Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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Male woodduck on our porch rail, looking forlorn


She is on the nest and he is lonely. Here is where they used to dine together on special bird food we bought expressly. Only a few days ago the pair of them were here, along with another male, which she disdained and he showed hostility toward. There was no doubt they were a couple.
He made sure at the dance that he did not "cut in."

She will lay an egg a day, according to my bird book, until she has enough for a full brood. For a few minutes each day she will leave the nest to snatch a few hurried bites.

The nest is a woodduck box some early denizen on the lake provided on a nearby tree in a wild, naturally-protected area. Each year she returns to it, or one like it, cleans it out, and builds a new nest. When the brood hatches and grows a bit, she will urge them out of the nest, which is about twelve feet off the ground. "Urges" in a mild term for it: she boots them out, and they learn the their delight that they already know how to fly, or flutter, to the littered ground beneath. And almost immediately they will be sighted along the secure shoreline following her in tight array, oh, perhaps as many as a dozen of them.

Alas, attrition is high. Their number starts dropping off alarmingly in the days to come. Twelve to ten to nine to seven. Often she ends up with but two or three. This worries Norma and me greatly. (These are our grandchildren.) And each year, as their numbers fade away, we fear for the coming year and the prospect of no more woodducks.

But—along with the rhododendrons, cherry blossoms, and sprouting roses, each year—the ducks keep coming, and we are supremely grateful.

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Solitary cherry tree in the side yard


"Loveliest of trees the cherry now . . ." is happily in bloom in our side yard. Which puts me in mind of how in Japan people make long pilgrimages to view the trees' ephemeral beauty and to meditate on how short and fragile life is, and should be especially enjoyed because of its transitory nature.

We have three small fountains along side the tree, which we call The Otter Fountain. Four cement otters make it their home.

Otter Fountain

Norma cautions me against attaching the pump to the fountain so early in the year. Soon it will fill with fallen cherry blossoms, which we'll have to bail out until they are gone, for they will choke the pump and perhaps destroy it. So we will wait.

Meanwhile the blossoms are not yet at their fullest, so I try to think Japanese and enjoy them while the last. Azaleas and rhododendrons are starting to bloom, as well. Indeed, it is a fertile and fecund time of the year.

Note: the hatchery trout were stocked in the lake five days ago. The first and second days they wouldn't hit, and disappointed fishers went home empty handed. On the third day they hit gingerly; they next day, better yet. And yesterday they were getting better acclimated and began chasing lures.

One of the fish from yesterday was the smallest I've ever caught in the lake—a bare five inches. Of course I didn't measure it. Perhaps it was longer; it looked so small in comparison with the rainbows I'd been used to catching this spring.

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