Six Mile Lake Association gatherings are always a lot of fun. It’s hard to come to one of our functions determined to have a bad time. This year’s picnic was an absolute riot. It’s nice to come to a function and have the time to actually visit with your neighbors. This year nothing was rushed. There was time to talk to the cooks (thanks Phil Diecks and team), time to visit with marine officer Scott Boni, the food was delicious, and everybody had a chance to win prizes, a free membership, hear each others stories and one of our members, Roy Messink, was celebrating his 90th birthday. 56 members attended this year’s picnic, second highest attendance we’ve ever had, plus a few new members joined in the fun. Thanks to Cliff and Mary Sorrell for chairing this event which was such a great success and thanks to all our members who attended.
At the picnic, I was asked to give an update on the Six Mile Lake loons. First of all, let me say that this is the first year (since starting the program in 2012) that Six Mile Lake has had two successful breeding pairs that produced chicks in the same year. FYI, the north pair are the same two loons that occupied the platform last year. I call her Mrs. White. This is her third year occupying the north territory. We banded her three years ago with a white leg band. I would guess her mate is the same one she has had for those three years but he was banded just last year with a red leg band so we know he has been with her for sure the last two years. They have one chick, Hercules. He is as big as the south chicks and he was born three weeks after they were but with two parents feeding him he has grown much quicker than if he was competing for food with another sibling.
The south pair has an interesting history. She is an Intermediate Lake loon, banded in 2010, and she occupied a territory on Intermediate Lake until she was ejected from that territory and found her way to Six Mile Lake in the spring of 2016. She and her mate were unsuccessful last year even though they spent about 45 days on the nest. This year is a different story. She returned to her Six Mile Lake territory this spring with a big, bad, boisterous mate who’s sole goal is to protect her and the two chicks hatched from the south platform. One of our members took photos of a jet skier harassing the loons and Mr. Big refused to leave his two chicks even though the photo shows the woman on the jet ski making a pass right next to him and the babies and the photo shows him with wings extended trying to ward off the perpetrator, who later claimed to the sheriff that she thought they were ducks! (I guess it’s alright to harass the ducks!!??? Even though banding will not take place this year, due to the dissolution of the Loon Network, I think we will all never forget Mr. Big (unbanded) and will know him if he returns next year. He is very vocal, to say the least, and is unafraid to yell at you if you are riding in something he deems a threat….jet skis, certain color kayaks, my paddle boat. Yesterday, we took a tour of the lake and he was sleeping with his head tucked under his wing, and passing boats didn’t bother him in the least. Everyone who is excited about the loons has remarked to me how much they are going to miss hearing him call and Mr. Big calls ALOT!!!
In another week or two first one of the parents will leave then the other will go. The chicks, who are diving now and still learning to fly, will stay behind until late September early October, and then they will be gone. Right now, you are seeing groups of adult loons ‘visiting’ the Six Mile Lake loons. They perform a series of rituals, swimming in circles and synchronized dives, all in preparation for the long flight to the Gulf of Mexico and coast of Florida. There, they all turn dove gray. The chicks will stay there for three years, returning as adults in full black and white garb…males to their natal territory and the females elsewhere, trying to stake out their own territory for one purpose…to breed. As much as I hate to say it, summer is drawing down. Enjoy these next couple of weeks of loon sights and sounds because soon enough they will be gone!
I have seen some unusual sights on this lake this year. Around the fourth of July, Kelly and I saw two white pelicans take off from right in front of our house and make three passes in a circle right over our heads. We literally couldn’t believe our eyes and kept saying out loud ‘there are no pelicans in Michigan’ but it turns out that there are, indeed, white pelicans here and they are the only freshwater pelicans in the world. There are colonies in Muskegon, Seney, and Charlevoix. They are huge birds with a nine foot wing span and the only bird that flies with it’s neck tucked into the body.
This spring I saw a hooded merganzer swim by with at least 14 chicks who were taking turns hopping on and off her back in shifts like a hockey team. I couldn’t believe the chicks could keep up with her as she never slowed down but just kept moving at a breakneck speed.
I also saw an eagle drop out of the sky into Six Mile Lake and sit floating on the surface with huge wings cupped in what I thought was an attempt to keep from drowning. The eagle was looking all around down into the water. As I prepared the paddle boat to attempt a rescue (yikes!!!), suddenly the eagle just shot out of the water leaving a couple of tail feathers behind. I went out in the paddle boat anyways and discovered a black squirrel floating about a foot below the surface of the water just out of reach of the eagle…an amazing sight!!!
I hope all of you are just as amazed at the opportunity to live and own property in such a wonderful place as Six Mile Lake surrounded by best friends and neighbors. Truly, we are blessed!
Until next time!
P.S. Just a friendly reminder that 2017 dues are due at this time. Please mail your check for $25 made out to SMLA P.O. Box 421, Central Lake, MI 49622 or you can use Paypal on the website sixmilelakeassociation
.org and thanks!!!