Anyone watching me make my way around the pond today would say, “There’s a weary woman!” Honestly, I’m so tired. I’m not used to working every single day. Most times I wonder how human beings carve out a life when they work so hard, raise families and try to stay healthy, all at the same time. Are we enticed by the promise of something that, in the end, doesn’t really come to us? Food for thought, this Good Friday.
I didn’t put in a whole lot of effort taking photographs today, but did quietly observe the birds, their comings and goings, and their efforts to also eek out a living on a pond that is obviously suffering the impact of a progressive-aggressive species, humanity.
While we all experience personal struggles, I also spent a bit of time meditating on the state of a world where weapons/bombs/chemical warfare are viewed as a solution to terrorism and unrest. I just don’t understand how human beings continue to go forward, ignoring the mistakes of our history and believing, somehow, that ‘this time it will be different’. So many layers of unrest in the human heart. It is discouraging.
Today, I’ve made a choice to let go of fear and anger and frustration. I’m choosing love.
Max and I stopped at our local park and watched the Merlins this morning. Both female and male were in the vicinity. Both came and went and hung nearer the nest.
Nest taken over by Merlins three springtimes ago.
Only one male Bufflehead on the pond…shy guy…who hung around a pair of Goldeneyes…sort of forcing himself on them. He spent a lot of time stretching out on his back. And, of course, remained, as much as he could, out of range.
No fewer than thirty male Goldeneyes today and not a single good photograph! Regardless, it was a wonderful experience watching them dance around the few females (not an accurate count because there were also a large number of Common Mergansers in the mix).
There were more male Lesser Scaups today, but I could only identify two females. Also, more Redheads. It was a great morning at Frank’s Flats, with the water looking mercurial due to the atmosphere of soft cloud over sun. For some reason the mud was stirred up along the water’s edge, sort of a strange phenomena. Geese followed me for the entire circumference of the pond, like a flotilla of approval. “Just thought we’d keep our eye on you.”
First siting of a Coot for the season and an enjoyable time watching trees full of Common Starlings.
Max and I begin every morning, stopping to watch the nesting Merlins. Today, this guy was enjoying watching me.
The courting action for the Red Winged Blackbirds is in full swing!
This was a beauty.
Stick? Max’s ACL has healed adequately enough, I let him go for a bit of a run on the flats and leash him up once we are edging the pond so as not to disturb the nesting birds.
Starlings wrapped around tree branches, everywhere. Once and awhile they would lift off…amazing stuff, this nature-thing!
Wanted to pick up on some markings. This wasn’t a bad zoom.
Not perfectly focused, but the camouflaging on the Northern Flicker is so amazing…had to post.
There’s a single Wigeon in this picture. Can you spot it? I’m so sad that I didn’t get some comical shots of the Goldeneyes today.
Still trying for a clear photo of the Scaups.
Two gents with their lady-friend….three more males were just out of this frame.
I think it snowed a bit last night…would that have caused this weird phenomena?
Redheads romancing. Lovely birds and a little less wary of me.
Multiple Male Canvasbacks and 2 Females
The documentation isn’t great because I was such a great distance away.
These are fast swimmers and in their mating rituals, they do a lot of diving and showing off. Shy birds, they, like the Mergansers, crossed the pond each time I came around to their side. This is very annoying for me, and when I lose patience, I just put the camera down and watch. I feel more excited to be closely observing and learning from these spring romancers.
I have been very interested in the mating rituals of the Mallards…just ‘ordinary’ ducks…but, I have developed quite a respect for the tremendous resilience and determination of the female Mallard. I’m watching her more closely this spring, in terms of her attempts to hold off the aggressive drakes. I caught a really lovely photograph today of one of these ladies.
Only the past two days, the songs of the Red Winged Blackbirds have returned to the pond and while I haven’t sighted any females yet, the males are calling in a very determined, if not impatient way.
It seems that as large groups of birds are sighted, with the disruptive activities around the extension of Stoney Trail, the waterbirds, for the most part, are moving on. The Goldeneyes were here in large numbers, as were the Common Mergansers, but today, they seemed to be replaced by the Lesser Scaups and the Canvasbacks. The Geese look hunkered down for the long haul, although on the south side of the fence, I fear they are bound to lose their youngsters this year. The Mallards are also nesting in the tall grass along the slopes to the pond…but they will also be in harm’s way, either through the marauding populations of displaced coyotes or the extensive and dismissive nature of human activity.
