Everything is organic; I pull noxious weeds by hand so you might have a healthy stay while at Elmira Pond. Watch out for bald eagles and the local murder of crows. Crows like eggs and eagles eat ducks. I'll yell at the eagles if I see them bullying my guests.
Don't mind me with my camera, binos and books; I'm only watching and writing. You might end up in my novel.
~ From my imaginary guest pamphlet,
Nests & Breakfast on Elmira Pond
|A Pool of Their Own, March 23|
|Blue Membrane of Ice, March 24|
|First Guests, March 24|
|Open Water Attracts First Bufflehead, March 25|
|Bufflehead in Flight (Note Full White Patch Under Wing)|
|Mallards, March 25|
|Male Hooded Merganser, March 26|
|American Wigeons, March 26|
|Floating Bufflehead, March 27|
|Geese and Wigeons Dabbling, March 27|
It's a migratory duck haven. My inn-keeping duties are light--after all, I don't have to prepare breakfasts or make nests. I simply keep dogs away and commit to organic practices. In return, I observe and record. Often I'm wrong in what I think I see, but it's not about being right. It's about being present in the moment; experiencing the birds; witnessing miracles of beauty flashing bright as any star.
In one week, the pond has shed its ice, and the moments have begun. I welcome back my feathered guests to Elmira Pond.
March 23, 2014: Ilya falls through ice thin as egg-shells. Later in the day two Canada geese paddle in a pool of their own in the only open water on the pond.
March 24, 2014: Ma and Pa Goose return to their pool, bending beneath the water to nibble at plants. They honk at everything that flies overhead, having claimed this spot of water. Today the ice is so thin you can see it ripple beneath the membrane of ice. Wind will hasten the melt.
March 25, 2014: It's early morning and Todd takes out the dogs to pee. I'm yawning at the upstairs window, blurry-eyed from sleep, thinking about returning to the warmth of my bed. Like a compulsive, I check the ice status every morning, and I'm thrilled to see most of it gone. Then I see white floating on the pond. So soon? Open water is like displaying a neon sign. Already we have a new guest. My heart pounds as I grab the binoculars. It's a duck...white...it's a bufflehead! I grab my camera and get the first few duck shots of the new pond season.
Bed, as tempting as it was 20 seconds ago, no longer calls. I'm scoping the pond and see tawny little ducks floating in a cluster. Two pairs of mallards coast past, looming large. I never realized how big mallards are. I adjust the binos and look at the little ducks with white crown stripes that dip all the way to gray beaks. American wigeons. They wheeze, "peep, peep," like a cute child's toy. All day, I'm running from window to window and getting as close to the pond as I dare without frightening the guests. In one day the ice is gone and the ducks are back. One day.
March 26, 2014: How quickly my morning routine evolves to include the window with its overhead view of the pond. I'm already wondering when Blue Heron will return. I can't stop going to the window. There's the geese, the mallrads, the wigeons. The bufflehead returned. Yes, no? I see the white head. He dives. Buffleheads dive. The wigeons dabble. He surfaces; white head, white chest. Wait, that's wrong. I look harder...then I see the long black beak. Merganser! It's a hooded merganser! Funny how the big head of the bufflehead looks like the big hood of the merganser. I'm happy-dancing in the window.
By evening the pond gives off its first hatch; fish rise. Life is so fast, so miraculous. Had I blinked I would have missed the moments between ice-melt and re-birth. But I'm not missing the ducks. I gaze often and giggle out loud.
March 27, 2014: Bufflehead, hooded merganser, wigeons, mallards and geese all grace the pond. I'm watching for Blue Heron. Daily. I'm watching.
I'm the inn-keeper of Elmira Pond.