Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ghosts in the Mist

Early Morning Mist
Glimpse of White
Mists Blur Identification
Later, It's Clear to See a Bufflehead Couple
Gang of Ringed-Necks
Resident Merganser Couple
The Spring Party Continues
White as a ghost covered in bleached linens, I see movement in the mist. It's early morning on Elmira Pond and the chill in the air creates a shifting opaqueness that hovers and rolls. It blurs the movements of pond visitors, but clearly I see tiny ghosts.

White in April means one thing on Elmira Pond -- the buffleheads are passing through.

Todd stomps dewy grass from his shoes as he enters the house from taking the dogs outside. "Hey, Hon!" He shouts upstairs, thinking I'm still snuggled in the warmth of bed. "Pure white ducks on the pond!"

"Buffleheads," I respond from my window perch.

We argue; the stairs a buffer between one of many bird disagreements we have the way other couples might share breakfast. He can't offer what they are instead, but definitely, they are not buffleheads.

If we ever did see ghosts, I'd see a woman and he'd see a man. Perspectives shift like the pond fog and what we can't see our imaginations fill in the blanks. I'd like to think my imagination is stronger than his, but that doesn't mean I'm right. However, I'm the lurking bird watcher of this pond and I know the buffleheads have returned.

Buffleheads are noted for a large ox-head that sits on their bodies in a disproportionate way. Unlike the ringed-necks that can stretch or mallards with heads propped on elegant necks, this mostly white duck resembles an ox or a buffalo. Thus the name buffalo-headed -- bufflehead.

What this duck lacks in neck grace, the males make up for in elegant colors. His head is iridescent greenish purple-black with a giant white patch that stretches from eye to crown. His body is mostly white with a tapering black back. The females are dull grayish-brown with a distinct white cheek patch that helps identify the males when one's own spouse is in doubt.

I won the duck argument. This time.

Later in the morning, after the mist dissipated beneath the warming rays of sunshine, one male and one female bufflehead slept on the basking log as ringed-necks swam around the pond with vigor. Earlier, I was certain I had seen two males and a female, but now I can only spot the sleeping couple.

The ringed-necks scoot across to the southern end where the hooded merganser couple are paddling. The geese are half-hidden by last winter's dry reeds. The mallards are hunkered down out of sight.

The early morning ghosts have stayed, but for how long? Who will nest and who will fly elsewhere? We wait and watch and welcome two buffleheads to the spring party.


  1. We have arguments around the tits and finches that feed in our garden. The Textiliste defers to me - for the natural history family background but she is usually right. Male confidence tries to brow beat female careful consideration. We have been doing this for 30 years and still we haven't learnt that our respective roles in these debates are flawed. Love the pictures.

    1. That sounds familiar. Of course, the Hub crows like a rooster in prime when I say he was right! I sat and watched all these feathered players yesterday and now it's snowing. Doesn't seem to deter the birds, though!

  2. I love the pictures, but love the words as well. You weave magic with your words adding extra beauty for us all to share. What an abundance of birds you have there. They sound so amazing, I guess in part because they sound so exotic. I haven't heard of Buffleheads and Mergansers before. But when I think of it we have a wonderful assortment of birds here in our own backyard. They are just more familiar as opposed to exotic to me! :)

    1. Norah, they were new to me, too! I thought ducks were all mallards. The first spring I was here it was like having monkeys descend on the pond, they were so exotic to me. Now I'm getting to know them and their traits. But I challenge myself with the "common" birds, too. So much to see and learn. The robins are having a blast in the snow today, mostly because I suspect is has paralyzed the insects and the birds are feasting.

  3. Oh Charli, I've never heard of Buffleheads, but what a delightful name! Gorgeous photos, and I do love a bit of mist on the water :-) I have a bird book for identification...bird watchers are nicknamed 'Twitchers' here and let me tell you, there are a lot of those here in the UK! We are bird fanatics...and so I adore learning all about your wildlife. Just gorgeous and beautiful writing too :-)

    1. Twitchers! I love that! My bird book is on my desk with the binoculars and camera. Happy to share with other bird fanatics!