Monday, April 07, 2008

On the nest

Finally, spring seems to have taken hold. Today was sunny, warm, and breezy. On my afternoon walk, I saw a hawk circle overhead and a pair of house finches perched in a cedar bower. The red bud trees are just starting to show their fire-pink nubs, and my favorite spring wildflowers are peeping out of the grass -- tiny dog violets, spring beauties -- and carpets of heal-all and dandelion, spreading around a single row of bright yellow daffodils.

I took one turn around the pond, populated by Canada Geese in aggressive, nest-defending attitudes. I try to keep a wide berth, since I don't want to pick a fight with a surly goose or alarm the mothers quietly sitting their nests by the shoreline. One breeding pair was loudly intent on kicking another pair off their turf, necks extended serpent-like as they advanced hissing (yes, a hissy-fit) and squawking. I don't know if it's correct to say squawking, but it sounds a lot more belligerent than "honking." What made the scene really amusing were the grazing "onlooker" geese turned in attitudes expressing a Jerry Springer-like fascination with the domestic fight scene. Smaller, but no less fierce, I also saw mockingbirds chasing each other around as they vied for territory. Whew, it's dangerous out there!

I didn't see any ducklings, but only a couple of mallard pairs on the pond and one American Coot. Even though I had looked it up before, I had managed to completely forget what this "duck" is. Sooty black all over with a whitish bill, they're not actually ducks, but belong to the rail family, which is why I had such a hard time tracking it down in the first place. I don't think they're uncommon, but the office park pond is the only place I've ever seen one. I learned that their bills are not flat like a duck's but triangular like a chicken's. So maybe now that I've reinforced it in my memory, I'll be able to identify them correctly from now on.

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