One Little Duckling

Our curiously mild weather has the ducks thinking it is Spring. There is one little duckling being guarded by an entire flock of Muscovy ducks. Mom and Dad are probably a young breeding pair who don’t remember that we had an ice storm last February. All the ducks have excellent shelter in the roots of some large trees. They are guarding her for another reason…

As I approached the ducks, I could hear the crows mobbing so I looked for a predator and found one. This is a beautiful Cooper’s Hawk who was just minding his own business but was not welcome. I was shooting into the sun so couldn’t get a clear image of him. The silhouette is quite effective at giving a sinister feel.

By contrast, this lovely pair of Egyptian Geese were utterly chill and refused to move for me. Our relationship has progressed. They are new to the pond and last week they hissed (cussed in Arabic) at me. After a very long conversation, they have decided I am safe.

I found a new visitor last week – a nutria. She allowed me to come really close and have a good look at her thick coat and long tail. They are an invasive species from Latin America and look like little capybaras or beavers. Usually the Park Ranger removes them so that they don’t damage the integrity of the containment pond – they burrow extensively. The one time that I have seen them up close and I didn’t have my camera! C’est La Vie…

Image of Nutria, courtesy of Pixabay

Ducks watching Ducks

It’s been a while since I strolled around the containment pond with my pesky eye irritation. As I rounded the curve, I could hear the panicked high pitched peeps of the whistling ducks. The parents ran away from the grass where they were nesting with babies in tow and splashed into the water. The bombproof Muscovy ducks just sat and watched with perplexment. They live here year around and are domesticated – nothing to fear from humans who feed them (and keep them warm when it snows). The whistling ducks are migratory so are pretty feral and very skittish.

This year we have a bumper crop of whistling ducks to go back to Latin America. Dozens and dozens of lovely wee non-ducks, as we call them as they are neither ducks nor geese. The ducklings are just precious little ‘stripes’. I didn’t see any Muscovy ducklings this year but I think this lot are all the same family. It’s doubtful that would stop them getting frisky, though… Red faces not red necks?

On my trek back, I got a better photo of the six Muscovy Ducks. Don’t they look dapper in their evening wear? I like the touch of taupe in the middle duck and the silver one is my favorite. They look ready for the Oscars or whatever the Duck equivalent is.

The Non-Ducks are back!

Above are Whistling Ducks who migrate to our pond every summer. They are really neither geese nor ducks but a sub family – Dendrocygninae. It’s a bit of a tongue twister so we call them non ducks. They live in Latin America in the winter and we think they are Catholics given the amount of ducklings they have.

This is a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly They are common along the Gulf Coast and give a lovely flash of crimson in a sea of blue and green Pond Hawk dragonflies. To me, they are beautifully colored fairies that cluster around humans because we attract mosquitoes. These little predators are quite precocious and will sit on your hand or head.

This is Mr and Mrs Puddleduck, a pair of Muscovy ducks who live here year round. Mr Puddleduck has a glorious blue sheen to his feathers. They wag their tales like puppies when you talk to them…awww! We have had so many thunderstorms around these parts that we have puddles in the ground around the pond. These are full of slugs and worms that these fat little omnivores love. Their feathers have been covered in dirt with their muddy foraging. I tell them to go bathe in the pond to no avail…

These are two mud encrusted red eared slider turtles – what is it with the mud this year? Perhaps it acts as a sunscreen in turtle world. Sometimes they ‘turn turtle’ and we have to wade in and rescue them before the sun bakes them. They are indigenous to the southern Gulf but people have released unwanted pet sliders into other areas and then they become invasive.

OUR IDYLL

If you look really closely to the right of the most northerly pondweed, you will see the head of a massive turtle. He splashed into the water like a hippopotamus when I approached.

This is a Delta Flower Beetle, a beneficial migrant from the Florida Everglades. I was really trying to capture the Lantana blossom but then spotted the Delta which is also a type of Scarab beetle – happy memories from Egypt.

Egyptian visitors at the pond

There has been a curious mystery at our pond for the last few weeks.  There were three little ducklings swimming alone in the middle of the water.  The Whistling ducks have gone to Latin America – would they leave their ducklings behind?  It would be strange as they are the helicopter parents of the duck/goose world.

JUVENILE WHISTLING DUCKS

Then I noticed we had a lovely dove gray Muscovy duck that I assumed was a daughter in law to the extended family.  Was she a flighty young mum, ignoring her ducklings?

