Spring is a great time to visit Devil’s Lake State Park! The crowds haven’t arrived yet, the noise is at a minimum and the wildlife is on full display. Right now at the park, the Great Blue Heron are building nests at the rookery, the vultures are riding the thermals and a variety of ducks & loons are happily resting and refueling on the lake before heading further north for the summer months.
The best place to see waterfowl at the park is along the south-western corner where Messenger creek feeds into the lake. You’ll often find folks hanging out along the shoreline with binoculars and cameras checking out the latest arrivals. Right now you’ll see small, but colorful bufflehead ducks flying just above the surface of the water or chasing around on the surface. Buffleheads are quickly disturbed by dogs and boats, but if you give them a bit of time, they’ll settle down and put on a good show. We’ve also seen mallard ducks, goldeneyes, common mergansers and loons. Be sure to listen for the loons haunting calls! On a side note, we try to report new arrivals over on our Facebook page as well.
When it comes to watching the ducks, the most important thing to remember is that they are often skittish. Pick a spot, sit or stand, but be generally calm and talk quietly. The biggest issues to watching ducks are loose dogs and the boats heading in or out from the launch. Still, even if the ducks take off after a disturbance, they will often return again when things settle down. The best time to watch them is just after sunrise and an hour or so before sunset.
The Great Blue Heron Rookery is located at the center of Devil’s Lake’s south shore group camp area. To visit the rookery simply park your car in the CCC Parking lot and look up.. Well, look south and look up. The rookery is right there in the top of the big grove of pines. The heron rookery is full of activity early in the morning as the birds head out for breakfast or to collect building materials. Still, if you are not an early riser, you can see and hear the heron pretty much all day up in their nests at the top of the pine trees. The heron will be in the park most of the summer, but spring is a particularly active period as the birds choose homes, find mates and build nests. Then later in the summer when the chicks are hatched things will get busy again. We have more information about the heron rookery here.
Again, a word of caution; It is against the law to disturb a rookery. A good rule-of-thumb is to simply stay out of the pines. You really don’t want to go in there anyway. Not only does it get filled with bird poop, but the favorite defense of the heron is to throw up on you. Imagine smelly, fish, snake & frog barf dropping down from the sky onto your head!!! And if that’s not enough, heron have also been known to use their beaks to pierce the skulls of invaders!!
Next; LAKE FLIES!
Now before I wrap up today’s blog, let me warn you about a critter that comes each spring, that we’re not too happy about.. The lake flies!! You know, those things that get in your hair and eyes and up your nose for two weeks each spring!? Well, they have just started hatching and a few were in the air last evening.. so that’s going to get worse soon!