KEEPING WATCH - SWANS ON BRENT POND
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The Swans were still on the Brent Pond this morning. They like to hug the southwest bank making even these great white birds hard to spot.
There were 14 swans sitting on the first borrow pit on the east/north highway 34/218 by-pass east of Mt. Pleasant late this morning. When I stopped they were all tucked in taking a nap. They all appeared to be adults (pure white) and the two who raised their heads long enough to check me out were big birds with no yellow on the lores. (The lores is the black skin that runs back from the base of the bill to the eye.) So, my best guess is that I was looking at 14 adult Trumpeter Swans. Awesome.
Tonight I will make sure they can see the corn from the air on Joy Lake. The corn I have been feeding there has been a bit dusty so I have been feeding it in the water to wash it. Waterfowl aspirating mold spores off dusty grain may end up with a fungus disease in their lungs called aspergillosis. Spreading the corn under water takes care of that.
12/14/2012WARMING UP TO GLOBAL WARMING
Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans have come to believe that global warming is real and that serious long term consequences are likely if nothing is done to moderate it. It seems the discussion is shifting from getting bogged down in just exactly what the causes are (natural or man made) to what effective actions can be taken to control it. It was this kind of a shift in public thinking that brought a breath of fresh air to all of us as smokers were moved outside to continue the discussion of the health effects of second hand cigarette smoke.
The wind turbine north of New London is one of my favorite stops on the tours of Henry County that I share with granddaughter Keira. (Yesterday we added splashing through the tunnel (concrete culvert) under the road at Oakland Mills. )
I hope the New London wind turbine is meeting expectations as it spins its way toward profitability.
The idea of using a small low head water turbine at Oakland Mills to generate some electricity is still hanging on. What a great time to be alive, with so many "new" ideas floating around.
GEESE, THOUSANDS OF 'EM!
We had a day off on our Iowa City visitations today so I asked Joy to go with me to count geese on Joy Lake at about noon. I had attempted to get a count yesterday but I kept being distracted by Cackling Geese and Buffleheads and Gadwalls and, and well I get tired of counting when I am by myself.
So today We were ready, with pen and paper to get a good count. But today the wind was from the south so the geese were not lined up along the north bank for easy counting like they were yesterday. Instead they were spread along the east, south and west banks. And there were just too many of them to make 1,2,3,4 counting techniques any fun. Instead We counted by thousands and estimated somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand birds. As We drove slowly along on the shoulder the birds came off the south bank and swam out into the lake. We did not want to scare them so we just keep moving until We got past the south west corner at which point we turned sharply toward the ditch until we could see the whole lake.
Wow! That was a bunch of geese. Joy says we should take the camera and take several pictures and then count them one by one on the computer when we get home. I am inclined to think, why not just enjoy the view and forget about counting.
12/10/12 ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS In Discover Magazine there is an article talking about the EPA upholding their rule to control mercury from coal plants. The Compliance Costs of this rule is going to be passed on to You and I in our electric bill. Those costs are estimated to be on the order of 10 billion dollars a year.
Now if We had a fully functional Libertarian court system allowing effective citizen class action suits to be brought against the power plants for damages to human health and our environment with compensation for damages being awarded to consumers We would get about 90 billion dollars a year from the power plants. But here comes the rub, that too would be tacked onto our electic bill. So as it turns out regulations save us all money while reducing damage to our collective health and our environment.
But do not forget the bargain of letting the environment and our health go down the drain, that is until You see the tab for Medicare and Medicaid.
Prudent regulations save Us money. And when the DNR refuses to enforce them, as they did recently when Whaley Waste failed to give the county six months notice before closing their doors, it ends up costing Us.
