Painted turtles by Don Andrews

Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 211

We got some badly needed rain this week, mostly at night which was good for my Loon surveys. They don’t mind the rain, but I hate to get wet or wear so many clothes to keep dry I get wet anyway. Some folks from Texas to Florida got much more than they needed with a foot to fifteen inches of rain in a day. Some got tornadoes along with these storms and one in the panhandle of Texas wiped out the town of Perryton with three persons killed, one an eleven-year-old boy. Many of these storms had hail from golf ball size to baseball size as they swept across the south leaving almost 600,000 without power as winds were up to eighty miles an hour. Looking at the destruction of homes it’s a wonder that more people weren’t killed.

The rain we got was mostly soaked up by the woods and vegetation as my little intermittent brook never ran a drop. The pond came up some, just enough to go out the outlet. Most of the lakes that I’ve been on are down six inches to a foot. Some of the loons are building a nest and nesting right on the shore which won’t give them much free board if we do get lots of rain. If they lose their nest much after the middle of July, they probably won’t try again. I did have one on Dart’s Lake that nested late and didn’t bring her babies off the nest until the 12th of August. This was the latest of any Loon nest hatching I ever had. We’ve had a few pairs that have nested three and four times during one nesting year, that’s using a lot of energy. Once on Limekiln Lake both pairs lost their first nest and the island pair renested and the Outlet pair didn’t find a good spot to nest so they dumped both of their eggs in the island pair’s nest. The observer that year came to the house and asked for a camera to take a picture of the four eggs in the nest. The nest wasn’t successful, and it was also abandoned. We couldn’t take two eggs out because we didn’t know which ones were in there first.

Some of these odd happenings occurred on the 16 of June. Once on the 16 I was surveying Woodhull Lake and I saw odd actions of a bird out on the water down near the outlet and I saw a bird out in the middle of the lake acting weird. At first, I thought it was a Common Merganser, possibly with some fishing line caught on it. As I got closer, I could see it was a smaller Loon type bird. It popped up right in front of the canoe and it was a beautiful male Red Throated Loon. I took some photos, but none came out that good and the folks who look at rare finds didn’t think it was. Being this late in the season these birds should be up north of us already.

The next big rare find that happened on 6/16/2011 was as I was doing a boreal bird survey around Helldiver Pond and the mosquitoes were horrible. My first stop was right in the parking area, and I could barely see my hands as the mosquitoes were that thick. You must listen at each stop for ten minutes and the most I heard was mosquitoes buzzing. I got to the next stop at the landing on the pond and there was Harold (to be named later) the bull moose eating water plants out in the water right in front of me. The mosquitoes be damned, I went and got my canoe and camera and shot photos of Harold for half an hour and he was still in the pond when I left with a camera card full of moose pictures.

Now on Friday the 16 I told Karen when I left that this has many times been a special nature day for me. My first stop was at Rondaxe Lake and the loon there is nested right in front of some camps. When I got there, the yard was full of cars and trucks. Damn that Loon will never put up with this as I walked down toward the nest site but there it was sitting right up not fifty feet away enjoying the goings on at the camp. The family at the camp had seen the pair working on the nest when they were up a few weeks ago and she sat before they left. I left there headed up to Little Safford Lake and not far up the road there was a turtle. I stopped thinking it was a painted turtle but no it was a wood turtle which I hadn’t seen in the area since 1999 right in my flower garden. Well, I took some photos which didn’t come out very well as I had no card in my camera, rookie! Bruce Dennison called me last year to tell me he saw one on a sandbar as he canoed the North Branch of the Moose from Rondaxe down to Old Forge and he had photos. So, this could be the same wood turtle, but we will never know, a rare find for sure.

Luckily Don Andrews found some painted turtles while he was watching loons on Seventh Lake so they will have to do for the photo opt.

On that same day I did find a neat plant, a white clematis all in bloom which just grows on the ground and not up any trellis. It must be deer resistant because there certainly are deer in that area.

I am traveling west for the next week, and I might not get a place to write. The only time ever that I missed getting a column in the paper since 1986 was in 1988 when I was on the fires in Yellowstone National Park and the snail mail didn’t make it back to Old Forge in time. Well, I’ll be in Yellowstone again this time around and I see if I can find a carrier pigeon to carry it back east this time, but that’s another story. See ya.