Setting Up House!

The birds are at it. The big game are doing it too. We're even putting our hand to the same plow. What do we have in common with our wild neighbors? Putting our house in order!

It's that time of year again. Time to get things put in order and ready to go. With the slow spring, it seems like everywhere I turn I see signs of some critter setting up house or knee-deep in baby-raising.

We've seen or heard of baby moose, baby elk, baby deer, and baby pronghorn. While some birds are still setting up house, some (like the Robins who nested at Cabin 5) have their young nearly grown.

With all this industry going on around us, we couldn't just sit around and watch. Thus here at Elk Lake Resort we have been busy getting things in order.

Although our employees had a hard time getting here (courtesy of Beaverhead County Road Department), they have arrived and are working together like a well-oiled machine. Boy am I glad!

No matter how much time I spend enjoying God's creation, I continue to gain new insights and appreciation for the way He made it to adapt to challenges. I wondered (in an earlier blog) how our late spring would effect the wildlife. Well, it seems to have done so in several obvious and I'm sure many not-so-obvious ways.

One - no one has reported seeing more than one calf per cow or one fawn per doe. That doesn't mean they aren't there - it just means they aren't very prevalent. While some birds - particularly the little guys - appear to be here in abundance (and many are nesting), some of the larger birds appear to have suffered.

Take the Lesser Scaup. Plagued by issues, many still unknown, outside the valley, the Scaup who summer here have seemed to lead a charmed life. Until this year. Although I haven't heard the final findings, the consensus seemed to be leaning toward the long hard winter followed by a long cool spring. Whatever the causes, several Scaup died this spring.

In addition, our local Osprey don't appear to have nested. I haven't seen our resident eagles, either. Although the variety of ducks seems to be up, nests appear to be down as well.

Of course, all this could be because everything is running a little behind schedule. Or it could be due to other non-weather related 'natural' causes. Take the 'favorite' nesting hole behind Cabin 3. Would you believe a Red-Naped Sapsucker, a House Wren, and a Tree Swallow are all arguing over the same hole? True enough! They are hilarious to watch. In the meantime, however, time marches on and our short summer keeps step.

It always amazes me when I think about all I learn watching nature. Take the Red-Neck Grebes. Last year we had a pair nest across the lake from the dock. I'd see them whenever I took out the kayak - the female on her floating nest tucked under a dead tree. The male always nearby.

I watched their progress carefully, hoping for a chance to see the young grebes once they'd hatched. You might imagine my amazement when, one day, I come floating by in my kayak to check on their progress only to find no birds; no nest!

It was with relief I spotted Momma and her crew a day or two later. At least I knew nothing had happened to the family. However, I have wondered many times since what happened to the nest. Well, I gained a little insight into this enigma the other day at Hidden Lake.

Although it wasn't easy to verify my 'find' on the web - most common Grebe sites do not mention this phenomenon - I learned why the Grebe nest disappeared last summer.

I already knew the Grebe's built a floating nest attached to nearby vegetation to keep it in place. What I didn't know, until my experience at Hidden Lake, was how they maintained the nest.

Watching the nesting pair the other day, I noticed something unusual. Papa Grebe doesn't just hang around and look pretty. In fact, he's a very active fellow.

As I watched the other day, Mr. Grebe dove down into the lake's green waters. Moments later he popped back to the surface with a bill full of 'weeds'? Yes, weeds. He to the nearby nest and deposited his bill-ful with care. Mystery solved!

Apparently (and it makes good sense) the Grebe's nest looses buoyancy at a regular pace. To maintain a useable nest, the Grebe's add to the pile regularly. So, when they leave the nest, with no one to replenish its sinking material, it quickly succombs to the water's weight.

But, have you ever found one answer often leads to another question? Now I'm wondering what happens to those eggs? Does Momma move them regularly to the reinforced sections of the nest to keep them from sinking into the water? I suspect I'll have to spend a lot more time watching to solve that puzzle. But, then again, what a wonderful way to spend a day (should I manage to get that much extra together)!

Of course, the wildlife and the humans at Elk Lake aren't the only things making good use of our lovely early summer weather. The fields are sprinkled with the ever-moving color spots we call butterflies. New wildflowers appear each day turing the meadows into colorful kaleidoscopes. The fish swim by in schools - obviously on the hunt of good spawning grounds or fresh bug hatches. The trees wink and shimmer showing off their new clothes.

The view from my front porch (or back or side or wherever I turn my eye) has to be about the prettiest thing on God's green earth. Just another reason why I'm glad to be the,

Lady of the Lake

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