Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24, 2016

The loons seem to be settling down and tolerating each other better these days.  The night time altercations have become less frequent and shorter in duration;  it's still common to hear a ruckus between 9:00 and 11:00 at night, but it's usually over in just a minute.  There are still two pairs and a bachelor(?) on Wicwas, though the lone bird was AWOL during the loon census last weekend, so Lake Wicwas contributed only four birds to the statewide count.  Hopefully another lake counted our fifth.

Without young to care for, the adults are enjoying this beautiful summer on the lake:  sunning, preening, fishing.  Lots of grooming to make themselves attractive to the other birds, rolling over to show their bellies, oiling their feathers and generally splashing about.

One evening we saw one loon come up with a tremendous fish and spend the next five minutes playing with it. 

It whipped the fish back and forth in its beak and would then drop in the water only to catch it again;  sometimes the fish would almost get away and the bird would make a quick dive to grab it and bring it back up.

Eventually it decided it was ready for dinner and it raised its head in the air and swallowed the tired fish down head first.

Only to have it get stuck in its neck on the way down.

My guess:  It wanted to weaken it first because it didn't want a fish that large flapping around inside its gullet! 

The gorgeous hot weather the past two weeks (it hit 95 on Friday) has inspired the wildlife to perform their summer musical concert, making hot afternoons a chorus of buzzing, chirping, and singing, from the clear flute of the wood thrush, to the song of the never-tiring red-eyed vireo, to the classic summer buzz of the cicada.  One interesting animal that doesn't join the band, but could be the conductor with those two long batons, is the Pine Sawyer.
Pine Sawyer

This member of the longhorn beetle family bores large, long tunnels in pine wood and can cause tremendous damage to felled trees as seen by these holes in a fallen white pine beside the lake. 
Holes bored into the wood ruin its value as timber

Remember the logs that were intentionaly sunk in Lake Wicwas after the hurricane of '38? (See  6 March 2016 post.)  These are the primary insect from which they were protecting that wood, as pine Sawyers can greatly reduce the value of timber in just a few weeks.

Here's another summer insect which I always enjoy seeing, the mayfly.

Perhaps scary looking, but completely harmless, and a great source of sustenance to fish and other animals.  But look quickly, as their adult life lasts, at most, two days.

And one last harmless creature you may see out on a hot summer afternoon:  a garter snake. 
Garter Snake

If you're walking in the woods and hear a gentle rustle in the leaves rising up to join the summer opera, take a look down, and you may find one.


  1. Hey what an excellent blog write up, i referred back to the march post to see what those perfectly round logs were for and am amazed at that information! For years me and my father have wondered what those were from and why we see them half floating around, i love this lake and enjoy your posts !

    1. I'm glad you enjoy it - it's always good to hear when people find something interesting!

  2. Great captures and blog here! I initially noticed your "loon vs. fish" series.

    Wow, that looks like a huge fish (you know what kind?) caught and staring down its captor's throat here! So could the bird really manage to win the battle and gulp that whole thing down entirely okay?? Does the fish put up a good fight, if eaten, does the unlucky prey get swallowed wriggling all the way as well?!


    1. Great questions! The fish is a sunfish; sunfish and perch are a loon's favorite foods. And yes, I've seen this before, where a loon just keeps playing with a large fish until it is worn out. I imagine it doesn't swallow it until it's dead or close to it, so not much wriggling on the way down. But the smaller fish seem to go right down the hatch, live and flapping!