By Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
I recently took a little tour of the launch ramp at Wilson Harbor, searching for a safe place to launch a boat. I knew the lower river launches were a mess except for Lewiston, but Lewiston is a long way from the lake.
If you are thinking of launching your boat at the Wilson Harbor State Park launch ramp, hold off. First, the launch is flooded; second – because of that – it’s blocked off with a highway marker for safety’s sake; and third, somebody else is using it right now.
The ramp here isn’t safe, either, with the loading/unloading dock under water. Besides, a family of swans has taken over the launch ramp for now. I visited last week; the swans were still there sunning themselves and guarding their young ones (called cygnets).
Of the different species of swans, this one is called a “Mute Swan.” It has an orange beak and an orange base just in front of the eyes. Mutes are pure white as an adult and the youngsters are a dull brown/gray.
It’s strange how a bird can be so small in comparison to a human and yet be a frightening critter if it approached the wrong way. They can be very aggressive at times. Same way with Canadian geese.
Sometime back, I was strolling around the edges of a fair sized pond, and lo-and behold, I got as close as 15 feet to a Canadian goose nest that had eggs in it. There was the mother goose and another one was nearby in the pond feeding and keeping an eye on things. It must have been the male because he picked itself up from the water, headed toward me with its wings spread wide open to make itself look even bigger than it was, and mother goose was in pursuit at the same time with her wings spread out wide and far. They must have had a wingspan of about 81 inches. As soon as the two began to chase me, I didn’t know what to do – jump in the pond or take off as quick as I could the other way. I chose the latter.
Under normal circumstances these geese are pretty docile, and the same with swans. But be alert and get away as fast as you can if they come running or flying at you.
I have been at Wilson Harbor with my boat many times, and swans often come alongside the boat snooping around looking for a handout. I have a 16-foot StarCraft boat with low sides, perfect for small lakes and the Niagara River. One time I sacrificed my lunch by giving them my egg salad sandwich piece by piece. I thought it was cute until the next time I had a tuna sandwich and it almost climbed over the rail of the boat to get more. I motored up to get away from them before I went another day without lunch.
Swans’ normal diet is of grasses, and they do love plain bread and soda crackers just like ducks and other water birds.
I was taking my boat out of the water at the harbor one day and a swan was sitting there watching me when a 11- or 12-year-old boy who was sitting on a bench with his parents came over with some bread and began feeding pieces to this fella, and ran out of bread. He ran to his parents with the swan on his tail that was squawking and chasing him looking for more food. The parents chased it away and no harm was done, just a scared boy.
Some of you might remember the story I did about the “grey lag” goose I wrote about four-five years ago that frequented between the Lewiston Landing and the Queenston Landing on the Canadian side of the river. People would actually bring corn and store-bought grain to feed this guy who was eventually named Lewiston Louie. Louie found a girlfriend that hung around him and it didn’t matter if it was snowing and blustery weather, she stuck right beside him, 24/7. The girlfriend picked up the name “Lady Louise, the Flusie.” Lady Louise was a seagull.
People would come from all over just to feed Louie, and in fact, someone brought bundles of straw and built a little home at the Landing to help him protect himself from the nasty weather.
Remember to take a kid or elderly person out fishing. There is lots of summer left, and the fish don’t care how high the water is, they still need to eat!
Comments, questions? Email me at [email protected].