The animals around us are busy building  their nests and hatching their young. Mark Fleming, a neighbour on our road and and avid  nature photographer, explores the lake and the river in his kayak as soon as the water is ice free. He sent us beautiful photos of water birds and mammals building their nests and dens and starting the breeding  season early in the month of May, 2019.

A Mute Swan couple near the large wetland  that is part of Esther Marsh. 

A goose’s nest has been built, eggs laid and now the hatching begins.

In the same area, but more to the south is evidence of beaver dam building.

The large dome of the beaver den has been co-opted by a  Canada Goose, and why not. It’s great for safely hatching her eggs.

Can you see her?

Maybe not, so have a look at the cropped photo below.

For details on the building habits of animals see this blog of the National Geographic.

mark mute swan nest island 20 may 2019

The rocky island, just south from the canal between Colonel By Lake and the River Styx, has always been an attractive place for gulls, cormorants and since 2016 a pair of Mute Swans, that built a nest on the rocks. A hard but solid foundation. This year when the photo was taken,  Common Terns, on the left, sit side by side, resting from their long migration. They  will spend several weeks in our area.

North American  terns spend the winter in South America or along the Pacific Coast of Central America. One-year-old birds often stay on the wintering grounds and do not migrate to the breeding grounds until they are 2 years old. For more CLICK HERE.

mark mute swan nest island detail 20 may 2019

Here is mother swan with six cygnets seeking the warmth of the sun and of the mother. In the first week of their lives they are prone to hypothermia from the cold water, rain and wind. They also have to learn to feed, while depleting the nutrients of the  egg yolk that  clung to their bodies  when they  hatched.  

Three years ago, I was able to observe this couple from my boat. They had two offspring and none survived. It is well-known that young couples are not very successful in breeding and protecting their young. Of these six cygnets at best three or four will grow up to fledglings  and then they might run into more trouble on their migration to open water south where they overwinter.  However there are plenty of Mute Swans, an invading species, around the lake and especially in the River Styx, all along the wetlands going up to Lower Brewers Locks. Adults can live up to 10-20 years and they mate for life.

And finally, a female Red Winged Blackbird.  She is clinging to two different stalks of bulrushes.

To go back to the INDEX   click here.



Spring 2019

One our neighbours on the Aragon Road alerted us in mid-February to the early presence of waterfowl in the open canal that connects the River Styx with Colonel By Lake at Alan’s Point, at the end of the road. On February 15th, around 4:15 pm she counted sixteen Mute Swans in the shallow water that is rich in bottom vegetation that the birds can reach with their long necks.

Mark Fleming, another nature-loving neighbour went out, a few days later and took  photos that he shared with me. There were less swans, but now there were a large number of Canada Geese as well.

This photo is taken just to the west of the canal where it joins Colonel By Lake, the dead tree stump in the background has served as a nesting post for an osprey pair that return to the lake in late March and early April.  

On the ice and in the water at sub-zero temperatures in February, 2019. Sixteen Canada Geese and two Mute Swans, one on the ice the other in the water.

“Welcome back.” As soon as the breeding season starts in April when the ice is out of the lake and the river, these birds become fiercely territorial and the stately Mute Swan will chase away the Canada Geese, sometimes over long distances across the lake or from one bay into the other.

Restoration Work of Kingston Mills Locks

Parks Canada started restorative work on the locks and infrastructure around it in November 2018.  It will take three winter and spring seasons to complete it. The work will stop at the end of April of each year to allow for the opening of the Rideau Canal early May.  It’s hard to believe but that is only a bit more than three months from now.

The first step was to built extensive enclosures over the locks so the space can be heated with propane. The photos will give an impression of the extent of the construction site.

Enclosure of the west side of  the first lock at Colonel By Lake. When finished, the lock space can be heated and the restoration work can be started. The logistics are extraordinary and the work will involve removal and replacement of damaged limestone blocks, backfill and grouting. In fact, it will involve a total overhaul and rebuild of the stone works.

Enclosure in progress on the East side of the lock.

The picnic area is now a staging and logistics area. This will be restored again to a grass covered camping and picnic area in April-May, we imagine.

