Having spent every weekend since late September getting Butternut Lake Lodge ready for our awesome guests, we've seen a lot of critters. Here's my list in no particular order, with associated commentary:
1. Deer. Lots of deer. One morning around 6:30 I looked outside, and the entire northeast corner of the yard in front of the lodge was filled with deer - I'd estimate over 20 of them, just standing around with that "the world is my salad bar" look on their faces.
2. Some kind of fearless owl (picture below). He was right off the driveway maybe 40' away from me.
3. Bald Eagles. There are many bald eagles, including a nesting pair about 1/2 mile up the shoreline. I never get tired of watching an eagle go into a full dive with talons outstretched, plucking a fish out of the water right in front of us.
4. White pelicans. During one of my first boat trips this spring, we saw a group of white pelicans on the lake.
5. Trumpeter swans. This is the native variety of swan (not the invasive Mute swan) and they are both HUGE, loud, and beautiful. As soon as the ice started to break this year, the trumpeter swans started flying by in the morning and late afternoon from end to end of the lake.
6. Common Loons. There is no greater Northwoods experience than to hear loons call to one another, and they do it 24 hours a day. Their calls can be heard from a great distance, and you can easily hear them in the dead of night with all the doors and windows closed. They seem to love the bay near the boathouse. We know the fishing is good here and apparently the loons do as well. Loons can't walk on land very well, but they can swim like a torpedo. While they can fly, they need a long "runway" to develop enough lift to become airborne.
7. Ducks. Migrating ducks come through by the 1,000's. The variety of species is huge. I've seen at least 12 different species this spring.
8. Songbirds. I'm a bit of a birding enthusiast and like to think I know my birds. But there are SO MANY species of birds I've never seen before, I can't even speculate as to what they all might be. Seeing pileated woodpeckers is a special treat - they are a giant woodpecker, and have a very distinct behavior. When they get into a group of larvae in some old wood, you'll know it. It sounds like a baseball player hitting a ball 15 times a second.
9. Mink. We have a friendly mink who lives near the boathouse. He's brown and fond of crayfish. I've watched him a number of times, and doesn't seem to mind if there's an audience when he's having breakfast.
10. River otters. One of the great joys we had this spring was seeing a river otter right in front of the boathouse for a couple of days as the ice was beginning to go out. Wendy has always loved otters, and to see one in the wild playing around on a sunny afternoon is incredibly special.
11. Red Fox. The fox likes to come around sunset in the winter. He's easy to see and always on the move.
12. Ruffed Grouse. Park Falls, WI is the Ruffed Grouse capital of the world, and deservedly so. From a distance, they look like a skinny chicken. They also "drum" during mating season, and it's an incredible sound.
13. Turkeys. Turkeys are about as ubiquitous as deer, and it's not unusual to drive around and see a field with 40 deer in it and 20 turkeys intermingled.
14. Black squirrels, red squirrels and flying squirrels. The black squirrel by the lodge likes to antagonize the grey squirrel that hangs around. You can really entertain yourself by watching a black squirrel chase a grey squirrel around a tree at 30 mph. Why they don't fly off as they are running around and around is beyond me.
15. Beaver. This winter, we cut down a willow tree on the shoreline and let it drop on the ice to create a better fish habitat near the shore. When the ice went out, the tree laid down in the water with branches sticking up the in air. One day, I came down the boathouse, and noticed that a beaver had gone CRAZY on that willow tree, cutting off all the branches - some as much as 6" in diameter. Over the next few days, we watched that beaver in the evening. He'd swim over from the other side of the lake, and go right for that willow tree. He'd grind-off another branch or two, and then take them to the other side of the lake. There's just a stump left and some big branches that he doesn't have a taste for apparently.
I'm probably forgetting 30 more critters we've enjoyed watching. There are a few in the area that I have NOT seen yet, but I'm keeping an eye out for them: black bears, elk, bobcats, and a moose. If you see something extraordinary while you're staying at Butternut Lake Lodge, take a picture and tell us about it. I'd love to post some great wildlife photos - I'm always in the middle of working on something without a camera available. You, however, have no excuses: rest, relaxation, and a camera at the ready to take all the great pictures of your Northwoods vacation!
UPDATE: We had a confirmed sighting of a bull elk on Lakeshore Drive this summer, and heard it bugling as it was passing through. We also saw 2 black bears - one that was standing up right in the middle of Lakeshore Drive as we were headed back to the Lodge. We'll keep watching for bobcats and moose. Let us know what you see!