St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Evening Watching the Lake Channel

2011 view from the cabin porch to the lake--already obscured by leaves and trees.  The beavers were supposed to cut them over the winter, but instead got themselves trapped out so Margo will have to do the trimming this summer!

At 6:30 tonight, we went out on the cabin porch to watch the sun go down.  It was mild—65 degrees and the setting sun came across the lake so brightly we had to get our baseball caps on. 

At first we didn’t see much going on.  However the sounds were abundant.  Faintly across the lake was the regular gobble of at least two Tom turkeys with their spring  mating call.  Likely they were strutting with full fanned tails trying to attract the hens. 

Several robins and red wing blackbirds were singing.  Three woodpeckers were hammering, also a mating call.  Then a huge pileated woodpecker flew by in front of us squawking loudly as he landed in a tree to the south. 

Two pairs of ducks, likely mallards, were swimming next to the shore below.  Our perch is on the cabin porch, a 100 yards from the shoreline and 20 feet up the hill give us a nice overlook of the lake.  Across the lake is a large sand/gravel ridge running north and south that marks the edge of the 10 miles of sand barrens between us and the St. Croix River.  Our side of the lake is heavy clay loam ending in a small gravel noll making a nice lake shore spot adjacent to a spring that runs year around into the lake. 

“There is a bald eagle swooping just above the middle of the lake,” exclaimed Margo.  Sure enough, the eagle with his white head and tail shining in the low sunlight swooped and hit the water 4 different times before flying low off to the north obviously carrying something he had caught.  I couldn’t get my binoculars on him quickly enough to see the details. 

After a lull, the single loon came paddling and diving across the center of the lake.  This evening he never called once.  Most times his haunting cry gives the evening a final touch.  A single large bird flew high above the woods and over the lake, also headed north.  “A sandhill crane,” I suggested.  “Too quiet, must have been a blue heron,” commented Margo who, although she is sometimes wrong, never would admit it. 

Seven geese flew over the lake headed north too, dropping down and likely landing in the small channel and creek coming in from the north.  A few groups of ducks circled around.  Much of the lake is obscured by trees from our perch, so we see it through a window mostly straight in front of us.  At one time I had a full view of the lake, but the cows have not pastured it for 20 years letting trees and bushes obscure much of the lake.  One winter, the beaver started cutting it all down, and we were hopeful they would clear it all out.  However, there are too many beaver trappers around—and now for several years the beavers have not reappeared. 

I thought I heard the “peent peeent” of the woodcock in its mating ritual, but it was across the road to the south where he usually lands, makes his sound, then flies high in the sky and comes diving, wings whooping down again to the ground, all in an attempt to attract and impress Ms Woodcock.  Tomorrow night we will sit out there and see if we can watch him at work.

Another lull, and then the lake seemed alive with swimmers.  Four, probably five large otters took it over.  First they swam along with their head, back and tail forming 3 bumps in the water. Then one would role head down, back and tail coming above the water and then diving down and coming up with a fish. They ate the fish with their head sticking straight up in the water using their "hands" and chewing and swallowing the fish; goofing around for a while before another dive; swimming back and forth across the 30 acre lake many times. What a show!  Back and forth and around the small lake until the sun disappeared.

The light breeze disappeared as the sun did.  The lake became perfectly calm with reflections of the hill and trees looking like a mirror.  The last sunlight showed thousands of flies over the lake, some right on the surface.  The lake then became a pool with ring ripples dappled all around as fish came to the surface and nibbled the flies.  The perfect rings spread out, overlapping with each other, reminding me of bubbles in the air.
The sun disappeared, but it was still light enough to see for a while.  The smell of damp earth and the lake came onto the porch along with rapidly cooling temperatures.  We watched for a while longer, hoping to see a deer come through or the Trumpeter Swans, who left early in the morning return, but the coolness drove us in at 8 pm.  Margo turned on the TV, connected to online Netflix and started watching the 5th of 253 episodes of “Murder She Wrote,” uninterrupted by commercials, while I tried to capture what we had just watched on the Lake Channel earlier.