It is spring and we have returned happily to the cottage, to the lake, and to the wildlife we love so much. What should we tell you about first?
Early in May while paddling his kayak at dawn, Bruce saw a pair of hooded mergansers, a ring-necked duck, a pair of wood ducks, Canada geese, and common loons which are all amongst Three Mile Bay’s earliest spring arrivals. Of these, only the loons cooperated with Bruce’s camera, but oh what cooperation! Here we see one loon caught mid-landing as it announced how happy it was to be ‘home’ too. It is a long flight from where they take their winter vacations along the American eastern seaboard.
It seems that all of our old favourites are back including the yellow-bellied sapsucker. We are sure this woodpecker will eventually return to its textbook habit of tapping row upon row of small sapwells (holes) along the trunks of what appears to us to be its favourite poplars. In the meantime, this female yellow-bellied sapsucker is demonstrating her flexibility, eating sunflower seeds at the feeder intended for song birds.
Yes, they are all back including the great blue heron, eastern phoebe, chestnut-sided warbler, and the American robin. We have also seen our first of the year red-eyed vireo, blue jay, and spotted sandpiper. Oh, do not forget the ruby-throated hummingbird of which, as best we can tell, we have two males which do their best to protect the feeder as their own. The larger of the two, perhaps the older, seems to be more successful. One morning recently, while drinking our coffee, we were amused to see the larger male dance the hummingbird’s unique side-to-side dance in an attempt to show what a strong flier he is to the female who was perched at the feeder, sipping nectar, and ignoring him.
We predict the great blue herons will have a productive year if they continue to be as successful, as this big guy which recently showed off his supper catch to us.
As many of you know, bald eagles returned to White Lake a few years ago, after being decimated in the 1960s by the use of DDT. We have seen at least one adult bald eagle each of the last five years. We have not yet seen an adult this year, but we are greatly encouraged by the sight of this juvenile. A pre-adult bald eagle wears brown until approximately four years of age when the iconic white-feathered head and tail finally develop. This bald eagle matches very well the picture in Sibley’s of a second year juvenile.
Last but not least … for years, since we bought the cottage eleven years ago, we have often heard in the middle of the night the whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo of the beautiful barred owl, but have seldom seen them and never managed to photograph one. This year, twice already, this hunting machine has shown himself to us for several minutes, sitting midway up the trunk of an old white pine. Carolyn was reading on the porch and Bruce was just returning from his evening paddle when both perked to the whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo. Bruce already had his camera in hand, so as quietly as possible he tip-toed up the lane in the direction of the owl’s call. Bruce spotted it and, from a respectful distance, managed to snap several shots before the owl grew bored of that modeling gig and flew off. Barred owls forage by perching, listening, and watching for small rodents, then swooping down to capture their prey with their needle-sharp talons. Maybe this year we won’t have the problems with mice we had last year.
Most of what we have mentioned in this article comes from what we have learned during the past decade. As always though, we fact-checked using Sibley’s Guide to Birds.