The lockmaster’s office grounds have become a storage area for propane tanks and piles of scaffolding.

All the while the lake level is low and will remain extreme low to  allow the restauraton work to proceed. The run-off below the weir creates a nice winter scene.

From the Parks Canada website: Kingston Mills Lock Rehabilitation is part of an unprecedented $3 billion dollars investment over 5 years to support infrastructure work to heritage, visitor, waterway and highway assets located within national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada. These investments represent the largest federal infrastructure plan in the 105-year history of Parks Canada.

For more information go here:



Jackie Duffin and Bob Wolfe, neighbours on the Aragon Road, sent us early morning photos of water birds congregating on a thin sheet of ice that had formed overnight on Colonel By Lake

“On 22 Nov we woke up to find the lake had frozen with the extreme early cold….(the only year it happened earlier was 1995). But more amazing was the massive number of geese and some ducks that had flown in the evening before and remained there overnight. At first we couldn’t tell it they were floating in the water or sitting on top of the ice. As it got brighter we learned that it was the latter. They were huddled to keep warm — and to our amazement a lonely swan showed up too. By the end of the day they had all flown away.”

The photo below is especially beautiful with some of the birds in focus while others are resting in the early morning fog that hovers over the cold surface. To the right of the standing geese seems to be a little open water with two geese floating in the opening.

Why don’t their feet freeze to the ice? I looked it up on Google: Ducks, as well as many other birds, have a counter-current heat exchange system between the arteries and veins in their legs. Warm arterial blood flowing to the feet passes close to cold venous blood returning from the feet.”

That means the arterial blood flowing into the feet has given off its heat-energy to the the venous blood that is being returned to the body. And that means the cooled arterial blood flowing into the feet doesn’t lose much heat to the cold ice.  In this way only five percent of body heat is lost through the feet. In fact the feet are close enough to the temperature of the ice that they don’t freeze to it. A wonderful evolutionary heat exchange system.

Why don’t  waterfowl  that float and swim in ice-cold water not become hypothermic and die? Are the feathers and down so well organised in layers that the skin doesn’t get wet? And therefore the body doesn’t lose much heat? After all we would die from hypothermia in less than a few minutes if we were submerged in water at zero degree Celsius.

Google: “If you can watch some ducks for a while you might notice that they spend a lot of time nibbling their feathers with their beaks. This is called preening. While the duck is preening she is spreading oil all over her top layer of feathers. The oil comes from a special place near her tail called a gland and when she spreads the oil over her feathers it makes her feathers waterproof. The water can’t get through the first layer of oily feathers and so all of her feathers underneath stay dry and fluffy and keep her warm all over.”

A view from the Wolfe/Duffin property on Colonel By Lake, just north of Kingston Mills on the Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario.

Among the many geese there is one lonely swan.

This could be a mute swan, a trumpeter, or a tundra swan. It is difficult to see from a distance like this. It’s most likely a mute swan, the ones we see each spring and summer on Colonel By Lake and in the River Styx. These swans are an introduced species from Europe and Asia. They have an orange coloured beak and an elegantly curved neck while swimming. Tundra and trumpeter swans have a black beak with a straight neck and are more in groups. We saw them last week on our visit to the Opinican Resort at Chaffeys Locks on Lake Opinican about forty kilometers north of Kingston on the Rideau Canal.

We hope you like the photos of a very late fall migration on our doorsteps.

 Click on the icon  of the mute swan to go to the INDEX of this site


Wild Turkeys Invade Conservation Area

This wild turkey visited us in the late winter of 2017-18 together with her or his mate. Little did we know that they might well be the couple that populated the Cecil and Wilma Graham Memorial Park on the Arragon Road, adjacent the conservation area on Casey’s Island, a large wild piece of land protruding into Colonel By Lake and Esther Marsh Bay.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018 when mother and father were observed in the meadow that is part of the Graham park with several tiny chicks that had the greatest difficulty navigating the trail that the parents left in the tall grass.

Then, we  recently received these photos from Bob Wolfe and Jackie Duffing residents on our road and avid nature watchers.

