We pretty much visit the outflow of Marcil Lake every night. Its hard to resist checking the progress of the Pacific Loons and Red-throated Loons that are nesting there, in easy view of the road.
The night before last saw the two Red-throated Loon nests that we know about come to fruition. There is at least one other pair of Red-throated Loons nesting there, but I've never located the nest, and I suspect at least one more.
Wednesday night, as we drove in, the first thing I noticed was there were two birds at the farthest nest, a Red-throated's. I thought, perhaps, that we just caught the changing of the guard and that the second bird was taking a turn at incubating the eggs. When I turned to look at the other Red-throated's nest I couldn't locate the bird.
The Pacific Loons nest in a pond right near the road, and she was right there sitting on the nest. But again I couldn't find the one Red-throated at her nest. Leah's sister then pointed her out sitting farther down the shore. "That's unusual." I said to myself. I could see the male carrying, what I thought to be, nesting material so I thought that perhaps they had lost their nest and were making a new start (albeit a late one).
That's when I realized that the male wasn't carrying weeds, but a rather large fish. And then we noticed first one chick and then a second. The male fed one chick and then settled back on the pond. (I'll apologize right off the bat for the quality of these photos, near midnight on an overcast day, they were shot at a high ISO and hand held at low shutter speeds. These first two shots are heavily cropped also.)
Checking the other nest in the distance we could see there was one chick swimming with an adult. This loon built on the same site as last year, a small island in the middle of the river. After building the nest this spring it was flooded out in the high water, but re-established as soon as the land was exposed again. I'm assuming they lost the first egg.
We went off looking for Char fry in the stream and then returned for more photos. I moved closer, and laid down behind the old iglutak front, while Leah and the kids picked Mountain Sorrel. These are the best photos of the lot, unfortunately.
Note the one chick on the adult's back, the other tucked under its wing.
And loons weren't the only baby birds around. Two Pectoral Sandpiper chicks along with their anxious parents moved about ahead of me as I walked out. Constantly on the move they were even more challenging to photograph in the low light.
Suddenly, too suddenly, summer seems to be drawing to a close. The ice on the bay went out a couple of weeks ago (early), and is going fast out in Admiralty Inlet. I remember my first full summer here, marveling to someone that the ice had finally left, and their reply "Yes, winter is just around the corner".
Snow Bunting fledglings have appeared, and the shorebirds have all appeared to hatched and the chicks are on the move. The Common Ringed Plover nest we found this past week hatched out yesterday. Unfortunately right beside some games that were being held, and the chicks were discovered by kids. I hope they survived the constant attention.
The Sun, almost a month past Equinox, is noticeably lower in the sky each night, it's shadows grow longer each midnight. A little over two weeks from now it will begin setting, and we'll be in the quick slide to winter's sunset. I don't know how it passed by so quickly.
It seems like only last week that the southern migrants arrived, and here they are on the cusp of leaving. Fall is not here yet, but it will appear suddenly one of these days. And not everyone is disappointed in that, Leah and her sister's have been anxiously talking about Blueberry season since the snow started to disappear.
Last night we left the new place a little earlier for our drive, 10:30, one of the goals being checking the blue berries for progress. The first stop revealed they still have a ways to go, but seeing as it is usually August when they are picking that came as no surprise to me. Still we checked.
The Lapland Longspurs were busy feeding hidden nestlings. Several flitted about, some quite close. Soft calls filled the evening sky.
And there was a new flower to add to my life list. A delicate bluebell like flower, which I've yet to identify. I was amazed that I'd not seen them before (as had neither Leah nor her sister) as they dotted the hill we were on.
And seeing we were near by the Baird's Sandpiper's nest that we discovered earlier this year, we decided to see if they too had hatched. And we drove farther down the road.
As I got out of the truck, a small back lit ball of fluff scurried away, from almost at my feet. Had I not been facing directly into the sun I might never had seen it. But as it was it glowed as it moved quickly across the dry tundra. A Baird's chick, it moved away quickly while the parents moved in and began distraction displays.
When I followed with the camera it went to ground. See the bird in this photo?
How about now?
We continued on and several pairs of sandpipers flew about, agitated. I couldn't find the nest site and with all the activity about, I assume that they too have hatched. It would only make sense.
We left the sandpipers circling above us and calling and moved down to see if the Char fry had moved into the little streamlets yet (we found one) and we weren't apparently the only ones, as a Long-tailed Duck had staked out a claim at the mouth of one.
With that, and more bird song, we made one last stop, checking on the loons' nests. All three nests that we've been watching still have the birds patiently setting. Their eggs will hatch later than the others, timing their young's arrival with more open water, and staying later than many of our birds. And as we watched, the shadows from the hills crept over and we turned for home.
Yes, Summer is quickly slipping into fall, but in this place of sublime beauty the waning light only enhances it. And beautiful, peaceful, evenings such as this serve to make winter seem farther away than it really is.