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.


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



Do we really want a flock of Canada Geese on our lawn?

It’s that time of the year that the parents and their young come together and invite themselves on our manicured lawns. From east to west, have a look…

geese in rocky-point-park

Canada geese at a city park in Port Moody, BC. Snoozing after a stressful lunch on the well manicured lawn of this waterfront city park. Source: CBC news article.  And if they get thirsty, the parks and recreation department is there for them…

canada geese in city park Port Moody BC


Canada Geese are wonderful birds, especially in flight when they come in low overhead, to land on Colonel By Lake.

Most Canadians can enjoy a majestic V-shaped flock winging their way to and from their breeding grounds.

They love short cut grass and gobble at least a pound and half a day of this diet, complemented with weeds and silt from the bottom of our shallow waters. Grain and corn in the fields along Battersea Road will complement their diet. They need also about half a litre of water.

A bit less than half of their total intake comes out at the other end each day to fertilise your lawn.


Along the Aragon Road some of us offer as many amenities as Port Moody. Have a look.

edenwood house geese eJust under a hundred visitors. That’s a bit less than a hundred pounds of fertilizer aka “CGP”. The photo was taken after the owners of this house opened up their view of the lake by uprooting the shrubs along their shore line. Then they improved the lawn to reflect a city park and presto, the Canada Geese moved in. Notice the inviting  shoreline with its low slope up to the short cropped grass: the geese’s salad bar. 

Other favourite sites for Canada Geese are at the end of Aragon Road.

 While several lots have left the shrubs and trees along the shore to protect the clay bank and absorb runoff, in other areas the lawn stretches up to the water’s edge. It is there that the geese enter the lawns in very large numbers.

 The City of Oakville says this: “Geese are attracted to mown lawns that stretch down to the water. To deter them allow native vegetation, including longer grasses, to grow at the water’s edge.” Click here for full article. 

alan point drive google earth cropped

 Once they have easy access areas to short cropped lawns, they will come back year after year. We posted a re-print from Ontario Nature Magazine in making shorelines more geese proof, you can access it by clicking : “Bringing Nature Back to the Cottage.” 


For the INDEX and its list of all posts and stories, click the photo below. It was taken just at the entrance of the canal to the River Styx.

We hope you like our website, the feedback we receive is kind and informative.

geese family aug 2015 b