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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/ospreys/

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:  https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/2016/07/30/update-on-osprey-nesting-and-more/

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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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