Monday, July 23, 2007

Claiming the Rock

Cormorants claim the rock in the afternoon

Midway between our camp and the point of land across from us on Lake Manitou was a rocky shoal. We could not get too close to it in the boat, but through my binoculars I could see a variety of birds perched and feeding in the area. When we were here last September, there were hundreds of cormorants in the area, in fact, I saw few other birds on the water. Last week there were fewer cormorants and a number of other waterbirds were competing for the best fishing spots.

Ring Billed Gull, female Mallards, female Common Merganser

Mallard ducks were plentiful, but the males were lacking most of the feathers of their bright green heads. For a while I thought they were teal ducks until I saw the patchy green heads and orange feet. Female Common Mergansers were seen frequently, but I never recognized a single male. The gulls made themselves comfortable with every group of birds.

Caspian Terns, Black Terns, female Common Mergansers and Mallards claim the rock in the morning

I loved watching the terns. Black Terns and Caspian Terns are seen in fewer areas in Ontario now due to loss of habitat and increased competition with gulls. The Black Terns reminded me of swallows in flight. In the evenings they performed their acrobatic flights near the shore while fishing for minnows.

One cool morning we left the dock around 8:00AM as the fog was lifting from the warmer water. The sun seemed to be burning off the moisture and we moved away from the shoreline. Unexpectedly, the fog descended again and we lost sight of all landmarks. My husband turned off the motor and we drifted in the stillness waiting for the fog to lift again. Minutes later, a few terns appeared close to the boat and we could hear more of them in the distance. Morning was the time the terns claimed the rock. We had a compass, and using the terns as a "landmark", we were able to head in the right direction to the camp. There was no need for panic this time, but the incident gave me greater respect for the potential danger of fog.

Common Loon

This last bird would have no part of the rock culture. I have never seen a loon out of the water. This one was diving for fish and it was fun to guess where he might reappear. In my estimation, there is no more relaxing sound than the yodel of a loon across the water.
And yes...there were fish for our dinner too.


  1. Thanks for sharing your lovely day and wonderful pictures. You're making me wish hard for a vacation! I love the "wind-blown hair" look on the mergansers. I'm with you on the sound of loons on the water. We're fortunate here in Minnesota too to have many of these magical loons on our lakes.

  2. Gorgeous pics, Ruth - wow! I love that little one with the terns all lined up.

    Sounds like a dream vacation!

  3. Anonymous5:32 am GMT-4

    man oh man... you are making me realize how badly i need a vacation...

  4. Beautiful Ruth! Man oh man... all those beautiful birds just lined up on the rocks for you. Ahhh, the loon. Every time I see one, I think of the movie "On Golden Pond" and it makes me want to cry.

  5. Anonymous8:07 am GMT-4

    Ruth, sounds like a perfect vacation. Thanks for sharing some great photos.

  6. Hi Ruth - it looks like you saw quite a few of the same birds I saw on my brief vacation. I've never seen cormorants "perched" together that way - I usually see only one or two at a time. I chuckled at the photo with the females (mallard and merganser) and the gull - I wonder if that was also a female. Then you could put up a caption to say something like "we girls need to stick together." ;-) That was quite some fog you encountered; I'm glad you knew what to do - not sure I would have known. I also found it interesting that you commented on so many females birds and lack of the males. That was also my experience when visiting Tule Lake and the Lower Klamath Basin. Thanks for sharing a part of your trip.

  7. Anonymous7:03 pm GMT-4

    Mmm fresh fish - yum!

    Your trip sounds like it was very relaxing! - When I saw that first picture though I thought those birds were sitting on an iceberg (but your not that far north!)

  8. Lynne- I love the look of mergansers too and think they are the most elegant ducks around. Minnesota does look much like northern Ontario.

    Laura- Thanks. The terns were most entertaining. You likely have many more types in your area.

    Jennifer- You are outdoors so much, but it is still work. Hope you get a vacation soon. We usually take a September vacation, but had to go earlier this year to get a cabin.

    Jayne- so you like sad movies too..
    The loon doesn't sound sad to me, just very peaceful.

    LauraO- Glad you enjoyed them...more to come.

    Mary- Funny, I thought the same about the lady ducks on the rock too. It looked like a tea party or lady's day out. Where are the male birds? They must go and do guy things together once the mating season is over (hmmm!)

    Jaspenelle- Yes, the fresh fish was yummy. I am glad we don't have to work that hard for dinner every day though.

  9. Anonymous9:39 am GMT-4

    I always love checking for birdies on the rocks!

  10. You had a wonderful view and I thank you for sharing these great photos of birds I haven't seen. Wow.

  11. Hi Ruth,
    Lovely pictures of the waterfowl and boating in the fog. I liked the loon pic the best. They have a beautiful song.


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