UNUSUAL DOVE GRAY MUSCOVY DUCK – AKA DAUGHTER IN LAW

When I walked with Teddy to the pond on Sunday we spotted new visitors. We have a pair of Egyptian Geese which are an invasive species.

EGYPTIAN GEESE

I watched their relationship with our adored Muscovy Ducks but all seemed well.  To be honest our Muscovy ducks are bruisers, more than ready for the pot, as they would be in Mexico.  They look like those Mexican wrestlers with a mask on so I didn’t think the Egyptian Geese would bother them.  I recognized the geese but couldn’t remember what they were.  Now I realize I have seen them on thousands of Egyptian papyrus and ancient carvings.

Much like the Whistling ducks they are neither ducks nor geese but a sub category most similar to Sheldrakes. Today we had an important duck/goose update when we met one of the neighbors who has named all the Muscovy ducks and who lives at the pond. Apparently the Egyptian Geese were indeed terrorists and had frightened the Muscovies on two occasions. What!! She chased them and they seem to have left the area. If I see them again I will call the Ranger. How dare they frighten our residents!!! As for the abandoned ducklings, they are just deadbeat parents…

A few years ago we had another invasive species at the pond, Nutriamama and baby are pictured above. They are a relative of the Capybara and were brought to Louisiana for the fur trade. They breed like rabbits although they look like little beavers and can decimate the vegetation that is needed for the local species. My friend saw the Forest Warden preparing to trap them and asked him, “What are you going to do with them?” Bless her heart! It was like asking the store Santa if Santa is real. The warden very kindly told her that they were being ‘relocated’ to another area.

For some more fake news see RARE TWO HEADED DUCK below

THAT’S ALL FOLKS!!!

A Little Levity

It drives me crazy that of all the lovely shots I had taken of me in my wedding dress for our thirtieth wedding anniversary, this is the one blown up on my husband’s office wall.  I guess that is the Kerry that he really loves.  Right now at this crossroad in history we need some lightness.  The last time I felt panicked about going out was in 2003 in Cairo, Egypt.  The Second Gulf war had started and there was a perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction.  We were advised to stay home in case Westerners were a target.

Don’t you love the vista behind our balcony?

Since I looked like I did above, it was obvious that I wasn’t Middle Eastern but I couldn’t stand being in the house.  I strode out silently daring anyone to harass me.  Nobody did…I probably looked like a crazy lady.  Then I felt silly.  Now we have to socially distance.  I went to Trader Joe today (our Marks and Spencer sorta) and there were little yellow lines painted 6 ft. distance.  They were only allowing a limited amount of shoppers and it was the quietest I have ever seen the shop – bliss.  As you approached the shop, the Trader Joe artists (there are always some on staff to paint the signs) had put little encouraging words on the yellow stripes.

“Getting closer…”

“Almost there…”

When I got to the checkout desk, I had a little chat with the lady. “I look ridiculous with these black hair dye gloves,” I said.  “Oh, no, I have seen much worse…” she returned with a chuckle.  Then my imagination went into overdrive with WWII gas masks and Breaking Bad yellow boiler suits.  Then I went home and disinfected my purchases.  Earlier in the day, Teddy was convinced he had appendicitis.  I reassured him that it was probably gas and this wasn’t a good time to go to our doctor’s office.  It is right across the road from a retirement community that has been quarantined because of a significant outbreak of Covid 19.  I checked his temperature and poked the sore bit, made him bend over to check for sciatica.  Then I scolded him for being hypochondriacal at the wrong time in human history.  He seems to be fine now – usually Dr. Kerry can scare most illnesses away.  The gas came out eventually – so much so that I fell about laughing and sprayed air freshener in our house.

It hasn’t been long since I had a major bout of depression and anxiety.  I have good days and bad during this crisis but so does everyone.  For the first time, most of you can empathize with how a chronically mentally ill person feels ALL THE TIME.  It is so exhausting to be terrified and worried about everything.  Now there is a pandemic and I am doing okay.  After I reassured Teddy that he wasn’t dying, I went for a walk around the pond and up to the reservoir.  Many years ago, my friend Anne and I took our bikes many miles to our nearest reservoir in Glasgow at Cathkin Braes.  The sign said, “NO TRESPASSING!” but we were about 13 years old with that ‘who cares’ attitude.  We were having a lovely time when the warden found us.  Oh dear… we got a dreadful row about how dangerous reservoirs were and to go home immediately.

