Ravens at Clearwater

Nesting site along the cliffs across the lake

In this post from early June of last year I wrote about three recently fledged Common Ravens that were found near Clearwater Lake. This is a small but deep oligotrophic lake that is probably best known for its population of Brook Trout. I regularly pass through this area at this time of year and usually notice the clamorous activity of ravens along the lake edge. The noise reminded me to check the cliff for active nests when I passed by last week. It didn’t take long to spot the nest immediately above some rock covered in white wash. The following photos show an adult brooding and three youngsters waiting for food. Unfortunately the photos were taken from a distance of about 100m, which made them pretty grainy but the idea of leaning over the cliff for a better closeup just didn’t appeal.  Common Ravens are regular breeders in the area however this particular record was the first for us since we began in 2009 – very cool!

Incubating adult
Three nestlings

Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest progress

Cuckoo nestlings

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest that was first described in this post from a few days ago now has two scraggly nestlings. Despite the mid-morning heat, an adult was incubating them when I arrived. These nestlings are about 4-5 days old, which indicates that hatching began shortly after my last visit on May 30. Bendire’s description of the young from 1895:

“The young when first hatched are repulsive, black, and greasy-looking creatures, nearly naked, and the sprouting quills only add to their general ugliness”

These younglings may not be the most aesthetically pleasing bird babies that I’ve ever seen but I like ’em. They made amusing hissing and spitting sounds, which seemed to fit their general appearance and the character of their parents. There were three eggs on May 30 so I’m not sure what became of the third. Amazingly, these nestlings will resemble full blown Yellow-billed Cuckoos in just a day or two, which means this will likely be the last check on this particular nest.

Close-up

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Gulls, Ravens and a Wood Thrush statue

Gull colony

Surprisingly, neither Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) or Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) are listed as species having bred in Frontenac Provincial Park. This may be an unintended omission in my source material as suitable habitat exists on many of the larger perimeter and interior lakes. Both species were found tending nests this morning on a small rocky island with a few large eastern white pines. There were enough nesting pairs to label this a colony. I only had time for a quick paddle by this morning but will return soon to accurately census the colony. I must remember to bring some sort of decoy to avoid getting hit by marauding Herring Gulls. I’m not too keen on the idea of capsizing the canoe in a cold lake that is 73 metres deep!

Incubating Ring-billed Gulls
Juvenile Common Raven

The raven is a personal favourite of mine. Steeped in lore amongst cultures around the globe, they are perhaps the most intelligent of all bird species and their remarkable behaviours can be witnessed throughout the year. A group of recently fledged Common Ravens (Corvus corax) were discovered in a stand of pine on the west side of Clearwater Lake last week. There was no sign of a nest in the treetops but there was a steep cliff on the opposite side of the lake, which may have supported a nesting pair. The youngsters were quite entertaining to watch and they allowed my approach for some decent photos and a better view. In between bouts of raucous calls and chatter to its siblings, this one concentrated on deftly breaking off and strutting around with twigs.

Close-up

This one seemed the youngest of the three. Here you can clearly see the fleshy gape at the base of the bill, a characteristic of nestlings and their hyper extended maws. Also, this juvenile has the gray eye colour of a very young raven, which will turn chestnut brown as the bird ages.

Wood Thrush nest and guarding adult

Finally, an image of one of several Wood Thrush nests in progress this spring. I snapped this photo of the nest with the adult on security detail. For several minutes It perched motionless and just stared at me. It had a certain look in its eyes that seemed to say ‘can I help with you with something?’. I quietly left it to its important work.
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