Birding Excitement

I've generally considered myself to be a fledgling birder:  I watch what comes to our feeders in the wintertime, and I listen and try to spot the birds hanging out with us in the summertime.  Loosely, I keep a life list, and every so often (annually?), I must re-acquaint myself with some of the songs that I hear seasonally, because I tend to forget them over the winter. 

Once in a while, we are treated to a rare sighting of something that doesn't inhabit this area on a regular basis.  Ususally, that includes a species that will stop by while migrating further north.  I love it when I spot a hooded merganser, as they look so exotic to me.  This year, I happened to stop at the wayside at Swamper Lake, and there were two pairs of these, swiftly swimming away from me, so no chance for a photo.   

Today, Greg noticed a flock of white birds on the Canadian side of the lake.  He brought them to my attention, but with the binoculars, they were still too small and faraway to identify.  He decided to hop in his boat to investigate further.  I would have accompanied him, but I was still finishing up chores, as today is our first day officially open for the summer season.  When he got back, he shared the photos and some video with me, while surrounded by bird identification books.



It didn't take him long to narrow down the list, and a short time after, he pretty much decided that it was a flock of Bonaparte's gulls.  When we zoomed in on the photo above, the bird in flight showed markings that are characteristic of this type of gull.   



He also got some good video of the birds leaving the water to fly around a bit. 



Thanks to the Internet, we feel like we have made a fairly reliable identification.  What sealed the deal for me, was the ability to listen to the audio file of the birds' call.   Reading a description is helpful, but hearing a short clip of it makes it much easier to confirm.  It's also nice to read up on the birds, more than just the short information offered in the field guide.  For instance, I learned that this bird is named to commemorate Charles Bonaparte, a younger brother of the more famous fellow named Napoleon.  Fun little facts that may someday be useful in trivia!  If you want to read more about these gulls, just follow this link:

The Playground in the Front Yard

At some point each winter, we have a thaw that melts away the snow on top of the lake ice.  This happened earlier this year, in February, and for a few days the lake was very wet.  Once the colder weather returned, the surface re-froze on top of the thicker ice below.  Not a lot of snow has fallen since then, and when it has, the wind has taken care of sweeping it off the ice.  The end result is an amazing surface on the lake that provides a playground of sorts. 

From my view in the lodge, I can see some white patcheson the ice, and lots of grey swaths.  I can also see (and hear) lots of traffic.  Not only are there snowmobiles and four-wheelers traversing the lake, we also have been seeing trucks and cars.  You may recall my post of a few days ago, with the Volkswagen beetle just off of our point.  Sometimes it feels a bit like a mini-rush hour out there, as the vehicles head back from their eastern fishing spots at the end of the day.  But I wanted a closer look at things, so I took a walk out there to take a few photos.  Here is a gallery of some of the sights from the flattest stretch of earth we can find up here right now.

The Roar of the Lion

As the old saying tells us, March either comes in like a lion or a lamb, and reverses that when departing.  But what does it mean when the lion starts to roar loudly several days into the month?

The weather early on was moderate, cloudy and quiet.  Perhaps the lion was lurking in the shadows, lulling me into thinking that the pattern of grey would continue.  But on Monday night, the change began with a thunderstorm, bringing rain and lightning, too.  It was really eerie and cool at the same time, to watch the flashes play out against the snowy backdrop, so unlike our summer storms.  Then the winds began, and have barely let up since then.

We had need to be in town on Tuesday, and we had the good fortune to witness the kind of waves on Lake Superior that we usually only hear about after the fact.  It was so amazing! I felt like we were seeing an inland ocean, sending up its very best show.  Though there wasn't much time for photos, I did attempt to take a few.  It isn't easy to hold the camera still when being blasted by gusts and spray.  Not to mention the fact that it was cold!  I have a new admiration for the stellar local photographers that we have.  They truly are dedicated to spending time in those conditions, in order to achieve the magnificent shots that they get. 

Since then, the wind has continued, though from a different direction.  The skies are clear as can be, and the March sun is shining down and warming us up.  We got fresh snow, and the trails have been groomed once again.  So dress warm and get outside, as these days will disappear in a hurry.

A Bug Sighting in Winter

This past Sunday, Gunflint Lake was the place to be for the annual trout derby.  This event is hosted by the local snowmobile club, the Cook County Ridge Riders.  Fishermen and women descend on the lake, fanning out to favorite places in search of trout willing to take the bait.  The bigger the fish, the better, as you might win a prize.  Most of the activity is near the public access, but we often see people setting up near our point.  We also see plenty of traffic headed down towards the east end.  This year was no exception.   

Most folks travel by snowmobile, but given the warm weather of a few weeks ago, the ice conditions currently allow for car and truck travel as well.  When I headed out to clean one of the cabins, this is what I saw, just out from Cedar Point cabin.


This was a first for me to see.  A bug on the ice!  I looked closer, and realized that it was probably my nephew Cassidy out there, so I took a stroll out to say hello.  One of the fellows was busy working the jig on the end of his line, and I admired the trout that he already had on the ice.  He said that he had barely cleared the hole of ice and dropped down his line before that one bit.  It was a lucky day for him, as that fish ended up in second place and he took home a portable ice house!  Nice to know that our point still produces some good fish. 

Trout season is open until the end of the month. Recent reports tell me that there is at least eighteen inches of ice to drill through.  That means that there is still plenty of time to come up and wet a line.  You might win the prize of a tasty meal to bring home!