Saturday, August 20, 2022

Cardinal flowers, a penguin-walking Loon, and a fish-snatching Bald Eagle

I visited all my Loon lakes this last week, including some that I hadn’t been to all summer. I was happy to find some of those pairs had chicks. One was Woodhull Lake where there are five pairs of Loons, and a few of them are banded. A Loon called right off the dock while I was putting the boat into the water, but it didn’t have any chicks. Going up the lake, I got all the way to Brooktrout Point before I heard another Loon. I looked ahead, and I could see two Loons with a single chick. I didn’t even get close, and the male was penguin-walking to distract me from the chick and then both were up and penguin walking. I kept going toward the landing at the end of the lake and I bumped right into another pair with two bigger chicks, and they did nothing but swim away from me.

I checked the areas where they normally nest, but I found no nest sites. I was just happy they both had young. I then went down to the dam where I found that outlet pair, but they had no chicks. I found their nest site, but there were no egg chips in the nest, so some predator got the eggs. On the way back to the landing, I found the Big Island pair fishing behind the island, but they had no chicks, and I didn’t find their nesting site. When I pulled back into the landing, the first pair were both calling like a predator was around. Sure enough, a Bald Eagle came swooping by and snatched a fish off the surface of the lake. It was immediately chased by a Herring Gull and a Raven. The Eagle was losing altitude fast and landed on a big log where it ate the fish even while being bombed by the other two birds. Not a bad day. There were no Loon chicks that made it last year on Woodhull, and I think the Eagle was the problem.


Another lake I visited this week was Beaver Lake back in the Moose River Plains. I hadn’t been there since the Loon Census count in July when one Loon was still sitting on the nest which I could see from shore. I biked in and stopped by the big pine along the trail, and I had a little conversation with that tree. Just wondering how many things it had seen in its lifetime of a couple hundred years or more. It probably saw Moose walk underneath its bows as it was growing up, and now it can see Moose walking down the trail below it once more. I parked my bike by its base, which is as wide as my bike is long. It has some rot showing at the base, which probably won’t hold its triple crown much longer.

Bike at the big pine on the Beaver Lake Trail. Photo by Gary Lee.

One of my many trips past this beautiful tree was taking a film crew in to photograph the big pines down along the Indian River for the movie “Of Rivers and Men” made in 1972. See, this area would have all been flooded by the Panther Mountain Dam and these trees would have been under water. There’s lots of history here that you can look up. Back to this trip, when I walked out to view the lake the male Loon called out like he was warning his family someone else is here. The female came into view, but no chicks. I said, “Don’t tell me you birds failed me again,” as this would have been the third year. Then I looked back to the east end and two chicks were swimming together way behind mom. Life is good at Beaver Lake again.


Going back a couple weeks now, when we came off Fern Lake from Loon banding that night as the sun was coming up, we were greeted at the boat ramp by a chorus of Whip-poor-wills. I think they even had young nearby, as there was another bird calling like it wanted to eat. I’ve never heard a young Whip-poor-will, but I think I did that morning. That was a perfect ending to a night of Loon banding, which was very successful. I was on roads I had never been on (even in the daylight) which I might have to check out.


Many of the lakes I visited this week had beautiful flowers along the shoreline, many turtleheads, Cardinal flowers, and closed (or bottle) gentians. One patch of Cardinal flowers was the biggest I had ever seen. I once saw some white Cardinal flowers not far from there and even marked them with flagging, so I could collect the seeds. I did that and planted them, but they came out red, not white. I just went by that patch a day ago and all the flowers were red…no white ones this year. While paddling, take a closer look along the shorelines to see some of these pretty wildflowers, and please, just take pictures.


We are getting some much-needed rain, but mostly from thunderstorms which have lightning, and being so dry…this could cause fires. Also, if you are out and about and have a campfire, make sure it is dead out before you leave. I found one along the shore of the Cedar River Flow this week that was still burning, and I put it out with bread bags of water. Once a Forest Ranger, always a Forest Ranger…twenty-three years retired now.


Many songbirds are on the move south, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Cardinal Flowers. Photo by Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

2 Responses

  1. Dom Penrose says:

    I enjoy reading about banding loons but wonder how you capture loons

  2. James Fox says:

    The most brilliant red flower blossoms I’ve seen were cardinal flowers on the bank of Moshier Reservoir just above the dam on the Beaver River. Of course that was 50 years ago, so in my memory they were more purely brilliant red than this year’s bee balm.

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