Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Island, a Bog, and a Mystery Bird

Up in north central Wisconsin, my cousins Willi and Betsy have a place on an island on Long Lake. One weekend each summer, Dale and I get to go there. It's a 4-hour drive; then the fun starts. We park, walk to the shore, and ring the bell to announce our arrival. There are no phones, electricity, or running water on the island.159

Before long, we hear a motor, and cousin Willi's boat appears around the side of the island and speeds toward us. We wait on the neighbor's dock with our gear. This is part of the magic of an island visit.

This time, we are told, Willi and Betsy have a mystery for us to solve. There is an unseen bird that incessantly scolds anyone who walks out to the deluxe, 3-seater outhouse. Could we tell what species of bird it is?  Dale and I looked at each other and smiled. Oh, yes, this would be extra fun.

Arriving at the island, armed with binoculars and scope, we could hardly wait to put our detective skills to work. It would have to wait until morning, though. Twilight had arrived, and we needed to change our gears to island time.

I was awakened to the warning call of the mystery bird. Dale had beat me to it, and gone out at dawn's first light to find and ID it. It didn't take long. Over coffee, we learned that the island was host to a nesting pair of Merlins. Dale digiscoped the photo below with a Swarovski ATX scope, and his Panosonic camera.  So exciting!

The Merlin's nest was well-hidden in a white pine just beyond the outhouse, toward the tip of the island. We were able to observe the pair as they crossed from the nest tree to a high snag across the channel on the mainland. Having accomplished the mystery bird's identity, we headed over to Dark Lake and my favorite wetland habitat: the bog.

Bare feet sink down in delicious, clear, soft coolness.


Squishy sphagnum moss, pitcher plants, sedges, and wispy grasses kept us enraptured for a good while.


As we motored out of Dark Lake, we hoped the smells, the sights and the feel of the bog, the call of the Merlin, and the memories of our island retreat would hold us over until our visit next summer.075


Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

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