Posts Tagged ‘Iroquois Lock’


I’ve been down by the Iroquois lock a half-dozen times since the spring, but it was only on a visit this week that I noticed a nest. A LARGE nest, in an unexpected place!


On the arm of a crane set beside the lock is an Ospreys’ nest. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) build their nests of dry branches, interwoven with other materials such as strips of old cloth, plastic, and seaweed. The average Osprey nest is 30 to 60 cm deep and about a meter across. Usually nests are placed high up in a tree beside water, but Ospreys will also use a utility post or artificial platform. This pair have found a unique support. A crane! The crane is only used for emergencies, and a birder I met at the lock lookout told me that it has never been used since the lock was opened, so the nest is safe.


Two birds could be seen in the nest, a female and her chick. The female usually does most of the incubating and tends the young chick, while the male is the sole hunter for the family. He feeds the female while she incubates and once the chick hatches, he brings food for both the chick and his mate. Ospreys are fish specialists (sometimes called fish hawks) and have feet especially equipped for grasping slippery fish. They are the only raptors that can turn one front talon backwards, and the pads on the soles of the feet have spines. An Osprey catches fish by diving from the sky with its claws stretched forward and splashing into the water to snatch its prey. This pair may have been attracted to this location because fish are concentrated by the control dam south of the lock.


Here comes Dad, making a delivery to the nest. He passes the food to Mom, who feeds the chick.


Raptors such as Ospreys are relatively long-lived birds and feed at the top of the food chain. This makes them more susceptible to poisoning from pollutants and pesticides than more short-lived, plant-eating birds. In the 1950s and 60s, DDT had a catastrophic effect on many raptors, including Osprey. Since DDT was banned, populations have been rebounding.
Osprey pairs often share the same nest year after year, and may repair the nest late in the summer for use the following year. It will be interesting to see if this pair returns next year.


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On Saturday, when I was in Iroquois, I noticed a ship out on the river, so I made my way down to the lock to watch it pass through.
At the lock, there is a billboard with information about the lock, showing its position in the St. Lawrence Seaway system. According to the sign, the lock is 934 feet between gates and 80 feet wide. The largest ship it can accommodate is 730 feet long, with a 75 foot, 6 inch beam. Looking down at the lock from the viewing area, it appears mighty narrow. It is hard to credit that the incoming ship is going to fit.


Here she comes! Not only does the ship fit into the lock, it glides right through as if the Captain knew just what he was doing. Probably he does know just what he is doing.


When I was a youngster, we would occasionally have a family outing and picnic down by the Welland Canal. There, ships are lifted or lowered in each lock in the system as they bypass the abrupt water level change at Niagara Falls. As the water level doesn’t need to be adjusted here, the ship is able to continue straight through the lock without stopping. As the entrance gate closes behind the ship, the exit gate opens.


The lock gift shop/ snack bar was open and outside was a sign listing the ships passing through the lock for the day, and whether they are travelling upstream or down. The Pineglen, the second ship of four listed, was headed upstream, bound for Lake Ontario. There was a small turnout of ship-watchers on hand to witness her passage.


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