An invasion of young wild turkeys in their garden, attracted by the seeds left in the grass below the birdfeeder. How many juveniles do you count? And did you notice the chickadee on the feeder wondering what in the world in going on below?

After a good meal there needs to be time to rest. What better than a garden bench and chair?

Here is a bit of information about the introduction of the wild turkey in the Ottawa Sun: The last native wild turkey in Ontario was recorded in 1902. Generations later, Ontario wanted to provide birds for hunters. The Ministry of Natural Resources brought American turkeys into southwestern Ontario in the 1980s, and in 1997 released the first couple of dozen in Eastern Ontario, in Renfrew County. The ministry described them at the time as “like a grouse on steroids.”

But these are different birds than the native Ontario ones — a bird that is hardier in cold, happy to browse in farm fields, not afraid to live near people, and able to multiply fast. Today, there are many thousands here and in West Quebec, and more than 70,000 across Ontario. 



Mid August later in the afternoon nature seems to take a break from the feeding frenzy and the fight between the species to survive. Cormorants rest on old tree stumps in Colonel By Lake left over from the flooding of the banks for the Little Cataraqui River to finish the Rideau Waterway at Kingston in 1832. Other waterbirds hide along the water’s edge protected by the dense shrubs, overhanging trees and dead branches. Here are some of those that I discovered with my binoculars and then tried to photograph.

A solitary wood duck resting in the curve of some old roots and stump that floats in the water partly stuck in the mud or the shallow bay that is  part of the Kingston Mills Marsh, a provincially significant wetland. Look good and there are two painted turtles sunning just in front of her.

A male wood duck swimming lazyly among the waterlilies and occasionally taking a nibble from the duck weed that floats on the surface of the clean water in the bay.

A green heron stands like a rigid sculpted figure on a log near shore and near our dock. It shares the space with a family of painted turtles unlikely company.

A solitary sandpiper visits our bay. I have seen flocks of these from our boat, feeding on the dense carpet of water lily leaves where there are many insects on the wet leaves and small critters in the water. These small hyperactive birds are irregular visitors on Colonel By Lake. They breed in the northern part of Canada but are migrant throughout the Great Lakes area in Canada and the US. They winter around the Gulf of Mexico. When the conditions are good they gladly seem to take advantage of the food supply on our lake during their migration.

Wood ducks got the name because they like to perch in old dead trees near the water, these two seem to have found the ideal spot. They blend in with the tangle of branches and weeds, but obviously the area is good for their health, they are fat and plumb. This might be a pair because there were several younger looking ducks of the same family around in the water to just float of feed.

Can you spot mother duck sitting satisfied on a branch while her flock are busy to paddle around in the water and snack on the weeds?


A more than 150 year old oak tree didn’t fall in our forest, but it shed a large branch in a violent windstorm one night. The trees around it didn’t protect her. The branch was almost as old as the trunk. In the middle of the night a sound different from howling wind caught our ears, it was a rushing then crashing sound as if an electric bolt from a thunderstorm had hit the tree. The next day showed the damage.

Almost a year later, Mark Fleming, a resident on our road started to cut boards out of the branch to make a coffee table and other pieces of woodcraft. Here is a photo reportage you might enjoy.

Mark cut the boards that are from one to 1.5 inch thick with a chainsaw guided by a portable saw jig. The very broad cut at the crotch of the branch was cut free-hand. The piece that came off is now a very artistic coffee table.



The Old and New Graham House

You might remember this… October 2016. Cecil Graham’s former rental property was for sale on a 10 acre piece of land. The house was initially trucked in from across Colonel By Lake. It was a small wood-frame house  and Cecil clad it in Angel stone. When the property sold they dismantled the old little house and build a three thousand square foot house instead.

And this… July 2017.

And the newly built house…

June 2018, the new house was built in part on the old foundation, Why? Maybe that way the planning department allowed two extra lots to be severed for a small estate development of three houses.

Spring 2018, Unusual Sightings


This creature walked from our front door to the back door and then around the house to offer us a good look.  Our daughter from Burlington looked up from her reading and said, “What in the world is THAT? ”  There would be one more and as a couple they strutted towards the edge of the woods and disappeared. 

