Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mistaken Identities

June 15 Early Morning Pond Report:

Like a flawless glass disk of powder blue, the sky is cloudless. The horses bask in the sun like lazy daisies soaking up sun-rays.

The dogs and I wander about the back pasture, they sniff and I gaze. If they had a dog blog I'm sure they'd report on where the cat hunted the night before and what three-day old horse poop smells like.

Not Wigeons
As eager as a Pointer on a scent, I scan the pond. Lady Merganser holds court on her log; wigeons (don't get attached too that identification) glide nearby and the ducklings scatter into the reeds just in front of me.

A familiar scree hails the arrival of a red-tail hawk. As he settles onto a tall pine limb, I spy another such hawk a few trees down. Oh, darn. New ducklings, new birds of prey hanging out.

Babies Identified?
A newcomer flits over the pond and at first I think its an osprey...a tiny osprey. That's not right. I watch as the bird with dark and light markings hovers over the an osprey...and dives! It's fast and makes a little splash, darts skyward and dives again and again and again.

My heart sinks. It must be a falcon hunting baby ducks. As the hunter flies off, I notice a bluish-gray sheen to its feathers. I don't think he got a duckling. But what kind of falcon was he?

Merganser...Common or Red Breasted?
Red Tail Hawk...Maybe
Time to hit the books. With a mug of coffee and bowl of granola mixed with plain yogurt, I set up Bird Nerd Central on the south porch...three books, binoculars, camera and Todd's shoes. I am prepared to identify this pond hunter.

Three books and three possibilities--a peregrine falcon, ominously known as a "duck hawk." Too big. A prairie falcon. Legs too thick. Wrong color. A sparrow hawk. About the right size, blue, but the head seems wrong.

As if I needed some help, the pond hunter returns to dive the pond again. I trot out to the pond for a better look, leaving behind the binoculars. Of course. He's too fast and small for my camera and off he flies. He has to be a falcon.

Wild Daisies in the Morning Light
Puzzled, I scan the pond and am delighted to spot Blue Heron. The ducks glide past and I notice he is standing on an emerging island of growing reeds. The pond is shrinking. The spring water is receding and the growing grass is tipping the balance from water to bog.

Ring Neck Ducks
Back to the books. None of the possibilities fit. By my third cup of coffee I begin looking up wigeons and mergansers. Uh-oh...I realize that I've confused wigeons for ring neck ducks. Again. That explains why I haven't heard the cute little wigeon peeps. They are not wigeons.

Look Who's Back!
Common merganser or red breasted? Ladies are harder to identify, but I know for certain that she has the sawbill beak--I've seen her devour bull frogs and dive for fish. She has the crazy mohawk and it looks orangish. She could be either. I think the male is not as colorful as the common fella, so I'm leaning toward red breasted.

Mistaken identities are common to bird-watching.

June 15 Garden Report:

Possible Pumpkin!
Seedlings got the memo--grow! A few have pushed through dirt to greet today's full sunshine. They are so tiny. So much life bound in such small cells, green leaves that will one day produce fruit a hundred times bigger than this beginning. I have a possible pumpkin, several scarlet runners and a few beans. I found several pea hulls dried and empty. The Minnesota wildflowers remain dormant.

Nae Roses
And the roses! Bloom, babies, bloom! What pretty surprises they are since I was not the planter. One wine-red rose opened as if it knew today was Nae's birthday. Todd's sister is still younger than he is today. The bush will now be the Nae Roses.

The little teacup roses that look like birthday cake decorations continue to unfurl petals slowly. Several other buds promise to be yellow or pink. We will wait and see.

June 15 Late Afternoon Pond Report:

Slowly Unfurling
For the fifth time today the pond hunter returns. Finally I capture him in the binocular lenses. And I laugh! I was so wrong...not a falcon at all. The ducklings are safe from this one--he's a belted kingfisher.

An osprey passes over high in the sky, leaving the fish to our new arrival.

And the fish, they rise as the evening bugs float over the water like cottonwood puffs. Fish circles differ from the fairy rings left by the tree sparrows.

Every bird has been identified (or mis-identified) for the day. I even take a stab at naming the ducklings as ring neck babies. Time will tell.

Osprey Way Up

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