Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pinkest Flower in the Field

Bridge Over Grouse Creek
Elk Herd
A Cool, Pink Morning
A Dino Fly-by
Flapping Away
Zippy King-fisher
Mama Merganser?
Young Hooded Mergansers
Merganser Family
New Arrivals
Cedar Wax-wings, For Now
Red-Tailed Hawk
Soaring, Hunting
Dragonfly #1
Dragonfly #2
Dragonfly #3
Red Tail
July 25 Omission: need of

Yesterday's pond report was omitted in favor of seeking cooler climes along Grouse Creek. We nearly made it to the falls, but were beat to the spot by a family with nine children. And a dog. Our dogs barked at their dog, and leashing ensued. I fell in a mud-hole, had to wash off in the creek, lost my husband and had to wait for him at the truck. Not my ideal situation, but he reminded me that he had hero-status for at least another week. And even a bad day along Grouse Creek is a good day.

On the way home we ate tuna-fish sandwiches on sourdough rolls and slices of orange-flesh melon that dripped down our chins. Just a few miles from home we saw a herd of elk grazing on ranch pasture. A beautiful excuse not to write...filling the well.

Morning Pond Report:

Mist rises off the pond like steam from hot summer sidewalks. Ah, but this is no urban setting along Elmira Pond. A crisp night promises a cooler day than those of this past week. The sky is pinking later; no more 4 a.m. dawns.

Elmira Pond has touched my pink side. Pink mist, pink skies, pink flowers, why not. Not normally a woman of that shade, I bought my very first pink t-shirt in what feels like a million years. And today I am wearing it, my hot-pink t-shirt with a white silhouette of a German Short-haired Pointer (GSP), and the back that proclaims, "Keep calm; point on." This comes into play later.

And speaking of a million years or so, that is how old Blue Heron's drivers license would read, if he needed one to fly. He doesn't grace the pond today, but flies by low, a pterodactyl shadow of blue-gray against the dark green pines and trees. Flap. Flap. Silent as he is, he looks like a flapping dinosaur seeking giant pond frogs. Bull-frogs seems to suffice, and I realize it's been a while since I've heard a sonorous croak from that group. I'm not complaining. But the grasshoppers need to learn a new tune or two.

Another blue-gray bird flits fast around the pond, up to the sky, across the trees, back to the pond and over the power lines. All in about 10 seconds. If only coffee would course through me that way. The most hyper bird I know upon this pond is the belted king-fisher. I actually snap a few shots of him so maybe the coffee is working after all. Big head, long dark beak and crisply tailored-white neck. But no fishing for him today. Who knows where king-fisher go.

A single Lady Merganser holds court on the log. It's been several weeks now since I've seen the female ring-necked duck. Maybe she is shrouded in reeds, secluded on the cup of a nest, incubating eggs. Or maybe she has simply flown elsewhere. I don't see the other three mergansers, but splashes on the far south-east side hint at their presence.

Finally I scope the splash-makers. They look sort of like mergansers, but smaller and the coloring is different. Scrutiny is tough at a distance. If they are babies, they are juveniles. Do you mean I missed the cuteness and back-packing of merganser chickhood? These awkward younglings are trying to walk on water, probably practicing for flight. Between two of them I think I see a turtle. If so, it is my first pond turtle sighting.

Two of the three merganser brood hang out with the Lady on the Log. Is she mama or auntie? She doesn't seem real interested in them, perhaps preparing for an empty nest. It's interesting how many trinities of birds I seem to see upon this pond. Migratory wanderers, passing through.

Another bird group is noticeably absent--the metallic-blue tree swallows who used to make ferry-rings upon the pond. Their nestlings fledged and now they are all gone. The barn swallows are still in residence, but are not in great numbers. Yet another bird has appeared, soaring more so than flitting, yet acrobatic all the same. They seem to be after insects but their shape and whistle is different from swallows and their color different from sparrows and siskins. Nor are they as big as robins, but close.

Are they brown? Gray? Their tails seem lined in yellow. Is it really yellow? The kingbird has a stripe like that, but boldly white. A few pause in a tree and there is something about the eyes...the head. I am so engrossed in the binoculars that I am ignoring bees. They bounce from clover head to tree tops, yet I am unafraid. I'm birding. If you know of my recent woes with a bee, it's an amazing feat--to ignore the humming of bees.

This bee is now so close to my ear, it is the loudest thrumming I've ever heard from an insect. Cautiously, I set down the binos, prepare to swat with my right hand until I turn and actually glimpse the bee. It is no bee. A hummingbird has taken tremendous interest in my pink t-shirt, zoning in to my shoulder as if I am full of nectar; the pinkest flower in the field. Now it is my turn to surprise him as I leap from my chair, squealing like no flower has ever squealed. I never did wear pink well.

But as my shirt reads, I stay calm, twittering just a bit, and bird on. I'm fairly, mostly, pretty certain that the newest pond arrivals are cedar wax-wings. In fact, one photo shows the brown and gray coloring and the distinctly yellow tail stripe. Until I prove myself wrong, I'm going with cedar wax-wing. While they are known to devour berries, they seem more interested in insects. Go for the protein wax-wings.

Ah, and here comes the red-tailed hawk, soaring high on the thermals. In total, the hawk sweeps over  the pond valley north to south and then south again at least five times. He's hunting the fields and meadows. Any time he nears the pond, birds harass him and he dives, trying to escape their nagging advance. I waffle between thinking maybe he's an immature bald eagle or red-tailed hawk. But several photos clearly show the stripes and red tail of the latter although the head and chest pattern could be young eagle-like.

If it is that difficult to identify such a big beast of the blue skies, I don't even try to tag the dragonflies flitting by and clinging to dead limbs and fence line. But I can assure you, that none of them are as pink as the pinkest flower in the field.

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