Wild turkeys, they were. This was early March 2018. These birds are surprisingly big and well fed after a harsh winter. They must know a thing or two to survive and do remarkably well around our area. 

Later in April I saw two wild turkeys flying overhead, crossing the lake towards Kingston Mills. The had a powerful wing beat like Canada geese. Very good flyers. Their red throat flaps were swinging in their bodies’ slipstream.


It’s early spring. The ice still covers our bay at the north-west corner of Colonel By Lake. Our granddaughter from Burlington spotted a river otter near shore. It entered the water through a soft spot in the ice and every few minutes appeared with a small fish in its mouth. A quick thrust with its neck and gobble, gobble the fish was gone. The otter eagerly slipped back in the water, to catch its next snack. It repeated this ritual for at least half an hour. Otters are here during the winter and summer. They have a very interesting breeding habit, and are well adapted to our climatic extremes. They prefer unpolluted bodies of water, so we should be happy to have them as our neighbours.

It was difficult to photograph the animal with the white snowy background and the dark blackish wet furcoat of the otter contrasting so much. We hope you enjoy this photo.

River otters are abundant in areas where the shore of a lake or other body of water offers many natural nooks and crannies under fallen trees or abandoned dens of beavers and muskrat. Colonel By Lake does offer such a natural littoral area especially in the many shallow bays.


Our Mute Swan couple is back on our part of the lake. As soon as the ice was gone in the canal and in other areas of the lake where the current is strong, the water birds were back. It seemed as if they were lingering nearby on Lake Ontario and move inland as soon as they can, to claim possession of their breeding territories.

We assume this is one of the breeding couple, the male most likely, scouting out this part of the lake that was their breeding area a year ago, in 2017.  The open water is nearby. March 2018.

Here they are: the Mute Swan couple that bred last year across form our place along the shore of Edenwood Park. The collection of ducks don’t seem to bother the pair, but the swans do go after geese with a vengeance. We have seen one of the swans pursue a nearby goose across the lake and then back towards Kingston Mills, gradually closing the distance between them. We  imagine that the goose is in a bad spot when the swan catches up with the intruder. April 8, 2018.



City road maintenance crews started work on the Aragon Road, March 2018. As a result of complaints about the methods of brush clearing in 2015 the Rural Advisory Committee discussed with the Manager or Road Maintenance a policy for improved brush clearing.  Aragon Road citizens argued that it could be considered a heritage road and should be maintained with this special status in mind.

The current march 2018 brush clearing  has been completed, and the results are  in: well done, compliments to the road maintenance crew who executed the work plan and stayed in touch with citizens on the road. Thanks also to Bill Linnen, Operations Manager Public Works and Adam Mueller, Public Education and Promotion Coordinator Public Works who communicated with Bob Wolfe , member of the Rural Advisory Committee and a citizen living on the Aragon Road.

The Volvo Busher in action after clearing smaller selected trees by the forestry crew, which worked selectively and sensitively with chainsaws along the forested areas that make the Aragon Road so special.

Citizens living on the Aragon Road have on multiple occasions before the Rural Advisory Committee and through the Planning Department, emphasized that the Aragon Road should be considered a heritage road.

It is a “forced” road, which is different from the county road system that British surveyors laid out in the late 1700-s.  A forced road has spontaneously developed from an early path between farms to a dirt road and a gravel topped paved road without any formal road allowances. The special legal features of the forced road has come up on Amherst Island in conjunction with the wind-farm.

In a report to council earlier this week, Dave Thompson, the township’s director of infrastructure services, wrote that ownership of road allowances on the island evolved in a “radically different manner” from the rest of the municipality. The forced roads on the island generally evolved from commonly traveled routes and were built without official Crown surveys and public ownership. Click HERE for the full article in the Whig Standard.

Another piece of information: When it  comes to forced roads, there is no standard width to be found in any legislation or common law decisions… From Township’s Solicitor Jim Baird of Township Asphodel-Norwood

Maybe it is time to consider different road maintenance policies for major highways, two lane highways, county roads and secondary rural roads many of which are forced roads with important heritage features.