One of the first things I do when we get there, well birding wise anyway, is to listen and look for the Merlins which nest and raise young every year on the opposite edge of lake where my in-law's cottage is. Last year I noticed, with significant chagrin that the new owners of the cottage with the big old white pine tree which hosted the Merlin nest had been cut down. I wondered if this year they'd still be around. I was happy to notice them quite soon, and even more pleased that they seem to be spending more time on "our" side of the lake. In the morning one day, one of the young ones spent a few moments in a snag not far from our beach. It tolerated me for long enough to get a couple picture from a bad angle below, and headed out with its trademark "kalee kalee" call.
|juvenile Merlin against blue sky.|
My dear wife is agreeable to me heading out for a good chunk of a day that week, and I made a circuit of a few spots I've started to have success with over the years. Tait Lake almost always gives good views of a Loon pair that nests there yearly. I wasn't disappointed this trip either.
|Common Loon on Tait Lake|
I only got one short bit of time though with some close up shots and the loon decided I was not good company and dove to a more distant section of the lake. While wandering around after, the calm morning water doubled the presence of some Mallard females. They were different sizes, so I wonder if some were juveniles that hatched early in the spring and gotten all their adult plumage already.
|female Mallard ducks|
As I stood along the bank, I noticed something foraging right along the water's edge, hidden by the foilage growing in a short little undercut the water had made in the sandy bank. At first I didn't really pay it much attention, but as it continued slowly along, I got curious, for some reason expecting it to be a Starling or something of that sort. But as I approached, I saw it wasn't a bird at all. Two black little beady eyes met mine on a dark furry face that froze as I did. We both looked at each other wondering what would be next. I knew if I moved it would be gone, but longed to get my camera up. The weasel moved first and dove into the water for a getaway. I had to clear some scrub and by the time I got my camera on it, it had made a surprising amount of headway meaning more distant picture.
|Weasel swimming across the lake.|
A new mammal on the animal list though! Because I didn't get more than a partially hidden view on land, and only the view of a wet back in the water, I can't say which of the two larger, darker species it was. We have three weasels here in Southern Ontario, but I believe it was either a Long-tailed or Short-tailed Weasel. It was too dark and large to be a Least Weasel.
I headed on to Eagle's Nest to walk the Christie Trail loop. (I recently found a better link to a map for the park) I didn't see a lot this time, but still got a few pictures. My first sighting along the trail to the Hawk Lookout was a Flicker. Usually, you hear their scolding call first before you have a chance to see them. However, this one seemed to eye me carefully first, let me take a partially impaired photo, and then beat a noisy retreat.
|Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker|
A teasing Hermit Thrush stayed just a head of me as headed to the Christie Trail and gave me only a few chances for an partial view for a picture.
As I finished the walk along the trail which winds through the lower elevations and more open forest, a White-breasted Nuthatch was foraging along the tree bark and caught a caterpillar for a meal.
On my way back to the lodge, I stopped one more time at Tait Lake and this time both the loons were back in the small bay by the road. I stopped and flushed one of the loons into the air as I got out. That is strange as their preferred method is to dive as they do not get airborne easily. It made a long, running takeoff necessary to get this water loving bird out of the water. They are actually very fast flyers, reaching speeds faster than most birds, but they need a very long takeoff to get into the air, "running" on the water's top for quite a ways to aid in gaining speed. The first loon circled back over me again and I managed to get one half decent shot as it zipped by.
|Common Loon fly by.|
Not long after its mate took off, the other decided to follow suit, too quick for me to change my camera settings leaving me with only a few salvageable shots.
|Common Loon takeoff|
|Common Loon takeoff|
|Common Loon take off|
Although quite blurry, I kind of like this shot from right at the beginning of the takeoff.
|Common Loon takeoff|
Back at the Lodge there were other sights to see too. Almost every summer, we experience one night when there is a emerging of flying ants. They dig out of their underground habitations and take wing. There to capitalize on the event are hundreds of dragon flies. It's quite a sight. Some years are more intense than others, and this year the numbers were not quite as big as other years.
|Flying ants emerging and taking to the skies.|
A nephew and I rigged a net and caught of few of the dragonflies to look at up close.
Other insects inhabit the lodge grounds as well... I couldn't determine what type of grasshopper this was.
|Juvenal's Duskywing Butterly (thanks Dwayne!)|
Later that week, visiting our former Pastor and his wife who were vacationing on the opposite side of the lake the same week, I spotted one of the Merlin again.
Don't hold your breath till the next post... my track record would prove to put you on the floor passed out. But we'll see if I can't close the gap a bit.
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!