Wednesday, July 30, 2008

family ties

On Monday, I got out of work pretty early, and spent the extra time birding in Prospect Park. I made my way over to the Vale of Cashmere, which is so beautiful but I always wish it felt safer. There I listened in on several conversations between adult cardinals and their juveniles. I made my way through Rick's Place and saw a a few young and speckled American robins doing their duck-and-runs across the path.

I've been checking up on the swan family fairly regularly, too. They're down to one cygnet from the original three, which is now about half the size of its parent. It is still very grey with a dark bill and little dumb flappy wings. There's also been a Canada goose family on the Upper Pool - two parents and either a late-born gosling or maybe a second brood of the season. The gosling is now about half the size of its parents and has acquired almost all of its adult coloring.

On the Lullwater in front of the Boathouse, I saw one big speck and three adorable little specks breaking up the constant green of the duckweed - mallard ducklings and their mama! I don't know if ducks just hatch later than geese or if this family is kind of a fluke at this time of year, but I am really happy to see them in Prospect Park. One of the ducklings tried valiantly to catch a small, bouncing insect in its bill, but eventually gave up and chomped on the green stuff instead. When I finally tracked them down on Tuesday, one of the ducklings was missing, perhaps having fallen prey to a predator such as the grey and white cat I saw across the Lullwater. I intend to check up on this duck family whenever I have the time so I can watch whichever ducklings survive grow and change.

I'm fascinated by duckweed. One of the kids I care for told me that on a field trip to the park, she learned that once a year someone rides his or her bike right into the water outside the Boathouse, thinking it's a big lawn. I hope I see that someday. The duckweed gives the water such a strange quality, like the skin on top of a cooled pudding. It makes the surface of the water look almost solid, and the water barely ripples when disturbed. Any spaces in the duckweed made by a tossed stone or a passing duck quickly close up again, leaving no path or interruption in the pattern of tiny plants. It also gives off a Rice Krispies sort of sound; snaps and crackles add up to an almost constant low hiss. I think it's caused by air bubbles trying to escape through the small space between duckweeds. It could also be lots of minute insects landing and alighting again, too small to see but not so insignificant as to be silent.

On a side note, something at the Park Circle entrance of the park has made the air smell strongly of cloves for the past week. I wonder if it is the nearby trees. Any ideas?

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