Sunday, December 25, 2022

Assisting with loon rescues on First Lake, Brantingham Lake

You skiers and snowmobilers can stop praying for snow, because we have it. [Or at least,] enough to ski and snowmobile on. Looking at the temperatures [ahead,] the bottom is going to go out on the thermometer (except for one day [with temps in the] forties before Christmas with some rain.) [People are] paying more for heating fuel oil or propane, and I hear you can hardly even get kerosene. Not many people heat with kerosene anymore, but tractor trailer drivers cut their fuel with it to keep it from jelling in cold temperatures.


Another thing that must be jelling is some local septic tanks, as I see the Egan sewer pumper on the road around here most every day. If you just put a couple packets of yeast down the toilet when you leave it inactive for a few months (or even when you are using it regularly,) you shouldn’t have to call the pumper. The yeast keeps the system working perfectly. Mine hasn’t been pumped in 20 years of use. I heard that at the Fulton Chain of Lakes meeting thirty years ago, stated by a couple local sewer pumpers, Chip Sauer and Rick Hunkins. They had all the work they needed, and they were just trying to save some camp [owners] and homeowners a few bucks. The old wise tale was to throw in a road-killed cat or woodchuck to start the system working when you first put in your septic tank, but you don’t have to do that… just a packet of yeast will do the trick.

Since Christmas is coming, some of you Trump supporters out there should buy your friends some of his trading cards at $99 a pop, as he is going to need all the money he can get for his lawyers. Just a suggestion!
No new birds came to the feeders this week, but I did band Evening Grosbeak Number 108 today [December 18], and they keep coming. I still have a couple White-Throated Sparrows hanging out, as they steal a seed near the big birds and then hide under the brush pile to eat it in safety. The loons gave us a little outdoor adventure this week, as they forgot to go south and were frozen in a couple lakes. I mentioned the ones on First Lake of the Fulton Chain, two of which got out, but the third one just moved I believe from the south shore over near Hollywood Road, where it was found frozen on a small area on Wednesday [December 14].


The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation got notice of one also frozen in Brantingham Lake. That loon chick (the only one in a few years) was way out in the middle when Cody Sears and I checked on it that day. There was a big part of the lake not frozen, but the loon didn’t seem to get into that part. The ice was only an inch thick, [and] not safe enough to walk on. So, we had to abandon that rescue and turned it over to the Forest Rangers who were having ice boat training the next day. They came and busted up the ice for this bird to get to the big open hole and fly out, but it didn’t do that. I got photos from some residents and the loon was still stuck, because the snowstorm came and cooled the lake surface down and coated the lake with snow [and] ice.

Loon in hand. Photo by Kurt Gardner.

The loon [was] still out in the middle in a hole. There was a resident Bald Eagle keeping watch of this loon. I didn’t get any pictures today [December 18], so I don’t know if it got out or not. Juveniles can fly out of a small hole if they get the wind just right. [I am] waiting to hear on that one again. On the way home from Brantingham, we stopped at First Lake. Cody and I had about a half hour before dark to try for the loon there. Cody (in the canoe) got into the hole with the loon, but it had too much space, and he couldn’t net it before dark. We had two inches of ice on the surface around the hole.


We regrouped the next morning with the help of local Don Andrews, photographer Kurt Gardner and Cody brought down Jay Locke from the Loon Center who is just learning how to catch and handle loons. The hole in the ice had gotten smaller overnight, so Cody tried to catch the loon in the landing net from the canoe, but no luck. We deployed the fish gill net across the hole, hanging in the water with Don on one end and Cody on the other. I got in the hole with the canoe and the hand net, and after a couple dives, they caught the loon in their net. We processed the loon in my garage, taking measurements and weight. They released the loon in the open waters of Blue Mountain Lake on their way home. I hope it gets out of there before it freezes, but some juveniles never learn that they must go south their first year.


From the pictures we are getting daily, five-month-old Great Granddaughter Milly is just busting out with new outfits and excitement about her very first Christmas. With daily photos and video via the Internet, she is growing like a weed, and she nearly rolled from her back to her belly while playing with the cat a couple days ago. Her age is just about the same as her Grandmother Erin’s when we were flown by seaplane into West Canada Lake for our new adventure in 1965.


A little more about that adventure, but that’s another story. See ya.


I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Photo at top: Great Granddaughter Milly, ready for Christmas. Photo provided 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."

