Happy Mother's Day! Mama Loons are on the Nest!

It was a very Happy Mother’s Day! We went out and checked on our loons and found three mamas on the nests! It was especially exciting to see Hazel on the platform in Bullhead Bay. My neighbors, Bob and Robert, have been putting out the platform for 15 years. And for 15 years the loons have ignored. it. If the loons did not use it, this was going to be the last year they would put out the platform. Bob said it has been 15 years of frustration and they have had enough! 15 was the charm! Hazel and Iver chose the platform. Their names have been changed to Bobbie and Robert in honor of our persistent friends.

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The Loons are Back!

On April 21, the ice went out on Upper Gull, and by the following night loons could be heard calling from all parts of the lake. The loon symphony was in full swing! I stood outside at midnight and soaked in the sound. It was heavenly to hear them calling again! Due to the horrific conditions caused by the red tide in the Florida Gulf, there were serious concerns that the loons would not survive the winter there. Sea birds were dying, and vast numbers of bait fish, the loons’ food source, had been killed. Reports of sick and weak loons being found on Florida beaches were posted on social media throughout the winter. When we heard the loons calling again, we were overjoyed! They had survived and made it home!

On Sunday we took the boat out and did a survey of Lake Margaret and Upper Gull. We counted two pairs on Lake Margaret and five pairs on Upper Gull, which is one more than last year! We spotted Bertsie and Rum preparing a nest. We name all the loons on our lake, and Bertsie and Rum are named after the proprietors of Deauville, a legendary spot on Upper Gull in the old days. I am happy to report that the Bass Lake pair, Ray and Myrt, are also back and were seen fishing together.

Hazel and Iver 5/6/18

The ice went out a week ago, and I was out in my kayak with the "big camera" today to visit my loons for the first time this season.  I have a 600 mm telephoto lens, so I keep a respectful  distance when photographing the loons. Hazel and Iver were fishing along our shoreline. I just stayed in one spot and eventually Hazel came right over to the side of my kayak with a big fish in her beak.  She sat right next to me as she ate the whole fish in one big gulp.  

Hazel Lunch 5:6:18.jpg

Spring....yes, spring!

Spring is finally here!  The maple trees on Lost Lake Road are bursting with buds, and our first thunderstorm on April 30 left the ground littered with birch and poplar catkins.  Did you know catkin is a loanword from the old Dutch kattteken meaning kitten, due to the resemblance to a kitten's tail?  Catkin bearing trees include birch, poplar, hazel, alder, willow, and walnut.

 On Saturday, April 28,  I returned to the lake after a couple of days in "the Cities", and the wood frogs were starting to make a bit of noise in two of the frog ponds on our road. Today there was a loud chorus coming from all three frog ponds.  It sounded like the majority were wood frogs with a few spring peepers joining in.

The ice went out on Upper Gull on April 30th!  Woohoo!  During the night loons are calling from all ends of the lake. Falling asleep to the sounds of the loon symphony....heaven!




The Loons are Back! 4/25/18

They're back!  As I walked my dog, Laker, this afternoon, I heard a loon calling.  It was coming from the channel between Upper Gull and Spider Lake.  I spotted my first loon of 2018 in the channel near Point Narrows.  Ole and Lena have been seen swimming side by side in the channel entering Upper Gull and they have been inspecting their nesting platform. The lakes are still frozen, so for now the loons are limited to the open water in the channels.

Who are These Loons? 4/23/18

Hazel, Iver and LJ

My neighbor and I have named all the pairs of loons on Upper Gull and the nearby lakes.  Because of the area's strong Scandinavian history, many of them were given Scandinavian names.  Ole and Lena nest on a platform tucked into the reeds in the channel entering Upper Gull.  They are always the first pair on the nest and usually successfully rear at least one chick.  Ingrid and Helge nest in the bay between Lost Lake Lodge and Causeway.  Hazel and Iver, named after two special people from the North Shore, nest in Bullhead Bay.  Ray and Myrt are named after Ray Little and his wife Myrtle, old time residents of Gull Lake and builder of my family's first cabin. They nest in the reeds of Bass Lake and often have their chicks later in June.  Sigrid and Leif nest on Spider Lake. 

2017 was a bad year for loon chicks.  Ole and Lena were on the nest early in the season.  We had a terrible snow and ice storm in early May.  I am not sure if that was the problem but their eggs did not hatch. We had heavy rains in May and June, and Ray and Myrt's nest was washed out.  They had no chicks in 2017.   The Spider Lake pair, Sigrid and Leif, also did not have any chicks,  The only pair that had chicks were Hazel and Iver.

The loons pictured in this collection are Hazel and Iver and their chicks Sibby and and LJ. It is difficult to tell male and female loons apart unless they are side by side.  Males are typically larger.  It is easy for me to tell Hazel and Iver apart because Hazel has a much finer and more pointed beak than Iver. (Photos of Iver will be posted soon.)

Once the chicks were old enough to venture away from their parents, Sibby was often off by herself at quite a distance from the adults.  As the chicks grew and reached the juvenile stage, Iver was often off fishing in the channel or was at the other end of the lake. Hazel was always near LJ, feeding and protecting him.  I worried that Sibby would be taken by a predator or would not have enough food to survive as she fended for herself.  Sometimes she would tag along with Hazel and LJ but Hazel did not show much interest in her.  LJ seemed to be constantly begging for food and Hazel always complied.  By  early September, LJ still was not fishing for himself, which is when he earned the name Lazy Junior.  Now the tables were turned!  I felt confident Sibby could take care of herself, but I was not sure LJ would survive without mama!  It wouldn't be long until the adults would migrate and leave the juveniles on their own until they migrated in late fall. Finally, at the end of September I spotted LJ with Sibby and he was fishing for himself.  A week or so later the adults were gone.  Both Sibby and LJ survived until they migrated. 

Upper Gull Phenology, 4/22/18


Spring appears to be here! Ice is still about 3 feet deep on the lake, but the Upper Gull, Lake Margaret, and Bar Harbor channels have opened up! It was in the mid 60's and sunny today, and snow is quickly melting in the woods and forests. Ice on the frog ponds is melting.

 First robin was spotted on 4/17/18.  The first red winged blackbird made its appearance in the lilac bush outside my kitchen window late this afternoon and has been calling from the white pine. Today we were visited by a flock of juncoes, a flock of red polls...who have been at the feeder for the past two or three weeks...a fox sparrow, a purple finch, two morning doves, and our usual crew of chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. As darkness began to fall, there was a symphony of spring bird songs.