleton

I bought a tent for eagerly anticipated, future camping outings in the years to come which I pitched on the lawn this fall for a backyard camp-out with the kids.  When I brought some of the blankets back inside a butterfly hitched a ride in with them.  It has an interesting name: Milbert's Tortoiseshell. We had lots of caterpillars on our Pin Cherry this summer, and I didn't pay a lot attention to what kind they were.  I'm now wondering if this beautiful butterfly is the only joy we got out of watching the larvae form munch almost every leaf off of the tree.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly
(note all the hair (not on my arm!) on the wings by the body)

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

When I let it outside, it flew to the chrysanthemum on the porch for a nice contrasting setting for a picture.  Not sure, but I'm guessing with the lateness of the season, that this one didn't end up migrating anywhere, but succumbed to the cooler temperatures.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

That covers off a few missed pictures.  I did realize I missed a few shots from up north at the Lodge - we headed up there for Thanksgiving, but I'll post those separately.

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Monday, November 18, 2013

LaSalle Marina Visit

Earlier this week (yes, I'm pretty much caught up on my posts!), ror the first time in ages, I took a lunch hour to do some birding.  Once out, I realized how much I had missed doing it.  Strangely, even though I enjoy it, I'll have to admit much of my lack of outings is laziness.  I headed to LaSalle Marina with hopes of seeing Canvasbacks (a duck which I still have not seen) that were reported on the Hamilton birders group, along with other migrating warblers that had been seen.

The weather was nice with the temperature gaining a few degrees and the winds of the day before calmed down, but there was not much activity in the way of birds. The early migrating ducks were showing some appearances thought: Buffleheads Redbreasted Mergansers, and Scaups were there in small quantities.  The Trumpeter Swans that overwinter here were noisily making sure they were noticed.  I did spot one lone Redhead Duck which is my first self found bird of that variety and only the second time I've seen one.  I also saw female Buffleheads, which strangely I had never seen before - or just never noticed maybe?

Redhead (l) and Bufflehead (r)

I walked the boardwalk hoping to get a glimpse of the foxes that have been frequenting the beach area with an apparent comfort with the many visitors in the area, but they were not to be seen.  A White-breasted Nuthatch gave up on handouts from me and went back to finding the food it is supposed to find in the crevices of the tree bark.

White-breasted Nuthatch

A walk down and back along the trail east past the beach yielded only a couple Northern Cardinals and Chickadees... surprisingly quiet.  I visited the opposite side of the Marina and saw a few other birds around the rocky break wall.  A female Bufflehead did a nice slow cruise quite close by giving me opportunity to add a nice few shots of the fairer sex of that variety.

female Bufflehead

Notice the stiff tail feathers fanned out in the picture above.  It uses these as a rudder to help it steer underwater as it dives for small underwater insects and crustations.  Along with Goldeneyes, and Wood Ducks, Buffleheads don't nest on the ground like most ducks, but lay their eggs in tree cavities, nesting in cavities created by other birds like woodpeckers such as the Northern Flicker.

female Bufflehead

female Bufflehead

On the unprotected side of the wind-break, the Red-breasted Mergansers were foraging.

female Red-breasted Merganser

I also spotted a bit of a find - at least two Horned Grebes.  They were not too excited about me being around though so I had only a few moments to try and get some shots as they bobbed in the waves
from the wind that had slowly been picking up during my hour there, or dove out of sight.  The pictures aren't the greatest, but do show the more defined border between its black crown and white neck compared to an Eared Grebe.  I was hoping the Eared Grebe would be the ID, another bird I've not seen yet.

non-breeding Horned Grebe

non-breeding Horned Grebe

As I headed back to the car, a clear and unique bird song caught my attention.  I spent a good five minutes trying to locate and track it down, but never found it.  Usually as I move about I can pin point the location, but it would singing a few phrases, and then stop only to move slightly and through me off.  I never did find it, and could not remember it well enough to play bird songs to try and ID it that way.  A mystery never to be solved.  Just makes me realize that that part of my ability is pretty thin and would help me to know where to look and what I'm looking for.  Maybe some day.

