Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

April 26, 2010

Day & Night on Dollar Lake

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 8:58 pm

If you are a regular reader of Naturespeak, you might recall that my wife and I bought a tiny cottage late last year on the shores of a tiny lake called Dollar Lake. I’ve alluded to it a few times and probably will again, since the place is located smack dab in the middle of some pretty scenic northern Michigan country. The lake is a glorified (some would say not even glorified) pond but it is a wild little place that offers some little wild moments.

By day, the late April appearance of the lake is of glass smooth waters lightly pockmarked with emerging water lilies. About half of the arrow shaped pads have reached the floating stage and the others are making a bid for the surface. Round green flower buds, each on their own stalk, promise a future flowering display (see above). New green cat-tail blades are thrusting up through last year’s stalks as well. A lone muskrat occasionally stops by “our” end of the lake to feed on the fresh greens – his floating feeding platform placed close to the end of “my” dock.

Above the muskrat’s watery domain, a pair of red-wing blackbirds was setting up shop. The busy female (see below) worked on their nest all weekend and found time to protest my presence each time she delivered a new shred of cat-tail leaf to her developing nest. The male stood guard from an overhanging willow but, seeing that I was hardly a threat, maintained his focus more on rival male red-wings than the dowdy human observer seen on yonder platform.

Nearly hidden under the shade of a shoreline grove of balsam firs, a bright Marsh Marigold did its best to proclaim the virtues of the season (see here).  It appears to be the only one of its kind on this particular section of shore. It therefore was compelled to shout for attention. This is a petal-less flower, believe it or not – those buttercup “petals” are actually sepals. This trivial botanical point hardly matters because when one looks at this flower one is drawn into its “open golden eyes” (as Shakespeare put it). Whether those eyes be of petal or sepal kind is totally irrelevant. Unfortunately, this gem is often called a Cowslip which defies explanation. In Shakespeare’s Old English time this senseless name was actually divided into the words “Cows Lip.” So, do those yellow lips moo for attention as well? One doth not give a rip, does doth!

One thing I doth did give a rip about were the Wood Ducks that cruised the lake. There was a bachelor flock of about 6-8 of these multi-colored ducks on the lake. Early Saturday morning I noticed that this shy flock of male fowl had tentatively made their way up into the grass of my cottage yard. Several of them also perched on the dock post (see above and here) and preened in the early light. They were a skittish lot, however, and were off in an instant as soon as they detected life from the porch. I shot the above photo through my front window but I considered it a meager attempt. I decided to rig up my new trail cam in order to capture them remotely the following morning.

I had yet to set my camera up, so I spent the darkening hours getting the thing ready.  The first few tests shots from this unit were less than inspiring (see here a shot of my face finding out where the shutter button was and a great shot of my feet). My first night was a bust. By the following evening, I was able to strap the thing into place and point the lens directly at the spot where I thought the Woodies would wander up from the lake in the dim light of the following morning. Unbeknownst to me, the camera caught me walking away in the evening light – the ghost-like man who had set up the perfect Wood Duck trap (see beginning photo). The only other sound on that silent eve was the close chirping of a half dozen Spring Peepers and the distant “peenting” of a single courting Woodcock.

I didn’t see the ducks in the yard on the following morning, but that was no matter. It had been a rainy wet night and the morning was very dim indeed. Perhaps they had ventured in while I was still asleep. That is, after all, the purpose of a trail cam. Opening up the camera and examining the photo memory chip, I unfortunately found no wood duck portraits within. There was, however, a wee hour “capture.”

At 3 am, a raccoon wandered past the spot and mugged for the camera (see above). This wasn’t exactly the exotic type of picture I was hoping for, but it was a fascinating glimpse into the nightlife of Dollar Lake. It appears that the daytime world of my little lake presented only half the picture. The other half was a tantalizing glimpse of a raccoon’s rear disappearing into the darkness.

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