Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mama and merganserlings

Click on the photo for a large desktop-sized version.

The common merganser is hardly uncommon on the shore of Lake Superior, but it's always photographable, like the ring-billed gull so often seen on this blog. This morning a family tarried on the beach outside our cabin just long enough for me to grab a camera and tiptoe to a good spot to take their portrait.

Mergansers, unlike Canada geese, mainly mind their own business and don't crap up the place or emit a lot of noise. Now and then, however, these toothed diving ducks will make trouble.

A couple of years ago several took up residence inside our chimney -- they are fairly brainless and will build their nests just about anywhere -- and when I opened the damper and laid the first fire of the season, the heat and smoke dispatched them.

We went home for a month, quite unaware of our unwelcome (and now deceased) guests. During that time our contractor came to do some work on the Writer's Lair, and encountered a terrible stink. He soon found the source but had to dismantle the fireplace damper in order to get the carcasses out. He replaced the damper but left it closed.

A week or so later we returned. The weather being chilly, we built a fire in the fireplace, with expectable results. Choking and cursing, we had to evacuate the place and open all the windows to clear the smoke. I distinctly remembered opening the damper a month before and wondered how it had come to be closed again. Had a damper-tampering poltergeist taken up residence in the cabin?

A day later our contractor came to pick up the check for his latest work. "By the way," he said, "when we arrived to begin the job there was this awful smell . . ."


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