Till then,
keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Arrowhead Provincial Park

Back in September, I was finally able to follow through on a promise to my boys to take them camping for a weekend up north.  It wasn't for lack of will or trying, but it was hard to find a weekend that would work.  Finally, a weekend was chosen and with a site booked list making, planning, and then packing started in earnest.  The weather forecast changed by the day and it included some rain and cool temperatures.  But we stuck with the plan.

We headed up to Arrowhead Provincial Park near Huntsville on Friday morning with the van packed with gear, three eager boys and a dad, and the canoe strapped on top.  The drive was pretty uneventful in the traffic department with the highlight of spotting a Pileated Woodpecker on a hydro pole on Hwy 11 just before Bracebridge.  After setting up camp and leaving the canoe down by the beach, we biked down to Stubb's Falls.  Along the way, I was surprised to bump into a couple (Ralph and Charmaine) I knew from a church we both attended when young people.  They were there the exact same nights as us, and about six sites down the same road as us.  Having them so close sure came in handy later in the weekend!

The falls were a great spot for the boys, lots of interesting rock formations for them to scramble around on.  But a highlight for me was a juvenile Great Blue Heron which seemed to love the fall's final plunge pool as its hunting grounds for the entire weekend.  We visited the falls every day, and it was there every time.

Needless to say, the boys were quite agreeable to stay at this location for lengths of time, building dams, walking in the cold water, and sliding on the rock slopes.  While they did that, I was quite happy to set up shop on a rock across the pool and hope I could capture the heron successfully catching a meal.  That never happened, but I did shot a few hundred pictures which I've filtered down to a smaller selection.

Here was the scene at the bottom of the falls with the heron seeming not to mind our presence.

juvenile Great Blue Heron at the bottom of Stubb's Falls

The boys building dams in the rocks.

Another activity the boys kept busy with
(their mom later wondered if I thought of their pants wearing out from sliding down the rocks)
These pictures are a mix of shots taken over the four days.  I perched on a rock just big enough for me and my tripod, getting cramped, kinked legs and tire shoulders from keeping my finger on the shutter waiting for plunges of the sharp bill.

My observation post.

Wing details


The stab!


Another try...
the plunge! But still nothing!

juvenile Great Blue Heron closeup.

After all that waiting, I never saw the bird catch anything, never mind try to get a picture of it. The first day we arrived and saw the heron at the falls, the couple we knew graciously agreed to watch the boys so I could race back to the site and grab my camera.  Ironically, when I returned the let me know I had missed the heron making a nice fish catch.  That would have been a nice shot!  But it was still enjoyable to be that close to a beautiful, large bird.  I'm pretty sure the fact that it was a juvenile was the reason I was able to get that close.

We did lots of hiking, biking, canoeing, and enjoying the sights at the park.  The nights were cold, temperatures going down to 2 degrees overnight one night, but we kept warm and enjoyed the outing.  Sunday night it rained hard, and our site flooded out.  Thankfully Ralph came to the rescue with a camping shovel and we trenched the water out of our depressed site and into the forest.

On one of our hikes we saw a Pileated Woodpecker, and I was able to get my first pictures of the bird.  It was eating berries from a tree (not sure what kind), and never gave me a nice clear view, but it was still exciting to see a bird not common to the area I live in.

Pileated Woodpecker eating unknonwn berries.

Pileated Woodpecker

Red Squirrel behind our camp site.

Here's shot of the camping gang.

We did a hike around the lake, without seeing much in the way of wildlife.  We did see what I had initially thought was a Loon way across the lake.  Later looking at the pictures and cropping them way in, I had a moment where I thought it could be a Yellow-billed Loon.  I think I'm wishing too hard, and a more realistic, though still a somewhat interesting conclusion that it is likely a Double-crested Cormorant.  I don't think this location nor habitat, namely a smaller, northern lake, would be considered normal for this bird. I'm open for corrections to the Yellow-billed Loon!!

Double-crested Cormorant???

Entering Arrowhead Lake from Little East River.

I'm looking forward to doing this again with the boys.  I've since bought some more camping equipment and I'm ready for the next adventure with the boys.  Hopefully next time my brother and his boys will join us too.

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!