Well, fighting cancer is, as others well know, a family affair. Joy has appointments in Iowa City nearly every day now and soon it will be 5 days a week, week after week. The good part is We have an excuse to drive by Joy Lake for therapy every day. And every day recently there have been hundreds of Canadas on the lake and a nice mix of puddle ducks and divers. We have not seen any large flocks of White-fronted Geese yet this fall. I certainly enjoy their musical calls. 6 Woodies were on the home pond this morning. We were down to one for awhile and then none. My guess is they are drifting back and forth a bit seeking to get a fix on the boundaries of winter.
12/4/2012 TO WIFFLE OR NOT TO WIFFLE
There is an instinctive flight behavior called wiffling or dumping in Canada Geese. This is when the geese flip in the air to reduce elevation/lift and depending on the need they may actually be flying upside down for an instant. Amy has demonstated this behavior a couple of times recently as I have been biking and she is flying along into a head wind. Wood Ducks will rock from side to side to in flight to dump air and reduce elevation but no waterfowl that I have observed wiffle better than Canadas. I have also noticed that there are times, like right after take off, when this behavior appears to be done just for the fun of it.
The nice days have to come to an end but every day like today is another tucked under that cannot now be taken away. I went mushrooming again today and I was surprized to see that there were new ones (Turkey Tails) where I had picked old ones back before Thanksgiving. As temperatures hovered near 70 I was half expecting to get bit by a mosquito.
There was a nice bunch of waterfowl sitting along the south shore of Joy Lake this morning. Mostly Canadas. To get out of the balmy south wind and the waves crashing on the north shore they gathered to enjoy the shelter of the south shore. We did not stop for a count we just enjoyed them as we drove by. Mallards, maybe 25, and one woody hen were on the home pond. Joy wondered if the hen might be Poppy? If You remember, she was a lone duckling we raised who took a special liking to me.
Joy noticed a Carolina Wren while keeping watch out her magic window today.
12/1/2012 BABY SITTING OR BIRDING
Granddaughter Keira and I went birding the morning. Our first stop was Joy Lake. There was a wonderful bunch of waterfowl there early but most of them and all the geese were gone later in the day. There were more Canvasbacks than previously. I wonder, did anyone get to see them leave? If they all left at once that had to be quite a sight. I wonder if something spooked them or if just the mild weather made them restless?
From there we went to Oakland. There was one sea gull and several Bald Eagles below the dam. We got to see one eagle catch a fish and then return to his perch for breakfast.
From there we went up on the bluff to bird and mushroom in the park. Things were quiet there, well not really, the deer hunters across the road were apparently shooting a lot deer or at least shooting a lot at deer.
I found lots of false Turkey Tail mushrooms but no true ones. Keira found a pile of leaves blown up between a couple of picnic tables and well You know the story from there.
Next we went to feed the horses in the river pasture. I have never seen so many ticks on a horse before in my life. In fact I can't say that I ever remember finding more than a couple at a time. Well this one old mare (we are operating a full up no kill shelter for two old mares) had to have over a dozen on the sides of her back just behind her shoulder. They came off easily. What's with this? Tomorrow I will take a jar with me and ID a sample. They were all engourged enough to have indistinct markings.
11/29/2012 PILEATED, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
As Joy was counting geese coming into the pond this morning a Pileated Woodpecker landed across the pond and started working on some seed ponds on a vine hanging out over the water. As he dangled on the vine we wondered if the vine was going to break off and drop him into the water. After several minutes he then flew across the pond and started working on a snag at the edge of the yard not 30 yards from her window. This is the first time we have had one come into the yard and Joy is thinking there has to be a way to convince him to do so on a regular basis.
Update. There were 318 Canadas on Joy Lake mid afternoon making the combined flock right at 1125. There were also Gadwalls 24, Mallards 75, Coots 7, Shovelers 6, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and 4 Scaup. We got a report of white birds on the lake yesterday but we were not able to identify them as they were gone before we got there.
11/28/2012 VOICES OUT OF THE WHIRLWIND This morning they came....
