Wednesday, June 18, 2008

in search of ducklings

June 11, 2008

I got out of work at about 6:00 on this day, and had plenty of sunlight and my scooter to get around, so I visited several favorite locations within Prospect Park. I started on the paths behind the dog beach, where I found myself enveloped in the most beautiful and most classically musical birdsong I've ever heard. Several birds sang together in what sounded like a flute quartet. I couldn't get a good look at the singing birds, but a fleeting glimpse told me it was a kind of thrush. After listening to thrush songs at home (this one was so remarkable I'll never be able to forget it) I determined it was a wood thrush. It feels nice to add a bird to the list of songs and calls I recognize. That's a much smaller list than the list of birds I recognize by sight.

Having my scooter while birdwatching has its advantages: I can get from place to place really quickly, cover more ground. But, it's also noisier than walking, so some of the birds shove off as I approach. I think I will keep the two largely separate and only scoot and birdwatch if I'm on my way home from work.

The highlight of this day's birding was an awesome experience. I went into the park to look for ducklings, because they are maybe my absolute favorite thing in the natural world. Hardened criminals can be reformed by the regular application of duckling therapy. They're just so darn cute. Anyway, after my duckling encounter a few weeks ago, I was worried I might miss seeing the tiny ones paddling behind their parents on the water before they get to look too adult. So I visited the watery areas by following the Lullwater from the Upper and Lower Pools to the Lake. On the way I saw some cool birds: a tree sparrow shining over the Binnen Falls, a black-crowned night heron planning his evening's exploits by the side of the catch-and-release fishing area, and a Baltimore oriole flyby. But before all that, I found a lovely rustic bench near the Lullwater and sat to observe for a while. Before long, I saw several Canada geese leading a single-file line of their goslings. I am not nearly as ga-ga for goslings as I am for ducklings, but I was still interested. I watched with growing amazement as more and more goslings came into view, flanked and followed up by pairs of parents. The whole horde paused across the water from me to break ranks and nibble on the floating duckweed, so I had a chance to count just how many there were. Are you sitting down? Here goes: 12 parents and 51 goslings! I thrilled at this sight. I also had the distinct feeling that some of the parents were watching me intently and maybe even menacingly. The goslings' feathers were in different states: some were still quite fluffy, and some were developing dark feathering on their faces, just like mom and dad. After a few minutes the goslings reformed the single-file line, the parents resumed their guard positions at the head, shoulders, hips, knees and feet of the line, and they all moved on down the Lullwater in the direction from which I had come.

It was another time that I cursed myself for removing my camera from my pack THAT VERY DAY and so I vowed to make my camera as essential a part of my pack as the binoculars. There's a chance I could see something wondrous every day, and I want to document that. Also my mom gave me a binocular digital camera, which I am eager to try out. It's a 10x25, so as binoculars they're not that great, but the opportunity to catch exactly what I am seeing without switching to a camera and maybe missing the shot appeals to me.

1 comment:

AKA Bird Nerd said...

My wife and I enjoy watching the goslings every morning and evening as they swim past the house. We only have 2 familes - one with 3 and the other with 5. There are 30-40 adults watching them. Good thing. We have lots of Bald Eagles on the bay.

One day I was watching as the two familes started swimming east. A few other adults began to follow them. Then, 3 adults located way down the beach to the west started making a lot of noise. Like - where do you think you're going? It must have been the elders! Anyway, the two families and assorted adults made an about-face and headed west as requested. Nature is soooo interesting.