To obtain a photograph of the nest's interior, Joe and I made a ladder by felling two young poplars 25 feet long and setting them against the tree next to the nest, thereafter nailing on cross-rungs up which to climb. Had we made the ladder complete on the ground, our united strength could not have raised the cumbersome, sap-heavy thing into position, nor would the n£ils have held it together, since the wood was green and soft. The ladder ready, the camera was slung by a cord from my neck, the distance to nest measured on the ground, and the camera set to focus before ascending. The position on the top rung was precarious-with the left arm tightly gripping around the tree trunk, to prevent my falling, I had only the free use of the one hand to bring the camera into position, remove the shutter, and touch off the release. However, gradually I worked the camera round from my back on to my right breast and then brought it to bear steadily on the nest by straining the cord back with my neck. After some trouble, I secured three exposures. It took some time to do all this. What was my reward ? None at all! Just a record of disaster; for my reference to this particular film-pack, which I was then using, reads : " Rest of film-pack spoilt through films jamming and not coming out properly."
And that was the only occasion on which I have ever seen a living Goshawk or the nest of that species.
Arose 4 a.m. Came on about twenty-five miles. Lay down to sleep at 9 p.m. A seventeen-hours day, which is about our usual day-the principal exertions, our ever-onward search and travel; and skinning specimens and preparing food when we ran ashore at our night camping place.
To-day has been very fine and the sunshine brilliant, and on the river-bank the leaf-buds of the poplars and willows are bursting, and the trees in a few hours have become beautiful with liberal show of minute ornament of purest emerald green.
There is on this river, so far as we have gone, a marked scarcity of wild duck. They are here much less plentiful than on Crooked River. We are now on the main Hudson Bay Company's route from Green Lake to lie a la Crosse post, and it may be that they are less common here because this river is more often disturbed by passing voyageurs.
Many warblers are to-day in evidence for the first time. With the advance of spring they are feeling their way north. Groups of them were observed among the willows, restless and plaintively calling as if still in course of migration.
After travelling some distance to-day, we viewed, beyond the low bank on our right, a small inland lake on the east of the river. Through field glasses it was seen that this secluded water held abundant waterfowl, so we decided to portage the canoe overland to it, and spend the remainder of the day there. The borders of the lake were grown with tall yellow marsh grass, while down to the lake shores crowded compact, sheltering forest, except on the river-side, which was open marsh. Here and there a gaunt, dead, storm-bruised tree stood in the water, landmarks to remember, and the perching places of a small colony of Bonaparte Gulls which were among the many birds on the lake. Black Terns were here in large numbers, flying swallow-like in the air, but, unlike the swallow, plaintively and fussily shrieking over our heads in protest against our approach. Coots were numerous and many duck: Mallard, Pintail, American Scaup Duck, Golden-eye, and Blue-winged Teal. Though ducks appeared scarce on the river they were common enough here. From among other and more uncommon varieties I secured seven specimens, and felt well repaid for having halted and turned aside to this favoured and fascinating habitat of wild fowl. None of the birds on the lake were nesting. They were either still on their journey northward or had but lately arrived in old haunts. I skinned late into the evening at our camp by the shore of the lake, while coots, in scores, splashed noisily, and chattered among the reeds close by. Once or twice, a busy muskrat swam smoothly across the calm water, from shore to shore of an inlet, with nose and tail on the water's surface and mouth packed with a fresh gathering of reeds.
I carry two steel traps and some mouse-traps, for collecting purposes. The larger traps afford Joe, my riverman, much amusement, for he has trapped furs and has all of a trapper's enthusiasm, and love of speculation as to the possibilities of a catch after his set is made.
After the evening meal is over off Joe goes to look for signs of animals and make his sets. Having found a place to his liking, you may watch him plan to outwit his quarry, place a trap just to his liking, cover it with great care, stake it down, and finally lay his tempting bait -a fish, a fish head, or a part of a bird carcass. In the morning, yesterday, he had captured a Ground Hog, and this morning a Skunk.
To-day we came down the lower reaches of the river, and, against a light headwind, stole out from its mouth on to the large lake of lie a la Crosse. We had come through low country latterly, where long marsh stretched away north with the river course as far as eye could see. There were lakes on either side, deep blue and wind-ruffled, and with yellow marsh bordering their areas; low timber country on the far distance of land; willows on the river-banks with wave-shaded tops of fresh new green, and, on the east shore, small occasional bluffs of poplar. Overhead an equal feeling of unbounded vastness and beauty-far off white pillowed clouds in a soft blue sky.
Birds very local To-day I observed a single Marsh Hawk. This is in a way remarkable because it is the first one I have seen since leaving the prairies, where they are very common. But birds in Canada are often very local. Their favourite haunts are contained within great areas, and they do not apparently roam far beyond them except in their migration north and south. One may live years in one place and never see a single bird of a species that may be fairly common a hundred miles or more away in country of a different type.
In noting here those incidents I have done so to give an impression of daily occurrence, the like of which continued for many months while travelling over 2,000 miles through Far North territory. Hereafter I will not continue day to day description of the country, its scenery, and its wild life, but will take you boldly to the subject of the chapters which deal with the most interesting incidents of the expedition.