There’s nothing more graceful than a swan swimming on perfectly still water.
We see swans quite often on Lake Allegan. They’re drawn to the weedy, shallow water surrounding Eagle Island, a few hundred yards from our home. Swans mate for life, and they’re social creatures. So usually, they feed in pairs—or herds or banks or bevies—of six or eight (who comes up with these collective nouns?).
So, when a solo swan floated nearby for days, I wondered if something was amiss.
Continue reading “Solitary Swan”
Like watching paint dry.
That’s an apt cliché for watching Great Blue Herons. If you’re the patient sort, you might be entertained watching them fish.
Tip-toe… tip-toe… (stand motionless for a full minute) … tip-toe… (don’t budge for another two minutes) … tip-toe… snatch!
Hardly the stuff of an action movie, so I don’t often show herons on my blog.
I don’t recall why I was filming one of these tall birds a few weeks ago. It was early-evening feeding time, and the creature was engaged in the usual slow-mo fishing expedition. Bored, perhaps, I turned on the camera.
I couldn’t have predicted the arrival that would catch both of us by surprise.
Continue reading “Heron Gets a Surprise”
Ungainly, clumsy, and cumbrous.
A raccoon exits our broken tree, and those three words come to mind. The animal’s slow, lumbering descent is unlike a nimble raccoon I watched three years ago.
This year’s raccoon has been climbing in and out of what’s been a nesting snag for woodpeckers, wood ducks, starlings, and squirrels. The snag is like a high-rise condo, with more than a dozen visible cavity entrances. Judging from the creatures’ in-and-out behavior, I believe many of the cavities are discrete–they don’t interconnect. The upper cavity, where the raccoon catches its 40 winks, doesn’t offer much shelter. Here’s what I mean:
Considering that broken top, I’ve assumed this is a raccoon snoozing spot and not the den of a nesting female.
But then… there’s that cumbrous descent. The animal’s gait is increasingly labored, and it reminds me of my own ponderous waddle decades ago, when my babies neared full term.
Is my masked neighbor a nesting mama, after all? Continue reading “Slumber, Lumber Raccoon”
I thought she was wounded.
A female Common Merganser floated in a posture I’d not noticed before. A male was with her, swimming broad circles around her prone body. Was she injured? I grabbed my spotting scope to find out.
I watched as she floated, nearly motionless, elongated as though playing dead man’s float.
Continue reading “Three Ducks”
A dozen doors and a skylight.
That’s the approximate count of cavity entrances in the old, broken snag outside my window. I love that ugly remnant of a tree! It brings a daily wildlife show to my front-row seat.
The tree has been occupied by Pileated Woodpeckers, nesting squirrels, Wood Ducks, European Starlings, and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers—several of them simultaneously.
This nesting season, I watched Juliet Squirrel quiver from her balcony in this tree, as she was courted by a Romeo. Soon after, I watched Juliet pad the cavity with leaves, a sure sign she’s expecting. I was looking forward to watching Juliet’s kits take tentative (and comical) first steps outside the cavity.
And then another creature exercised squatter’s rights.
Continue reading “Squatter’s Rights”
Two Romeos, one Juliet.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!
These are lines from the Bard’s most famous play, of course. The story came to mind last week when I noticed two squirrels engaged in a chase. As the critters careened through the trees, with their signature acrobatic leaps and hairpin turns, I couldn’t say who was pursuing whom. I thought initially—it being spring, after all—that I was watching a Romeo in pursuit of his Juliet.
But then I spied the true object of these squirrels’ desire.
Continue reading “Shakespeare for Squirrels”
If there’s an apt word to describe Canada geese, that’s the one. They’re always around, sometimes just a pair, more often honking in what seems like the hundreds. I tend to pay little attention to these loud-mouthed creatures.
But a few weeks ago, I woke to an eerily beautiful sight—a line of languid geese seemingly also starting their day. The group was strewn across Lake Allegan’s February ice. The air was misty…almost ethereal.
I wondered … did the birds spend their night on the ice?
Continue reading “Good Morning, Geese!”
Mergansers are a common sight–pun intended– on Lake Allegan.
Common Mergansers, or Mergus merganser in ornithology-speak, are social creatures that flock in groups up to 75 individuals. I usually see about half that number, most often in late winter and spring.
These small diving ducks seem to prefer the main channel of our river-turned-lake. In winter, the water beneath our home will freeze. But the main channel’s deeper, swifter water generally does not. So, as the lake began to thaw after the recent polar vortex, I was doubly surprised to see mergansers close to our shore. Not only were they diving for prey in very shallow water, but they were also fishing beneath the ice.
Picture whack-a-mole without the whacking.
Continue reading “Splish. Splash. Fish!”
How do birds stay warm in winter?
They huddle. They puff their feathers, tucking head and feet into the fluff. And they shiver.
I was looking for keep-warm behavior as I watched some Bald Eagles during a recent howling snowstorm. An adult and a juvenile flew nearby.
Our lake, an impoundment formed by damming a river, rarely wears a full blanket of ice. When the region’s smaller lakes freeze, Lake Allegan still provides open-water fishing. So, while eagles are a common sight, I was surprised to see how these two behaved in the frigid, snowy wind.
Their heads and toes remained untucked, and while likely parent and child, they were not in a huddle.
Continue reading “Winter’s Stoic Eagles”
What a tale this fellow told me!
Or maybe it was his tail that told the story. I was seated in my usual weekday spot—two hands and one eye on the work computer; my other eye semi-focused on the outdoor goings-on. Which was pretty darn boring today, with all the creatures hunkered down in an eight-degree, blowing snowstorm.
Until that billowy tail caught my eye.
Continue reading “Snowstorm Soliloquy”