Flock after flock they gathered in a whirlwind of wings over the pond, forming a great revolving spool that spun off a ribbon of geese descending in turn into the icy waters below. Over night the bubbler had kept an opening in the ice, maybe sixty feet across. This patch of open water was soon filled to overflowing with new arrivals. The geese then began landing on the shell ice where they would ski to a stop across the frozen pond on webbed black feet, leaning back hard onto their tails for bracing as they braked and maintained their balance on out stretched wings.
Geese coming in too steeply would crash through the ice and come to an abrupt halt against the shattering shards. (ouch?) As the aerial ice breakers continued dropping in more and more open water appeared until now there is only a narrow shelf of ice remaining under overhanging branches on the south side of the pond.
"How many?" I asked Joy. "Maybe 700." She replied. If they spend the day perhaps we will get a chance to count them as they leave late this afternoon. ( We did and we counted 809 with a few of those staying on to spend the night)
The golden corn spread on the bank this morning is indeed gold this year. We are thinking about how best to break the news to the geese that there are limits on what we can do.
11/26/2012 WHERE DID ALL THE MONEY GO?
Ok, so I do not normally play the lottery but 425 million is more than tempting. For 6 bucks I plan to play my "lucky" numbers and dream... a trust fund for the education of grand, great grand and... kids. Joy says we would have to buy a string of wetlands from the wild rice fields in Minnesota to the Mississippi River water shed riverine wetlands in Iowa and Missouri on down to the white rice fields in Arkansas (that would be flooded in the fall and spring for ducks, geese and swans) and wrap up with some cypress swamp in Louisiana to offer winter protection for the Wood Ducks. Then we would have to invest in some cancer and Alzhiemer's research along with research into the integration of wetlands into agriculture and the enhanced utilization of wetlands in waster water treatment and then... where did all the money go?!
Dreaming is no more expensive than taking in a movie and it can be carefully tailored for a perfect fit.
Enough! It is time to go Turkey Tail hunting again. I was surprised that I did not find more of them in Gibson Park, Mud Creek and Faulkners. It seems that where false Turkey Tail is abundant the real McCoy is rare. They occupy much the same niche and look very much alike. True Turkey Tail has visible pores on the underneath side of the fruiting body while false Turkey Tail does not. So I am thinking to go to Geode today and see what I find there. I may also check out O'Laughlin Woods. So far the home place has yielded maybe a couple of pounds and the other sites combined have yeilded only an ounce or two. Joy has taken up making Turkey Tail Mushroom gravy and it is right up there with the best. ( Her black cat agrees, for what ever that's worth. Keep in mind this is the only cat I know that goes bonkers over canned corn.)
I am off the coral mushroom again. Once again I suspect it of causing me some stomach irritation. It may end up joining the Pawpaws as being another example of the things I wish I could eat but cannot.
11/25/2012 A LONER
There is one male Ring-necked Duck on the home pond still this morning. This guy has been hanging around for a week or so. He seems to be strangely willing to move closely among the wild Mallards. At first I thought he must be the last survivor of a family with bad luck. I am now beginning to wonder if maybe Mom laid an egg in a Mallard nest. What ever the case, we enjoy his company.
There were over 500 Canadas on Joy Lake yesterday and a couple hundred Sea Gulls (Ring-billed?) were sitting on the bean field to the west. Along with these star attactions there were a few Coots, Mallards and diver ducks as well. With it being so windy the truck was rocking and the birds were favoring the shelter of the far north bank making getting a good look at the ducks difficult.
This is an awesome film. The bouncing baby Wood Ducks at the very start hooked Joy so she ordered a copy. We are trying to figure out a way to take it along for Wetlands education programs in the spring. The photography is superb. The little Woodies are just plain precious and the plumage of the Old Man is...
The film says Dad does not help raising the young and he certainly is no Canada Goose gander, but he does sit around being beautiful and thus serves to bait predators, like it or not.
Any way this is the best Duckumentary I have seen.
There were hundreds of Canada Geese on Joy Lake yesterday afternoon. Grandson Riggs said 300 and I said 500 but You get the point.