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Along the Lakeshore: March 6

Predators on the lakeshore

Last week I got a call from a resident of Heather Woods who had an interesting, but bad day watching his feathered friends. First, a small raptor swooped down under his birdfeeder and made off with a female cardinal sitting right next to her scarlet mate. The raptor consumed same over by the side yard. My caller was very sad, as the pair has been coming to his feeder for some time, perhaps years.

At one time my barn at 110 East Lake Road had open rafter ends which hosted something like 20 or 30 sparrow nests. The Sparrows also found shelter in the extensive arborvitae hedges along the driveway and hit the birdfeeders with great gusto. A small hawk was a regular visitor and consumer of sparrows, but I never noticed any diminution of the supply of sparrows.

My friend also witnessed and took a series of pictures that he emailed to Susan. She printed them for me and they confirmed the rest of his birding day. A black-backed seagull attacked, killed, and consumed a scaup. The victim could have been a bufflehead female, but it seemed a bit bigger and appeared to have a white belly. I did not know that gulls were that aggressive and actually killed other waterfowl. I know that they try to steal fish that the diver ducks catch, usually during the flip-over of the diver moving the fish from crossways in his bill to lengthwise and down the hatch.

On a less violent note, he also observed three tundra swans. His pictures were clear enough to identify them as they had black beaks and no yellow spots near the eyes. Susan was headed for the village and she observed the swans with her new cataract-free 20/25 vision. She now sees like a hawk and my observations are assisted a lot by her new clearness and acuity. When I was in my 20s and banging on rocks around the countryside, spending a lot of days in the field, I felt I did not miss much of my surroundings. As time went on, though, I realized my long-range vision was diminishing because I had trouble seeing my buddies’ golf balls landing “out there somewhere.” It was never a problem for me, as I could never hit the ball out beyond my sight.

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