Thursday, June 7, 2012

Francis Lake, part one

Here's Brody, checking out the scenery on Francis Lake over Memorial Day weekend.  Although northern New York state had some very warm weather in March, it turned cooler and rainy through April.  May was better, with a few nice weekends but we had family obligations that made kayaking impossible for us until the holiday weekend.

This is my second set of posts about Francis Lake.  It is usually our first trip each kayaking season.  We sometimes paddle here twice in a season.  It's a beautiful lake, with only a few camps on it. And with a limit of  10 hp motors, it is a very quiet lake.  There are also a few shallow areas to explore, along with an esker, so there is a variety of plants, trees and wildlife.

The town nearest Francis Lake is Lowville.  State Route 12 runs through this town but you may find Stillwater Reservoir before you find Route 12 on a map.  If you do, look south and west and you may find Francis Lake.  (It'll look tiny compared to Stillwater Reservoir which is about 9 miles long.)

**NOTE:  In my last post, I promised you something awesome about our trip on Francis Lake, so keep on reading!!

This is my husband, Dick, just after we got on the lake.  As you can see, the lake is edged with evergreens.

 I didn't photograph the put-in this time, but if you check out my Francis Lake posts from 2010, you'll see the dock and a sandy area.  It is an easy entry from the side of the dock on the shore or you can use the dock as I do.

Brody is checking out a fellow boater who had been fishing on the lake.  We don't do much fishing, but we've heard from several people that the pickerel are plentiful.

Well, I DO have a photo of the dock.  Dick took this one of me and Brody with the dock in the background on the left.

Just starting out from the put-in, this perspective makes the lake appear very small.  But to the right of the private dock on the right, there is a lobe of the lake, and to the left beyond the darker trees in the front is another huge area with some shallows as well as some beaver lodges.  Not to mention that those trees in the middle are further away than they appear.

Here's Brody with his "Doggles" on.  They have UV protection which we thought would be a good idea with our trips on the water and his big bug eyes.  No, he does not keep them on constantly, but he'll wear them for stretches of time, mostly when he wants to look around.  He seems to know that they reduce the glare on the water.  When he's trying to nap inside the kayak, he usually paws at them until I remove them.  Then he relaxes and takes a snooze.  Just like our own eye glasses, they're not too comfortable when sleeping!

This island and rock are near the lobe of the lake on the western side. (right from the put-in.)  In this area we've seen a loon fishing and also a loon sitting on its nest.  But on this trip we did not see the loons in this area.

Brody's watching a bird that flew overhead in this shot.  We think it was a tree swallow, but we didn't get a good look at it.  Brody had the best perspective, and he wasn't inclined to name the bird!  We really do think he understands how the goggles help him see in the bright sunlight.  Many photos from last year's kayaking trips show him squinting in the sun.  He had goggles then but we didn't always remember to put them on him.   He looks pretty cute in them, doesn't he ?

This is a pretty view of the lake from inside the lobe on the western side.  I love the rocky islands full of trees.  It's typical of many lake islands  in the Adirondacks.  Francis Lake is on the western side of the Adirondack Park, near Beaver Lake and the Beaver River.  I can see by this photo that I need to pay more attention to the tilt of my kayak with Brody in it.  All of these horizontal shots are dipping slightly to the right!

After exploring this area, we paddled back out onto the main part of the lake and heard the haunting cry of a loon.  We looked around and found him/her sitting low in the water.  Another loon called back.  We're guessing one was on the nest.  The loon dove, gave its wings a ruffled wash, then dove some more.  True to what we know of these birds, it eventually took a long dive and surfaced behind us.  The loon was too far away to get any good photos.  If you're interested, though, I have posted photos of the common loon in the past.  Look at South Pond and/or Nicks Lake.

OK... here is the "exciting sighting" on Francis Lake!  Look closely in the middle of the photo near the edge of the water... I know... it's hard to see exactly what it is.  But I have better photos to show you!  This is just the "teaser."  Any guesses before I go on?

Here he/she is, flying away in the left-middle of the photo.  Yes, it's a bird. I know it's not a great photo, but what kind?

I know, I know, I'm not giving you a lot to go on, especially with the bright sunshine.  Does the photo below help at all?  It's far away, but very distinctive.  You should all have a very good guess by this time....

Yes, it's a bald eagle!  We were so excited to see this beautiful bird!  Where we live in northern New York, we see bald eagles along the Black River, especially in winter when the trees are bare and the river is open.  I know there are more of these majestic birds around than there used to be, but it's so wonderful to see them.  And this is only the second time we've seen a bald eagle while kayaking.  We were paddling on the Raquette River near Tupper Lake 3 or 4 years ago and saw one high in a tree, perched on a dead limb.  It was too far away to photograph, but we are sure it was an eagle, based on his white head and tail.  There really is no mistaking a mature bald eagle!

Here is another photo, the best of the bunch I took that day:

The best part about seeing this eagle, besides being able to get a few decent photographs of him/her is that this was not the only bald eagle we saw!  There were 4!  That's right, FOUR bald eagles on the edge of the water that day!  Three of them flew off as soon as we entered this part of the lake which is very shallow in one section (where they were) and is cut-off from most of the main lake by an esker.  The three eagles who flew away were all mature bald eagles.  They flew off into the woods as we approached.  By the way, we actually HEARD the eagles before we saw them.  They don't sound like hawks, their call is different than what you might expect.  We weren't sure what bird made that sound until we saw them, but we knew we should recognize it!

It's hard to see in the photo, but the bald eagle who stuck around, willing to be photographed, and putting up with our very excited whispers, has a blue band on his leg.  Whether he was rehabilitated or came from a nest that had been observed and was tagged before he left the nest, I don't know.  But we believe he was less skittish with us and our kayaks because he has had some contact with humans in the past, as the band proves.  The eagle didn't stay for hours, just a couple of minutes.  When I pushed my luck and tried to get just a tiny bit closer (we were still at least 50 yards away from him-- I have a 30X zoom on my digital camera) he decided he had been accommodating enough for one day and flew off in the same direction as his companions.

Wow!  It was quite an experience to come upon four bald eagles on the lake.  We've speculated about why they were all gathered there and the obvious answer is fish.  The water is so shallow that we could barely paddle and got hung up a few times in this area after the eagle left and we were turning around.  So, maybe the fish are easy pickings in that spot.  Pickerel are pretty large, so maybe they were sharing one and it slipped back into the water.  (We paddled near the spot to look for any remains of what they may have been eating.)  We don't really know.  But we sure do appreciate the rare opportunity we were given.  Hands down the best wildlife sighting in our short years of kayaking!

I found one more decent photo.  Here he/she is looking almost directly at us.

I have more to tell you about Francis Lake, so join me for part two.  It won't be quite as exciting as part one, but I promise to describe the rest of our paddle and post some more photos too.

Please use the "reactions" below to give me feedback on this post, or feel free to leave a comment or question.  Thanks for reading, and happy kayaking!


  1. darned nice and thanks

  2. Beautiful!! My husband, daughter and I just went kayaking in this lake day before yesterday.