Last week Chris went to his favorite hardwood store to buy wood for some bedside tables he's building. The hardwood store has two labs, who recently had a litter of pups. There was one adorable pup left, but someone had already put down a deposit on him. Chris spent a lot of time cuddling him anyway, and then left, thinking it was about time we thought about getting another dog. Today the hardwood place called; the other family had backed out. So he's ours! He's 9 weeks old and his name, of course, is Woody.
I just witnessed the most amazing thing, right from my kitchen window, and rushed to the computer to record the moment while the memory was still fresh.
This heron is a regular visitor to our pond. This morning he sat atop the duck house for hours, his feathers "fluffed up" to insulate him from the cold. Later this afternoon I looked outside and saw that he had waded some distance into the water. I'd never seen him do that before, so out came the binoculars for a closer look.
He was moving: inching along, slowly lifting one spindly leg, and then the next. Suddenly his head splashed into the water. He looked so ungainly, it could well have been an accident. Then I saw the shimmer. He had snagged a fish, and a big one, too!
Now I'm no expert at fish identification, especially when it's flapping about in a heron's beak, but this appeared to be a bluegill about 6" in diameter. It was ginormous. The heron waded over to the edge of the pond and set the fish down. He picked it up and dropped it a couple more times. The next time he picked it up, he waded back into the water. Surely he wasn't going to release it?!
The heron stood in the water for a few minutes, the fish's body glinting in the afternoon sun. Then the heron slowly extended his neck, pointing his beak high in the air. The fish disappeared, all in one piece. The heron remained in the water for a while but didn't catch anything else.
I know many people consider Canada Geese a nuisance, but since arriving in droves on our pond last week, I have been fascinated by their comings and goings. During the week, my observations were limited to nighttime, so I could only hear them: usually a muffled clucking as we drifted off to sleep, or as I was getting ready for work. This morning I was able to enjoy a prolonged period of goose-watching while we had breakfast and tackled a few chores. The population looked to be about the same size as we started with last weekend, but of course a precise census was impossible. At about 8:30 the geese began flying off in groups of 10-20, and within 30 minutes they were gone. A little mental arithmetic suggests there were initially as many as 200 birds on the pond.
I'm fascinated by their behavior. I can understand the attraction of our pond. But when they fly away, where do they go? What prompts them to return? Are they one big flock, or several smaller ones? Is there a hierarchy or social order? Do they have families, jobs, chores? OK, maybe not that last part.
Our own ducks had been patiently waiting their turn, and were able to enjoy their pond again for a while. Around 10:30, the geese returned. I didn't see or hear them arrive, but suddenly there they were. And not only were they swimming about on the pond, but a sizeable phalanx was marching up onto land. The Normandy invasion came to mind, until I hit on a more pleasant image: the treetop dog party in the classic children's book by P.D. Eastman, Go, Dog. Go! But lower to the ground. And without the party hats.
The geese were late this year. Because our pond is spring-fed, it never completely freezes. So every winter, large groups of geese come to visit. This usually happens around Christmas. Today I noticed a larger than usual number on the pond, and decided to take a picture. My timing couldn't have been better:
First, there were a few geese on the pond:
Then, I heard them coming ...
... in for a landing!
Then it looked like the Jersey shore in July!
A few hours later, many of the geese have moved on. But I know we'll be seeing more of them over the next month. Come spring, we'll be down to just one or two couples who will raise their young here until summertime. We often wonder if any of last year's goslings are in the crowd now. I like to think they are ....