Magpies are watching on from the cheap seats.
I hope to get some good photographs of the Lesser Scaups this year, but they did manage to avoid my efforts last year. We’ll see. I love their powder blue beaks and the lovely patterning on their backs. Their eyes are the most luminous gold colour. They are just lovely to watch. Also, shy.
I began writing on-line in 2005. In writing to an ‘imagined’ public, I discovered a public voice. I learned to write about events that took place in my rather simple life in a way that could be explored and shared with any reader. There was a line that I refused to cross, a line that delved into the realm of the very personal. I’ve enjoyed learning to narrate my life, while reigning in my voice to a degree. In my head, I always remarked, “Only write what you feel anyone could read.” I suppose the closest I ever came to crossing that line was at the loss of my mother.
I was in my father’s office, at the computer desk, the summer of her passing. It was so bloody humid. Dad tried to keep me from opening the windows because we had to have air conditioning or we were going to melt! Whenever I would sit to write at the computer, I would secretly slide the window open to the right of me…in the night time, there was such stillness…not a breeze. I remember writing this.
A lot of bloggers get weary of the process of writing after a while, but for some reason, I find the flow of evening-writing, a wonderfully relaxing practice. My initial story of Mrs. Shoveler and my effort to retrieve her from a small piece of open water achieved over 400 hits in an hour after publication. I know. I know. I don’t really have a swollen head over this. It’s not what the on-line crowd would call ‘going viral’, but, I was deeply touched that so many readers care about wildlife enough and in this case, a hen Northern Shoveler, that they would peruse the events that took place in the bitterly cold days of last December. The follow-up story, involving the re-appearance of this dear bird, sent the numbers soaring yet again.
Well, today, with gratitude to Birds Calgary, more readers have visited and I’ve really enjoyed comments and messages and reactions. So, readers, thank you for all of that.
This was my day…while Max and I played in snow and I met Abir again, after so long, and I made and enjoyed such a beautiful stew…while every thing was happening in my life, this is what was going on in the hum of the background.
I woke, on January 3rd, knowing that later in the afternoon, I would be attending prayers for Emelia, a former student who passed away, sadly, on December 26. I had one of those mornings where I drifted in and out of sleep for quite some time. I’m an early riser, but when it’s bitterly cold outside and the alarm isn’t set, I enjoy that wonderful pull-back into sleep. I didn’t know where the distinction was, that morning, between dream and thought. Let’s just say that the images that surfaced from the fog included a big red vessel, many cables from land being pulled strenuously, heavily weighted, a duck-like bird that looked as though it was a character in a graphic novel, these images all in techno-colour blue and red and yellow…somewhere, a shift…a large wolf-like dog pouncing, shaking, lifeless form, indistinct. I jolted awake from this.
While I made my coffee, I prayed for parents who have lost a child, for each morning, for each new day’s realization. It was ridiculous that I should have had an attachment to the Northern Shoveler. “Time to let go of these images and these attachments. What can I do to disconnect from this experience?” Several people, including my father and Ruth Purves-Smith and Sean Kubara said all of the right things and while disappointed, I did realize that in nature, you truly find a circle of life. I headed for the pond, with Max, thinking that I might collect a feather to bring home.
This is what I found…”PIGEON FEATHERS!!! Are you kidding me???”
Looking to the right, this is what I saw…
“YES! That’s her!” I hooted! I ran to the car and called the non-emergency fire department. That was it! I wasn’t messing around anymore. I was going to get Mrs. off of the water! The department was kind enough to assess the situation and their feed back was, “She seems to be enjoying her time out there on the pond.” Okay…so, that wasn’t the avenue I was going to take. I sent a message off to AIWC Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation. Ducks Unlimited sent me a message, “Ducks sometime choose to hang out all winter long.” At this point I thought about all of the people who had supported me and who had read my heart felt thoughts in my Mrs. tribute. I decided, until this situation had a resolution, I was going to stop myself from sharing anything at all. I left the pond, feeling determined.
