New Life on Colonel By Lake

For us, humans, the spring has barely shown itself. There was rain, many chilly days, high water on the lakes and rivers, and the occasional sunny warm day. But, the animals around our houses, in the forest and on the water’s edge have been busy like any other year.

We have for the first year a breeding couple of Mute Swans in our bay. They most likely are the juveniles that have been hanging around our nook of the lake for the last couple of years. He or she must have picked up a mate while in warmer climes while we shivered through our winter. Other swan-couples, probably more experienced, have already their young. I made these photos today on the river Styx and on Colonel By Lake at Harriet Point at the end of our road.

The neighbourhood is a bit rough but there is room for all. The Mute Swan on her nest, on this little rock-outcropping, is a first. The place is a favorite spot for cormorants and gulls. Photo taken May 18, 2017. A week later May 24,  I spotted this swan and her mate with two or more young near the shore  of  the Isle of Man.

swans mute breeding june 2 2017 harriet point

Update June 2, 2017. This is the result, two young. The photo was taken from the marked navigational part of the canal towards the shore of Isle of Man, near Harriet Point on Colonel By Lake.

Then on the same day I took this photo of yet another couple that might have bred in the marsh of Casey Island, the couple seems to be a well established pair with no less than seven cygnets. Date June 2, 2017

swans mute breeding june 2 2017 casey isl ++++++++++++++++

This is a couple’s nest on our bay. He or she is digging up mud and pieces of bulrushes and will put the material on a pile near the side of the nest. From there she picks up a beak-full of material and carefully distributes it around the outside of the nest to increase its size and to keep up with the rising waters.

At times the pair works together, “he” gets the building material from the swamp and piles it on the storage site, “she” takes it from the storage site and applies it to the nest. The bigger bird on the nest might  be the female?

After all that is done, it is time to get down again incubating the eggs. Her wingspan is  enormous and I wish I could have made a video of the sequence.

Careful does it, her underside is impressive, like the undercarriage of an airplane?  But if there are five or more eggs, it she must cover a large area.


May 28, 2017, we see two young bobbing around the parents for the first time and only for a brief period. Two days later they are on the water around the nest eating weeds while the parents gobble up to eight pounds of weeds and roots each day. The marshy area in our bay provide excellent habitat for the new couple. Here are updates on our photographic observations.

swans mute breeding may 31 2017. col by f jpg

swans mute breeding may 31 2017. col by d jpg

For information on the breeding habits click here: Most Swans find their mates before the age of 2 years, usually during the winter season. Even though some may nest for the first time when they are two years old, most won’t start until they are 3 to 7 years old.


This family photo x taken on May 24th must have bred in the marshland at the north-west corner of the bay in the River Styx. In this photo they were feeding and leisurely floating in the water near the navigational part of the river, in the middle of some juicy weed mats. I counted five young but on one photo it looks like one more is hiding behind one of the parents.

Mother and her cygnet have a tête-à-tête.

It looks like Mom is hugging her child she was carrying on her back in the photo above. Her head is lying on its side, a somewhat unusual pose.

And in this photo she seems to encourage the little one to feed on some green snacks.


The ospreys are back on the nest in the conservation area, near the Dickinson’s property, and at the nest on the Keirstead’s property at the canal between the River Styx and Colonel By Lake. But those are the only two nests left from the six that were once established around the lake, see:

Ospreys are well established along the Rideau Canal and near other big waterways and lakes. Not to worry about a decline on our lake, it might just be a local phenomena, there is lots of real-estate for these birds to occupy and breed.

It will be interesting to find out of the Bald Eagle that nested last year in our area has come back, see for last year’s update on the ospreys and the bald eagle at:


And finally here is an osprey that flew by with a fish in its claws, landed on a hydro pole and sternly observed my actions taking the photo.  This is most likely one of the ospreys that nest at the Keirstead’s property at Harriet Point.

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Water Levels in Colonel By Lake

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 b

Spring 2017 poured a lot of water from the heavens into the Rideau Watershed and the level of Colonel By Lake has been higher than ever.

When we built our house near the lake, the  Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, watershed management and Parks Canada prohibited the building of a basement. The floor of our first level of the house needed to be six feet, one and a half meter, above the highest recorded water level since the canal was built in 1832. We are glad we did built accordingly. For water levels over time and the targets of water management, click here.

The recent lake level was almost 20 cm above the highest recorded since 1832. The recent high water is now the record high level until it might be broken next year, or the years thereafter. The wetlands on our thirteen acre property expanded widely by absorbing the massive amounts of water that poured down for days on end. Plants and amphibians had a good time.

Watershed managers in the different areas coordinated water flow as best they could. The weir in the dam and the hydro-electric generation station at Kingston Mills worked overtime. I took some photos of the thundering water that flowed over the weir and under the road towards the waterfall at the south-east side of the blockhouse.

Kingston Mills

The original Kinston Mills engineering plan and nomenclature; from Rideau Canal a History of the Rideau Lock Stations. Almost all of this plan can still be seen. Only the lock-master’s house was not built in the shown location.

The dam and weir. The new concrete cap was installed in 2016 to stabilize the stone key-work of the original  140 feet limestone dam. The overflow seems gentle from this distance, and it is only part of the water released from the lake since the power generating station takes also a substantial outflow from Colonel By Lake.

The water thunders through the sluice that runs underneath the one lane bridge. The bridge has been completely renewed during the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017. It was scheduled to open in the middle of May but is now delayed. 

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 d

The water flows from under the bridge and against the rock-bluff on which the blockhouse has been built. From there it flows towards the south-east side of the earthen wall of the roadway and from there it is reflected towards the rocky cliffs of the original waterfall in the river.  But the earthen wall did not stand up against the eroding water. In the photo below the road is washed out with the steel railing posts hanging in the air.  My VIDEO of the rushing water shows this in real-time, click here. 

A professional view of before and after the flood taken by a drone gives a really spectacular view of the Kingston Mills area, waterways, waterfall and power generation station. Click HERE and look for Kingston Mills drone videos, specifically “Kingston Mills Before and After the Flood”.

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 c

The washed out road that was just rebuilt as part of the 5 million dollar restoration and upgrade of the Kingston Mills lock-station. When and how this is going to be repaired is currently being discussed. The opening of the road will be delayed well beyond the mid-May opening of the locks.

The waterfall on the east side of the hydro-electric generation station looks in this setting like it would have been before the building of the Kingston Mills locks in 1926-1932. Note the small rainbow just to the right and above the centre of the photo.


The two large diameter pipes funneling water tot the turbines in the electric generation station. Note that the water flows over the rocks and under the pipes, a feature that has never happened. This water will join the waterfall and will flow into Lake Ontario via the Cataraqui River and the Inner Harbour at Kingston.

Image result for Cataraqui River


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