Mr. Canary’s CEO and lake lover, Jan Long, shares her summer memories of birds at the lake
The end of June, to me, is the epicenter of summer celebrations.
We’ve passed the Unofficial First Day of Summer (Memorial Day), the Official First Day of Summer (Summer Solstice) and are lurching headlong into the quintessential American definition of summer: The 4th of July. It all happens within a few weeks that are the heart and soul of the American Summer Experience.
You know, over the years I’ve learned a lot about people who feed birds. Most are predictable, like finding out that people who feed birds are often into gardening and photography. A few surprised me, like the correlation between people who feed birds and own saltwater fish tanks, and the one between people who feed birds and live near lakes. That link resonates with me because, for most of my life, I’ve spent summer months on a lake. When I think of the lake and birds, I think of purple martin houses, the Sleepy Owl, and our eagle.
Memories of Lakes and Purple Martin Houses
It got me thinking about my own experience with lakes…and birds. For example, I’ve noticed that a lot of lakers have purple martin houses. Now, I’ve never claimed to be an ornithological expert so you could ask, “How would YOU know there are a lot of purple martin houses around lakes?” It’s a fair question. You might think it’s because of all the purple birds I’ve seen flying around but that’s not it because purple martins are not actually purple (bird name-ers, what a bunch of kidders!). The way I deduced it was seeing the houses themselves. I mean, when you notice a birdhouse one day, you can easily confuse it with most other birdhouses in your recollection. But when do you see a bird APARTMENT BUILDING? Well when you do, that creates a distinct memory, and it’s what purple martin houses resemble: a tiny apartment building on top of a tall pole. They’re hard to miss. So that explains why I’ve noticed the houses, but it doesn’t tell why they’re popular with lakers. I have my own idea, though.
(In some circles) it’s well-known that purple martins can eat up to 2000 mosquitoes a day. Now, imagine humid summer nights around water, two recognized mosquito attracting elements. It’s not hard to see why an all-natural mosquito repellent could sound appealing. However, before you rush out to purchase your pest-repelling bird condo, you should know that purple martins do most of their insect dining at about 160’- 500’ feet above the ground. Mosquitoes CAN fly that high, but the kind that snack on humans typically prefer flying under twenty-five feet. You can do the math, if you were a mosquito and knew you could eat at a 25’ elevation or be eaten at a 160’ height, it doesn’t seem like it would take long to figure out your preferred altitude. Thus, the lakeside mosquito-repelling-birdhouse generally isn’t much of one, which, may mean the reason so many lake people have purple martin houses is that they quit reading after “…purple martins can eat up to 2000 mosquitoes a day.”
The Sleepy Owl
Another lake/bird connection of mine is a routine of boating across the lake on a starry night to our favorite restaurant, “The Sleepy Owl, A Supper Club.” It stands out because it, in fact, is NOT a supper club, and for over 45 years that I’ve been coming to this lake it never has been. Still I love the dreamy reference to a by-gone era. And I equally love how most of the neon lights in the sign generally burn out over the summer until at some point it simply says, “Sleep Owl Sup,” or sometimes just ‘Sleep.’ It’s the little quirks that crack me up; I’m grinning just envisioning that sign.
One final connection between birds and lake life that I treasure is related to the image above. It’s a photo I took of the bird who, for the past several years, routinely stops by to sit atop the tree at our next-door neighbor’s. He’s enormous, and he’ll perch for the longest time on what looks like a twig in comparison to his size. We look forward to his return every summer, our majestic, imposingly prominent national bird, the Bald Eagle. It’s the second eagle I’ve seen in person. I named him Glenn Frey, after my first one.
You don’t have to be a serious “birder” to enjoy feeding birds, you could just be someone who enjoys being on a lake. No matter whether you are a “birder” or not, check out Mr. Canary’s bird feeders to feed your spirit…and the birds.