I went to say prayers for Emelia, connecting with so many people who loved and shared time with Emelia in life…hugging her Mom.
Exhausted, I headed home, full of the absolute joy and sadness of life and living.
On January 4, word came from AIWC and a capture attempt would happen, around noon. Thanks to the training and experience of Cheryl, Dan and a Birds Calgary member, Rodney, we put in an effort and discovered more about the little lady on the pond. First of all, the injury was to her leg/foot and not her wings. This was a good thing. This meant that she could escape a predator if need be. Since December 14, I had visualized getting a raft out onto that open water, and yet that would not have been helpful at all. She would take off at every approach, circle and swish down into the water over and over again. When she landed onto the fresh snow, she couldn’t walk and would take off from there again and again.
Mrs. got really annoyed with all of us and finally took off east down the line of 22X. We had to close up shop. I had gratitude, for the fact that she could fly and that she could use her natural instincts to avoid predators. Unfortunately, I knew that bad weather was on the way. The next attempt would not be until January 6. I hugged the volunteers and headed home, informed of how to feed her and what to feed her in the case that she came back, so a quick stop was made and that evening, as sun was setting, I headed to the open water, hoping for her return, bucket of corn millet in tow.
Not only was little Mrs. back, but she had company in a female Mallard who enjoyed the easy pickings of the seed that I threw out onto the water.
The next day, Mrs. Shoveler was alone again, when Max and I stopped in to throw some feed and to go for our walk.
I knew that weather was changing and sure enough, when I visited her at 5:00, the water was turning to slush, the seed was just sitting on the solidifying surface and she was barely moving on the far side of her patch of open water. Evening…and I wondered with the snow that was falling if there would be any way to survive the plummeting temperatures and the snowfall.
Today, I hiked down to the site, with Dan and Cheryl’s promise that they would be coming down for noon time, to find this…
I texted Cheryl…there was no reason she should make the effort and come south from Airdrie in such rotten conditions, if our Shoveler had met her demise. I went back to the car and stayed warm and hoped that Cheryl would contact me.
We hugged in the parking lot and then, together, walked down to the site, in order to scout around the cat tails. It took no more than ten minutes and Cheryl spotted her…back wing feathers and tail feathers out of the snow…but otherwise, buried and seeming stuck on the slope directly up from the pond. Quietly, Dan approached with his net, gathering her up. There were joyful utterances from all of us and an urgency to get the snow off of her and warm her up, however gradually. Wrapped in a towel, Cheryl described how small she was, likely underweight and also dehydrated. So readers, we got the save! This is the ‘resurrection’ story…this is a story of how things sometimes ‘go right’ in nature.
Cheryl, new friend and advocate for wild life.
Cheryl and Dan AIWC volunteers…amazing people!
I’m so grateful that I have this story to share with each of you and thank all of you for putting up with my perpetual efforts and amusement in all of this. I will be applying for AIWC as soon as possible. There’s some evidence that I take an interest!
Report from Cheryl is that Mrs. Shoveler is being assessed by their vet team…she couldn’t stay for her check up as she was off and running to deal with an owl stuck in a vehicle rad. :0( Apparently, these are the stories of our wildlife friends and I encourage you to support, how you can, the fine people who fulfill this very specialized need.
To update my readers…and again, thank you for your support through this little journey into nature.
To all of my readers/supporters/wild life enthusiasts, I am sorry after such a ‘save’ today that I have to report that Mrs. had to be humanely put to rest this afternoon. Her fracture to her left leg was a complicated one as it was on her joint, she had multiple fractures to her toes and she had extensive frost bite to the left foot as well. There was no treatment that might have prepared her body for the life of a functioning Northern Shoveler. She was a resilient and determined Mrs. and she filled my heart…and she made Max bark…and she created light in her life by the sheer beauty of ‘being’. If she was that for us, how much more can we be for others, not by appearances, but, by sheer will? Just paddle as hard as you can. It is enough. AIWC rocks. I just want to thank you and I’m happy that she isn’t alone out there, in the snow and cold tonight.