8 Responses

  1. Smitty says:

    I enjoy reading Mr. Lee’s weekly posts and appreciate his work with loon rescue and bird banding. But telling people that adding yeast will eliminate the need for septic pumping is misleading. Yeast will help break down carbohydrates but does nothing to eliminate solids, fats, and proteins that accumulate in the tank. Eventually it will fill up and fail or plug the leach field. Periodic pumping will prevent costly repairs down the road.

  2. Dear Gary, Thanks for this story about the loons in the lake. I wrote a poem about a bird getting frozen in the pond behind our home and was derided by all who read it. They swore I made it up! Your story vindicates mine. 😉

  3. Doug says:

    Thanks for the narratives Mr. Lee.
    I was present at the Brantingham site visit and chatted briefly at the shore during the size up.
    I have a few photos of “Scooters” challenging week if you would like them sent via email.

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Since Christmas is coming, some of you Trump supporters out there should buy your friends some of his trading cards at $99 a pop, as he is going to need all the money he can get for his lawyers.”

    Thanks Gary! A good laugh goes a long ways, and we sure could use more of em!

  5. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “No new birds came to the feeders this week, but I did band Evening Grosbeak Number 108 today [December 18], and they keep coming.”

    As soon as I read this Gary, my grandfather Robert G. Stehlin came to mind. I was reminded of something he wrote over 50 years ago, in a letter to his son, my dad (whom you knew from back in Moose River in the early 70s), when he was alive and well in Blue Mountain Lake back then:
    Thursday December 23,1971  8:55 a.m. – 6 degrees  “The evening grosbeaks are everywhere. I have never seen so many. Our country up here is noted for having them every late fall and winter. Right now there are more than fifty of them on the snow outside the dinette window where I throw sunflower seeds. It’s great to watch their beaks, which are large and over-sized, crack them seeds open, and when they all take off at once it’s just a great mass of gold going through the air.    

    “When I came down this morning the sky was clear and lovely, but now it has clouded up and that will probably mean a white Christmas. I must tell you this: I have, as you know, my suet feeder full of suet, and I was just watching a male grosbeak sitting on the top of the cage trying to figure out how he can get some suet, but they are not the clinging type and don’t know how to hang on to the screen. If one ever does learn how I’ll need about twenty more feeders and a few hundred pounds of suet for them. Right now I cannot count how many of them are on the ground, but there just has to be better than a hundred of them, and I’d rather see them here than on the road where some fool going like a bat out of hell will kill many of them. A few weeks ago, not far from the Forest House, there were twenty-four dead grosbeaks on the road, killed by some idiot traveling like hell.”
    The Forest House, of course, was on the way to Indian Lake from Blue Mountain Lake back then. By what you say above, about the grosbeaks, I suppose they are still in great numbers up there.

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “five-month-old Great Granddaughter Milly…”

    Look at that most adorable smile on her at her young age! What happens to us?

  7. John Delesky says:

    I have enjoyed Mr. Lee’s stories and hope to in the future. I was disappointed about the barb he threw at former President Trump and anybody who voted for him. “trading cards at $99 a pop, as he is going to need all the money he can get for his lawyers:. There is no need for political digs in a nature story. If Mr. Lee wanted to be fair in commenting politically, he could have mentioned how Hilary sold the position of Secretary of State to any party that would contribute to the Clinton Foundation. Deleting files from her computer the FBI subpoenaed. He could have mentioned how Hunter Biden used his father’s position as VP to be appointed to the board of foreign companies for large salaries. Hunter falsified a federal 4473 document to purchase a firearm and while widely reported was never tried in court for falsely attempting to purchase a firearm. Let’s stick to nature which we all can appreciate.

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    He’s only human John, and though I feel the sense of political division as an antagonist to whatever our partisan stance is I did find humor in what he said and there’s nothing like a good laugh! Evidently, by what you say, you’re on the opposite side of the fence and that’s alright too. The truth always comes out! Always! We should all be against the lies and hate and division which is so predominant in our political discourse, and we should also be grateful that the truth does come out no matter who it hurts…..truth that is proven truth that is, not just hearsay, or half-truths, which spreads like wildfire and never lets up; meanwhile there are more very important issues we should be concerned about but we’re seemingly not, we’re bent on Hunter Biden six years on, or Hillary Clinton ten years on. I’m not a fan of any of them and if what they did was more of a threat than the taking over of our Capital where police officers died and others due to a big lie….then yes, bring them to account. In the meanwhile let us focus on what really matters, what the real threats are to this once great country of ours, the right wing extremism which seems to be taking a large foothold, etc………. not ‘ego’ or ‘partisan’ threats, and let us be rational about it while we’re at it!

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