Saturday, November 18, 2023

Northern Lights, fishing loons, and a lone muskrat

Northern Lights over Indian Lake

Here we are in the third week of November and there is no snow on the ground. The temperatures dipped low the last couple nights (18 [degrees] the first night, Nov. 12, and 12 [degrees] on Nov. 13) which put a skim of ice on the pond. There is a lone muskrat in the pond. [It] will be looking for a “get out of pond” card soon as there is no vegetation left for it to eat, as I pulled it all out. On the night of Nov. 6, there was a great show of the Northern Lights. Some folks in Indian Lake got a great photo which some friends sent [to] me.

Locally, some folks saw it [Northern Lights] over Seventh Lake, but no photos [were] taken (that I’ve seen.) Looking at the forecast [on] Saturday night [Nov. 11,] there was another show expected and my grandson. Nathan, and I were prepared to get out and get some shots. [Unfortunately,] that didn’t happen as the clouds never parted. It was [expected] to peak just after dark, but the clouds stayed overhead right through the night.

A couple wandering moose were seen (and photographed) along Big Moose Road last week. There were also a few reports of deer being hit by cars, as bucks start their rut season looking for does.
If you see one crossing the road, [watch] for a second one to cross. Looking at the hurricane forecast, there is still a possible tropical depression that could develop in the Caribbean Sea later this week. Even though it’s November, with all the climate-changing weather, they could happen…so keep watch.


The gnome at Tony Harper’s [restaurant] is keeping watch over Inlet until the snowmobilers arrive. With this crazy weather, we can’t determine when that will be. Normally by the end of big game season (when the trails are open) there’s enough snow for snowmobiles to run…but [that hasn’t been the case] the last couple years. [Instead,] they get six feet [of snow] in the Buffalo area and not a flake here. I know they had to do lots of work on the Old Forge trails after the flooding this summer. I haven’t heard how the washed-out railroad tracks above Woods Lake Station are coming along. I saw where they have been hauling in fill, but that’s a big project.

Swimming muskrat

Swimming muskrat. Photo by Gary Lee.

We lost one of our banded Loons which was on Dart’s Lake. The male (banded in 2007) was found dead on the shore of the lake. Much [of him was] eaten by predators, but it still had its bands. The carcass was collected and will be tested to see if we can determine why it died. The pair there did have a chick this year, and it was still alive on the lake. This week I saw a Loon fishing on Fifth Lake and a pair of this year’s Loon chicks fishing together on Limekiln Lake. Other people have heard them still calling on Fourth Lake. On some of the bigger lakes, like Lake George and Lake Champlain, they don’t freeze up until late in the winter season.


The Loons feel secure when there is still open water, and then bang! We get a deep freeze, and they are in a small hole in the middle of the lake. They can’t get out…or get frozen out and they are on top of the ice, trying to fly away. This has happened in the last couple years and some of these Loons were captured and taken to open water. The adult Loons molt during the winter, and these Loons have stayed too long. [As] they have molted their flight feathers, they are flightless and couldn’t get out anyway. They can survive when taken to open water, just like they would have in the ocean. They haven’t completely adapted to climate change yet.


I didn’t make it over to see the Snow Geese, but many little birds moved into my feeders, so I’ve been banding nearly every day. The White-Crowed Sparrow that I banded a couple weeks ago now is
still hanging out here. Last winter, I had a White-Throated Sparrow stay the whole winter and fight off the Evening Grosbeaks for some seeds. A flock of Pine Siskins arrived, along with a few
dozen American Goldfinch. When we came home from eating out Friday night [Nov. 10,] there was a Barred Owl feeding around the feeders…on mice, I’m sure.

Doing a little trail work before the snow comes, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Northern Lights over Indian Lake. Photo by Donna Spring.

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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."

One Response

  1. Jim Fox says:

    Gorgeous northern lights,Gary. Too bad it was too overcast for you and Nathan.

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