Saturday, May 2, 2015


Canada Goose Hiding Babies in the Grass
Ma & Pa Goose
One On Alert
Alarming Killdeer
Noisy Even When Eating
Natural Beauty of Northern Idaho
Lake Pend Oreille Deep Enough to Test Subs
Talache Beach
Monarch Mountains Rise Out of the Water
US Navy Test Derick Observing Sound
Back Home We Have New Visitors
A Trio of Northern Shovelers
Two Males & One Female
Lower Water Attracts Dabblers
We stand at the upstairs window, arguing. Again, over bird observations.

"See, there in the grass at the end of the second peninsula." Todd peers through a hunting scope like a wagon master scouting the prairie for danger.

"It's the babies!" A feel a surge of excitement. Since spotting the four yellow Canada geese babies, I've yet to see them. The parents have floated the old channels dug by peat miners decades ago, taking turns eating and watching.

That the adult geese remain alert gives me hope. The babies must be hiding.

Todd disagrees. "Too white." the shadows...could be yellowish...still as garden ornaments...small...about the size of baby geese. But I don't see the adult geese anywhere.

In fact, I hadn't seen the adults in two days and last night five geese flew in to Elmira Pond causing a raucous. The pie-billed grebe swam out of the reeds to greet the gaggle. I watched as one dominate goose (had to be the male) flapped after the other three and kept a single goose away from them (likely his mate).

I observed the goose doing something I had never seen before. After flapping after the others, he lay his head low in the water and undulated his neck like a snake all the way back to the other goose. Then he arched his neck backwards as if to rub his own back with his head. It had to be a mating ritual.

Was this the same pair that's been on Elmira Pond since March? Geese often have second nests in a season. Or is this a new pair? Where did the babies go?

It's unsettling to think they've fallen prey to another bird's dinner -- the bald eagles, the golden eagle, the various hawks, even Blue Heron is suspect. Not to mention the footpads -- feral cats, foxes, coyotes, muskrats, mountain lions, wolverines, although bears are unlikely.

This reminds me of the screaming killdeer and the earthquakes I can't control. The killdeer have been LOUD these past few weeks. Its cries were so loud in the dark a few nights ago that I squirmed in my chair and tried to read. It sounded distressed.

We live in a beautiful area with mountain-cleaving fault lines. It lures people into to wanting to save it. Scientists collect data and apply calculated theories and ignorant souls eager to for the role of animal benefactor post head-shaking comments on community forums, pleading for "somone to rescue the ducks before they freeze to the pond."

Ice in northern Idaho doesn't develop instantly and ducks have figured out winter for thousands of years.

I'm something between a savior and a scientist. Often, my biggest observations lead to self-awareness or critical problem solving that can be flawed. I'm curious and caring, but unconstrained to interfere.

After two minor earthquakes, I wanted to see the near-by epicenters that occurred below the Monarch Mountains at the edge of Lake Pend Oreille. We drove over Telache (where part of Dante's Peak was filmed), to see the silent mountains.

In the distance we could also see the mid-lake derrick where the US Navy conducts underwater sonar and submarine testing.

Back home, I can understand the woman who wanted to save the ducks. While I yearn to save the killdeer, I would only interfere. Perhaps I misunderstand the calls. Instead I observe. What can I learn?

In the dark, I realize more than one killdeer is making high-pitched cries. In the evening, I see one settle into a clump of grass in the south pasture. As soon as she (not sure) sits on what might be a nest, the screaming commences. It hits me that this is a primitive alarm system or territorial marking. It's like turning on your car alarm before going to bed to ward off would-be-thieves.

The birds are not in danger; they are preventing it.

Yet, I hope the baby geese make it to adult hood, to get to crane their necks in mating ritual one day, maybe even here on Elmira Pond where they were born.

Todd leaves our observation window to take out the dogs. I eagerly watch, hoping to see alert parents stir their babies to wakefulness. Movement, and I have the binos trained on it. What bursts out of the reeds surprises me.

Northern shovelers! This is the first sighting of the distinctive ducks with their greenish-black heads, white and chestnut markings, and long wide bills that look like a spade. It's always a joy to identify new ducks, but I do take pause. The two males and one female are dabblers.

Elmira Pond takes in vast snow melt and huge spring rains. Yet we've had but trickles of what is normal to the inland Pacific Northwest. Warmer temperatures arrived a month early and the pond is at its late summer low level already, and it's barely spring.

I don't know how to save the west from drought. I don't doubt the scientists with their climate change models. Within reason, I do what I can to not harm the ecosystem.

I observe nature shifting balance. When the pond is deep, divers thrive. Yet this may be the year of the dabblers. It's different, but both speak life and that gives us all hope.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this planet has changed many times and will change and adapt around us as we struggle to cope with what is happening. Here the bird life has changed radically; we have parakeets as a pest, plentiful supplies of tits and robins but the sparrows of my youth are gone. We have foxes galore, not that long ago a hedgehog crossed the garden and today I saw two holly blues, recently emerged. But butterflies generally are much reduced in number even if bees in many guises come and pollenate happily. Birds will be birds.