Saturday, January 16, 2010

BULLISH ON DUCKS



Judging by the overcast sky and an awful lot of decades of looking upwards and trying to decide how the day ahead is going to shape up, my weather forecasting intuition says gray, gray, and more gray.


A quick check of the National Weather Service site bears out the hunch. Of course yesterday evening, when Rich, friend and fellow father-in-law (his son, my daughter) and I planned a photo outing, the official prediction was partially sunny. Partially sunny is better, photographically speaking, than gloomy gray. Especially in winter when the most recent snow has mostly melted and and what you're left with is a landscape of dank, dismal, brown. Flat light and dull wads of leaves and dreary tufts of grass aren't especially photogenic.

On the positive side, the current temperature is 32˚F and set to rise another ten degrees. Which eliminates any worry of freezing my derriére off—though it all but assures the likelihood I will slip in the slick mud and fall on that aforementioned derriére, muddying myself up in the process. Not an unfamiliar scenario.

A few minutes ago I heard a large flight of geese pass over the cottage. It sounds like the string I saw a several evenings ago, heading in the opposite direction, probably to wherever it is they bed down for the night. A "guesstimate" count put that bunch at 200 birds, give or take. That's a pretty big flight for around here—though a few years ago, when I spent a week in western Kansas proving ringneck pheasants do not exist in that state, in spite of what the tourism boards claim, I watched flight after flight of Canada geese that could easily have numbered ten times the number passing overhead this morning. You could see those huge flights coming several miles away, starting as nothing more than a dark smudge on the distant horizon. A wild and wondrous sight which filled me with awe no matter how many times per day it happened. When those geese were on the wing and heading my way, pheasants were forgotten; I only wanted to stand and gape, watching that smudge turn into dots and the dots into birds, hearing their distant cries, listening and watching as sounds grew louder and the great flight drew ever closer. Those gees were worth the trip.

While it will be years before Canada goose numbers hereabouts ever approach those I saw in Kansas—if it ever happens, given Ohio's increasing urbanization—the ducks on my river seem to be on an upswing. At least my flock of mallards has gone from fewer than a dozen birds to something over twice that in a few short weeks. If this were stock market, I'd be bullish on ducks. Moreover, I'm hoping this burgeoning flock can help me with a little clean-up problem. You see during the recent days of snow, when I went out in the morning and tossed the day's ration of cracked corn for the ground feeders—ducks included—some of the broken grains inevitably disappeared into the snow…out of sight, out of mind. Now that the snow has suddenly melted, however, the ground where I did the feeding is covered with corn—unsightly and apt to mould if it remains too long in the damp. I believe it is a situation ideally suited to hungry ducks, plenty of free eats for the pecking.

So, as Rich and I head off to see what sort of creative photography we can manage, we'll see how well those freeloading ducks handle their responsibility.
———————

14 comments:

Sydney said...

What a lucky thing! I am looking forward to hearing more. I personally love ducks so I hope for more stories and pictures.

Now, you sounded a bit tongue in cheek when you wrote about what you were trying to prove in KS. I don't know though if you are an official birder, or do/did something for the nature conservancy or whatever in the past. I don't really know what you do or did for work, or how you got to the stone cottage and how you managed to get a river in with the deal. If you have blogged on this, please point me toward dates or links so I can read them, and if not, please consider writing about that to fill your rather considerable readership in! :-)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad to hear you are getting moe and more ducks - are the white ones still around? That is a lovely photograph of your river - I look forward to seeing some of your shots from today's outing.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

I Hope your day with Rick proved spectacular - and I am pretty sure that no mater what you photographed it will be amazing.

I went to spend time with my Mom and Sis - we had a heart-healthy lunch and chatted and laughed and even watched part of a good part of a great movie - 'Little Miss Sunshine".

Enjoy your evening and your Sunday on the river.

Love to you
Gail'
peace.......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Sydney…

You will definitely hear more duck tales.

Was I perhaps a bit too subtle re. my reason for being in Kansas? If so, here's the unvarnished truth: I and a couple of friends and several bird dogs were out the with intention of securing the primary ingredient for a pheasant dinner. In other words, we were pheasant hunting. Hunting being the critical word. I did not say shooting. Or trying to shoot. Or shooting at and missing. H-u-n-t-i-n-g. As in seeking, looking to find, etc.

Kansas is one of the top pheasant hunting states in the nation. We were all seasoned upland hunters. Our bird dogs had pedigrees. We spent a solid week, actually circumnavigating the state of Kansas. I had top-notch outdoor press credentials. We had experienced people with us. We had access to vast tracts of privately owned land, prime pheasant land. We hunted long and hard and everywhere. We never saw a single pheasant.

I watched flights of geese and jackrabbits and pack rats. We visited one of the Little House sites. I bought some books. We had steaks and some good Mexican food. Saw the world's largest ball of string.

Never saw, shot at, or subsequently ate a single pheasant. I had a fine time. The other guys thought the trip was a bust.

One of these days I'll fill you in on the other stuff…

Robin said...

There is something about Geese in flight....

I have caught myself standing in a grocery parking lot, looking up.... on the road, slowing down, looking up... in the middle of a conversation, not paying attention, looking up. It's gonna get me in trouble one day.

I have a bent toward belief in reincarnation, and my reaction to Geese on the wing is so strong, I've wondered if it comes from a more solitary life I've lived.

Seriously, it stops me in mid-whatever every time... without thought.

The only thing that will make me hit the brakes faster in traffic is the flight of a hawk....

(I need to move to the country, sooner than later.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Didn't get many good shots today; companion Rich beat me in every category. But I'll likely post a few.

You probably missed my reply to you re. the white ducks. Check out the comments section of the "Cornbread and Snow" post, which is like 4 or 5 posts back.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Sounds like you had a good day, too. I had a good time taking photos today, but an even better time just being out with Rich and then all of us having dinner back at the cottage afterwards. You can't beat spending time with family.

I hope you Sis and Mom are doing well.

Bernie said...

Your day must of been lots of fun, your picture is beautiful....we have warmed up here, snow is melting and almost has the smell of spring alas it is going to freeze up again Wednesday, like you I am outside enjoying this beautiful weather as much as I can. So glad you had a day of bird watching and at least your friend managed to get good pictures...have another good day tomorrow Grizz.....:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

We are kindred spirits. Your comments mirror my own feelings and thoughts on geese completely, except for the reincarnation part—I tend to think of them more as my own "totem" animal. You must read the post I did early last year (JANUARY 26, 2009, BEGUILED BY GEESE) as it was apparently just for you to share.

Tell me what you think…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

It's supposed to start raining here later on this morning. And the week ahead looks like lots of rain/sleet/snow days. Doesn't sound good for photos and getting out, but IT IS winter, after all.

Stay warm. Enjoy any sunshine while you can.

Scattering Lupines said...

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:)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scattering Lupines…

I will, indeed!

But even before I do…thank you.

Robin said...

I read your older post on Geese.

I find it interesting that for whatever reason, we both mentioned reincarnation in relation to them.

Thanks Griz. I am so happy that someone else I know understands the spell I find myself under...

BTW, I was just reading up on Geese and found that the honking (when you see two) is a double honk by the male and a single honk by the female... so well timed that people don't realize they are hearing a 'conversation' by both.

I'm sure you know this already... but I found it lovely.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

I simply love geese. I guess you know that since you read my earlier piece, but I do love 'em. Always have, always will. Just a few minutes ago a big flight of geese passed over. I grabbed my camera and dashed out, shirtless, to try and get a photo. The sound of them up there in the gray winter sky stirred me anew.

I love geese…