Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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Science & NatureWhat is That?What is that ... June creature?

What is that … June creature?

Waddells

Typically, June is the month when plant and animal populations at our cottage explode and proliferate.  We were not able to get to the cottage this June, though, so we missed a number of June happenings … greatly missed.  We compensated by reviewing our June photos from previous years.

Most years, one of the first birds we see at the cottage is the Canada goose.  By June, the goslings are well beyond being newborn. Around Three Mile Bay, Canada geese lay their eggs early in May on nests close by the water’s edge or on hillocks in the marsh.  The parents take turns sitting on their eggs, but before long, the little fluff balls are paddling by our shore.  By the end of June, these juveniles appear to our eyes as goose adolescents.  In July, they are full-blown goose teenagers.  The photo below was taken June 25th, 2015.

By June, the mergansers have mated, laid their eggs, and the young are out and about but still staying close to their moms.  Whether we have learned better to spot them or they are becoming more plentiful, we cannot say, but certainly we have seen them annually for the past several years.  Male hooded mergansers have only one job.  They do not share nesting or chick-rearing responsibilities.  The female makes the nest of twigs and her own personal down in a nest cavity of an old tree, or in a box placed by humans 10 – 50 feet above the ground near water.   When fledglings leap from the nest to the ground, they scramble quickly to the water’s edge to avoid fox.  Once in the water, they risk being predated by snapping turtles.  Over the early summer we see the groups gradually dwindle in size.  The photo below was taken June 20th last year.

Much like their cousins, the common merganser nests in natural tree cavities or in the boxes installed by their human guardians.  However, the common merganser will choose a nest site as high as 100 feet above ground.  We do not know how the fledglings survive that first step, but obviously they do.  We have been thrilled to see them practicing their fish and crustacean-hunting skills at our shore.  They too are predated by fox, snapping turtles, and other mammals.  The juveniles’ numbers also dwindle through the summer.  The photo below was taken June 27, 2019.

We delight in the sight of an osprey sitting in the white pine next door or flying overhead.  Fish eaters with keen eyesight, they plunge from on high to grab a fish to take away to their unfledged young.  Male osprey build their large nests high in the white pines around the lake, returning and adding to the nest year after year.  A first-year nest may be only 2 or 3 feet in diameter.  Eventually with each year’s additions, the diameter may grow to 6 feet; the nest in the photo below was somewhere between the two.  The photo was taken in June 2015 sometime before a storm toppled this prime location.

Last but not least we will mention the rose-breasted grosbeak whose nest building responsibilities are shared by both the male and female.  They tend to choose a site in a vertical fork of a sapling and construct the nest from twigs and grasses.  From this vantage point the insects they prefer to eat during breeding season are close by.  The photo below was taken June 9th, 2019.

While we missed seeing some of our favourite creatures at White Lake in June, we will give you a sense of why in our next article.

Most of this story is based on our personal experience, but we checked some facts about nesting on allaboutbirds.org, a wonderful resource managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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