Boris and Natasha, the Muscovy Ducks

I REALLY wanted to ignore the NO TRESPASSING sign, at my reservoir today, but two Sheriffs had already passed me.  I just stood and enjoyed the ozonic breeze wafting down from the water.  A Great Heron was fishing for her lunch at the spillway.  She must have caught a dozen little silvery fish that sparkled before disappearing down her gullet.  She was pretty husky for a heron…  Back at the pond I almost stood on the fattest Muscovy duck – I think the neighbors feed her because she isn’t afraid of me.  Teddy usually lumbers after me on walks round the pond – he has a big actual footprint and frightens all the critters away.  This time I was able to see around 20 little turtles sitting on a mud bank with a single White Egret.

I saw a variety of neighbors and we all kept our 6ft distance, shouting the news at one another.  The great leveler is how awful we all look.  Grey roots, no makeup, stubbly beards, Walmart clothes and no one cares.  My Walmart tops are all from the thrift store so I have Eco Brownie points.  Our cul de sac is in a state of excitement right now because we have a new nest with a Black Crowned Night Heron.  They aren’t particularly common round here.  Teddy and I sat out on our deck on Sunday and a perfect little Downy Woodpecker came really close in the tree right above our head.  She had no red markings yet and seemed to be fascinated by the humans.  She tapped and tapped, entertaining us for a full hour.  Take comfort in small moments of joy and be as safe as you can be.

THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD  – POSTSCRIPT 

As I was writing this post, I heard an inordinate amount of sirens – police, fire engines and ambulance.  We live close to one of our major routes within the forest but we haven’t heard them for weeks since everything went pandemic crazy.  I was so bored that I considered going out to see what idiot had sped through our cross stop or ran over a pedestrian but decided to keep watching Animal Planet.  Then our neighbors sent a round robin to say that some desperate guy had robbed people at gunpoint in one of our furthest subdivisions and sped away.  He had gone into our sleepy little street to escape the police and then exited only to wreck his scooter in front of the pediatric hospital across the road.  He is now in critical condition – I guess God decided he deserved a Darwin award.  To give some perspective, this is a sleepy backwater with very little crime so this is unprecedented.  Today was a strange day for me, not just because of the weird robber, and I had already been considering opening a bottle of wine.  The wine is finished…  On a really sad note, two of the elderly residents of the retirement community have died – may they rest in peace.

 

“Sixteen turtles sitting on a log”

16 turtles

This is my final post from Mercer Arboretum in Houston. They have a beautiful pond, full of turtles and fish, within the grounds. This is the most turtles I have seen sitting on the log in a decade so I guess they had fun making baby turtles? Spring Creek is a short distance away with some alligators. I have often wondered what happens at night and do the alligators wander up for a turtle crunchie (they eat them like Doritos) but I think they have enough food to eat down in the creek.

These are red-eared slider turtles and unbelievably they can live for 50 to 70 years! The females don’t mature until they are 5-7 years old. I had great fun watching a baby with her mama, following her around incessantly. I imagined she was saying, “snack, Momma”, but maybe that’s just normal. They were very cute. Happy Easter

Momma and baby turtle

Muscovy Ducks

daddy muscovy duck

This handsome fellow was sitting by the edge of the pond, watching us but not prepared to move until we showed signs of wanting to predate him. I have eaten duck (European upbringing) but it is quite strong meat not even helped by a la orange sauce. The traditional fowl to eat at Christmas in Britain was goose but it is also quite gamey. Since I am almost vegetarian, this duck was quite safe as was his beautiful family. The last time we photographed them was a few months back when they were tiny ducklings. They were very intent on eating their Thanksgiving pond weed which seemed to be delicious. I didn’t know much about Muscovy ducks until I researched them. Many of them are domesticated but these are wild ducks at the northern edge of their territory which extends from central America to the southernmost tip of south-east Texas.

As I was writing this, I gave my husband my best Donald Duck impersonation. He thinks it is pathetic because I am not making actual words but I think it is pretty good. He is just jealous of my skills…

muscovy ducks

Burning Bush

burning bush

When on our Thanksgiving walk yesterday I spotted this ‘burning bush’. I remember biblical references to it and assumed they were allegorical. I found this Wikipedia reference that was illuminating – get it??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_bush

In real life the bush was within the bullrushes alongside the containment pond but it’s autumnal coloring stood out amongst the pale stalks. I almost expected to find a basket with Moses in it…:)

What struck me most was how amazing nature is. Enjoy this post Thanksgiving photograph.