Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ladies of the Log

Ladies on a Log
Three Female Hooded Mergansers
Merganser Flapping at Snoozing Mallard Hen
Oiling the Wings
Mallard Dabbles, Merganser Dives
Napping Duck
Canes Dripping Raspberries
The First Radishes
One Red, One Purple
Happiness on Grouse Creek
Drink and Never Be Thirsty
Preening Log Report:

Blue Heron's log is littered with lady sawbills; female mergansers, that it. For a while, it was the domain of Lady Merganser, then she disappeared one day as if she were Queen Guinevere who ran off with her knight Sir Lancelot. Now there are three Ladies in Waiting.

These diving ducks are known as "sawbills" because of their long, narrow serrated beaks. It's a sight to watch a merganser nab a fish or frog in that sawbill and struggle to mince it for eating. Struggle because the fish don't go down a mergansers throat without a fight. Wings, flapping, more diving, serrating and finally extending the neck to swallow. It's a feistier meal than a dabbling duck who grazes aquatic plants like a cow.

Why there are three Ladies, I don't know. I am hopeful for babies that sometimes ride on mama mergansers back like baby loons. But Todd has suggested that these three may be young mergansers from this year. As with all things, time and observation will tell. Or not.

But which mergansers are these? Common mergansers seem likely, but these Ladies lack an orange bill and feet. Red-breasted mergansers ply the seas, not inland lakes, rivers and ponds. So that leaves hooded mergansers. We did see a male on the pond in spring. Maybe I missed the baby phase and these Ladies were born on Elmira Pond. Maybe they are just passing through like most of our migratory guests.

Hoodies have a fan-shaped crest which appears cinnamon in the sunlight through binoculars. Their tails seem fan-like at times, too. Swift diving, these Ladies barely break a ripple as they cut cleanly into the water and hunt fish. The preening log is a preferred place to oil the wings or sleep in the sun.

Yet, there is a dabbler hanging out, too. A female mallard also likes the log and the four ducks play Queen of the Roost throughout the afternoon. Even Blue Heron doesn't interfere, but he's tucked into the reeds of a small central island hunting frogs. When the log is empty he does flap over to continue his work of nibble-plucking feathers.

Garden Report:

"Grow, garden grow..." I am singing sweet songs to my plants as I water with the hose. Todd steps outside and says, "Oh, you're singing. I thought it was a bear. You're making the dogs howl."

What my husband and canines do not appreciate, my plants drink up each off-key note and silly refrain. I have two pickles and several promises of more. My raspberries are dripping on the canes and tomorrow is jam day. Todd picked up a case of peaches from the Peach Man who hauls over tree-ripened fruit from his Wenatchee, WA orchard. Succulent. The peaches are juiced balls of summer sugar.

At Yokes I buy a 25 pound bag of sugar. My jam aspirations are high. Raspberries, peaches, huckleberries, elderberries, chokecherries and blackberries are destined for the jar. It takes pectin and sugar and I have plenty. Todd points to my sack of sugar and tells other shoppers that I'm moon-shining. But I will try making ratafia this year, a fortified, end-of-the fruit season wine.

The soil yields two fat radishes, one red, one purple. I am amazed what seeds can make. It's good to be a sower, to believe that something good will come about, to pull radishes like hope from the ground. I wash them gently in the kitchen sink and bite into the purple one first. I share with Todd who follows his bites with two glasses of water. The spice of life.

Blue Goose Report:

Three evenings in a row we have taken Blue Goose (our truck) to Grouse Creek. The dogs are tender from running on rocks, but beside themselves with excitement that they get to run off-leash. Grendel splashes his paws across each potential fishing hole. Todd flicks flies and catches baby trout before releasing each from the barbless flie-hook, telling me he saw bigger ones.

It really doesn't matter. The mountains, the gurgling waters, the tall pines, the smooth river rocks are all we need to drink from the well.

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