Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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and s-integrator


Frozen enough for dogs to run on, anyway

Followed by a thaw and spectacular sunset

We've had some weather lately, let me tell you. First a hard freeze, then as precisely predicted, six inches of snow. The lake was covered with ice and then snow. This was followed by a quick thaw and a sensational sunset that was over so quickly that, I'm sure, many missed it. And now today we are back to drab normality. That is a gray reality and a lake that dogs can no longer run on and is by degrees giving up its mush and ice flows.

Life on a lake has its multiple benefits. Just think, in less than two months I will have a good chance to catch a few holdover rainbow trout, that is, if this year follows the trend established by past years.

Note that the maples and rhododendrons have long been budded. They seem anxious to pop out. Of course this is merely the "pathetic fallacy" at work. I imagine all of the above.

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Poet Bill Stafford, one of my favorites, wrote a short poem about the junco. (The full name, Oregon junco, was perhaps redundant to him, since ever coming from Kansas he lived and taught and wrote in that state.)

They operate from elsewhere,
Some hall in the mountains--
quick visit, gone.
Specialists on branch ends,
craft union. I like
their clean little coveralls.

Nice. And not to quibble, but it doesn't seem to me "coveralls" is quite right. At first I thought "bibs" might be better. Then "somber hoods."

"Surplice" might be the better word. More precise. Anyhow, the coveralls are black. (See picture above.) And the part about "specialists on branch ends" is just right. Whatever, the porches and feeders are full of them.

Incidentally, the frozen lake is covered with inches of snow; how many inches is yet to be determined, since it is snowing hard, the distance across the lake obscured, and all human traffic ground to a halt. But all very pretty, what I can see of it.

Snow (if nothing else) is white and inhuman.

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See that group of ducks in the foreground? Mostly mallards. See their little feet? Most unusual.



The lake is frozen and has been for several days now. I think I reported a first of the year duck count and the lake was about half-frozen then. The ducks still had places that would float them. No more.

The ice is thicker than it appears, yet I would not go for your ice skates just yet. Not unless you happen to be a polar-bear swimmer. The water near shore has that pretty frozen bubble look, surrounded by white, opaque ice. And there are a few tiny pockets of water near shore. Here the songbirds congregate, when they are not at our feeders.

Norma left out a sauce of water for them, but so far they have ignored it. But they will empty out all the feeders in a couple of days. (I am thinking of adding them to my income tax returns as dependents. But will the IRS accept several hundred dependents, even though the bills for birdseed are eye-raising.) 

They are not as interesting to inventory for me as the ducks are. With them I add or subtract a species temporarily every day or so. I don't expect the green-winged teal back this year, but I'd like to see the ringnecked ducks again. (And why did they name them that, when the ring is clearly around the tip of the duck's beak? His neck is unmarked, so far as I can see. They don't permit me to get close enough to be absolutely sure.)

Oregon juncos dominate the feeder and happily trade places with members of their copious tribe after one has had only a seed or two. The bigger the bird and its species, they more they will send away the others. Juncos are small, smaller than the tohee, but not so big as the Stellar jay. And when a crow comes to the feeder, the others go flying.

Maybe it is the crow's bad rep that precedes him, I don't know. And overhead, circling on wide wings and taking up short roots in Jane Hillary's tree opposite, is a mature bald eagle. They are becoming resident in most of the lowland lakes around here, I hear from the crow grapevine.

It is nice to have our own, and I see this one often enough that I've mapped out his flight path and know which tall cedars and hemlocks he is most apt to take up roost in.

Rarely am I wrong in such matters.

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