Watching Them Watching Me

Gary Larson , of  Far Side Comic fame, invented a phobia –  Anatidaephobia. He defined it as “the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.” (Anatidaephobia comes from the Greek word “anatidae”, (referring to ducks, geese or swans and “phobos” meaning fear.)

If I was inclined to have a phobia, it could certainly involve geese and ducks! Every spring, a pair of Canada Geese stand on the rocks behind our house. They do this every morning for several weeks – assessing, I suppose, the probability of whether there will be a slough around the rocks this year. I watch them and they watch me.

If the geese aren’t on the rock, then Mallard ducks might be. They watch me and I watch them.

On the other side of the house, Ma and Pa Mallard settle down on the driveway each morning. I can’t begin to guess why they do that, but… I watch them and they watch me.

The Geese and Ducks certainly don’t make me fearful, but if I try to approach them – they fly away. I suppose you could say they have Anthropophobia (fear of people)!

While I don’t have any phobias and I don’t think I Hate anyone or anything,  I really dislike certain creatures like Snakes, Scorpions and a certain politician.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
– Douglas Adams –

Silence is golden…duck tape is silver.
– Author Unknown –

I heard the Secret Service had to change their commands. They can’t say “Get down!” anymore when the President is under attack. Now it’s “Donald! Duck!”
– Joke during the Presidency of Donald Trump –

Canada Geese – Force of Nature

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) really is a Force of Nature! It is a large, noisy, fearless bird, which is only part of the reason it is increasingly becoming an unwelcome neighbour in parkland areas throughout Canada and the United States.

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Sometimes referred to as pond starlings or Canada rats , these fowl can really foul  – 50 of them can produce 2.5 tons of manure in a year. Their vast numbers have not been depleted despite the efforts of hunters who harvest about 2.6 million of them a year and consider them to be the roast beef of the skies.

Every spring, a pair of them lands on the rocks behind our house. They are extremely vocal, and though I don’t pretend to understand what they are saying, it is quite possible that this year they are discussing their surprise that the Alberta Conservative party was defeated by the NDP party in the recent election.

The Feather Files
Name: Canada Goose
Species:
Branta canadensis
Native to and Migration: Resident to long-distance migrant. Canada Geese breed throughout North America, except in the high Arctic and in the extreme southern parts of the United States and Mexico.
Date Seen: May, 2015
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

WordPress Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature

Canada Geese – Lofty View from the Trees

Many of the old Cottonwood and Poplar trees at the Cabin have been transformed into odd shapes – a result of the weakness of heavy old branches in big wind storms. In the spring, the Canada Geese in our area land on the ‘platforms’ that have formed in these trees. The geese carry on loud conversations, and compete for the attention of – the females, I suppose. I’ve only ever seen them do this in the spring.

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These two trees are on our property. The wide angle capability of my new Canon PowerShot SX50 lets me take an all encompassing photo like this from a relatively close position. This past week-end six Canada Geese landed in the trees in our yard. Can you see two of them  in these trees?

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Can you see them now that I’ve cropped the photo?

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One tree branch was big enough for two geese. . .

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Until one goose muscled the other off the branch.

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This is a photo I took with the zoom lens of the SX50. It is hand held, and the photo has not been  cropped or enhanced. The original photo is a much higher resolution, of course.

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Zooming in even closer, this photo has a focal length of 215 mm, which is the maximum for the lens. I could have zoomed in even closer, but then I would have been using a digital zoom, not an optical one (digital zoom is in-camera image processing; optical zoom is the image that the lens captures.)

To put this story into perspective, six 6kg (15 pound) birds took up positions in my back yard and started to squabble over landing rights. It was truly a memorable morning!

The Feather Files
Name: Canada Goose
Species:Branta canadensis
Native to and Migration: Resident to long-distance migrant. Canada Geese breed throughout North America, except in the high Arctic and in the extreme southern parts of the United States and Mexico.
Date Seen: May, 2013
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

That reminds me, a saltwater crocodile, a great white shark and a Canada Goose walk into a bar….
– Author Unknown –

Coyotes, Geese and Flat Stanley Goes to the Zoo

If you feel the urge, don’t be afraid to go on a wild goose chase. What do you think wild geese are for anyway?
– Will Rogers

Three little stories in one – encounters with a Coyote (Canis latrans), a Goose (Branta canadensis) and Flat Stanley (Homo sapiens charta plano). I suppose I could write three different posts, but these meetings all happened on the same day, so I’ll deftly wrap them up into one tale. Maybe.

We often see coyotes, off in the distance, in the field behind our house. We have never seen one inside the fence – the fence that is supposed to keep cat eating canines out of our back yard.

So, we were just a bit surprised to see this fellow on our side of the fence, pacing back and forth, looking for a way out. He must have jumped the fence to get into the yard, but he seemed to have forgotten that he would have to jump the fence again in order to regain his freedom. (In all fairness, this coyote could have been female, but this behaviour seemed to me to be more indicative of a young male whose mom had said, “Never, ever jump that fence. A cranky gardener lives in there.”

There are three large gates in the fence, but the coyote was between me and two of the gates. Before I could get the third gate opened, I heard the sproing sound that a chain link fence makes when it has been scaled. When I turned around, the coyote was over the fence, and hightailing it out to the field.

Later in the day we went to the Zoo. Many of the animals there live in habitats that are so large that it is often difficult to see the animals at all.  Not like looking at a coyote in my back yard, for sure!

Like many places in North America, the Zoo has also become a habitat for the Canada Goose. The geese aren’t inmates – they just like the easy living at the zoo.   Rather ironic, don’t you think?

As we were leaving the Zoo, a lady approached me and asked where I got the Zoo button on my lapel. I explained that I had been given it because I had just renewed my Zoo membership.   The lady looked disappointed – she had hoped she could buy a pin to put on the jacket of the ‘Flat Stanley’ she and her grand daughter had brought to the Zoo! (The Flat Stanley Project is a modern version of having a pen pal. It connects children, students or classrooms with other children or classrooms by sending out “flat” visitors, created by the children. Flat Stanley’s travels create the narratives that connect the children.)

I was so excited about meeting a real Flat Stanley, that I forgot to take a picture! But I did give the lady my pin so that Flat Stanley would have a memento of his trip to the Zoo.

Canada Geese – Canada’s Bird Brigade

Canada – we are the second largest country in the world (in land area) but we only rank 35th in population. On the world stage, we are really not that significant, and the situation is made worse because we live in the shadow of a country that is like a big brother who will never grow up and move away. It is difficult to be the younger, smaller, almost invisible sibling, but now and then we make our presence known. Our most successful strategy is the exportation of our wonderful nuisance bird, the Canada Goose.

These extremely adaptable big birds have taken to suburban life, and will even forgo migration completely if they find a home that suits their needs. This has led to permanent Canada Geese populations in many locations in the United States. They have few predators because they are such brash and pushy birds. Not very Canadian like, really. They have significant pooping power, which is why we are not all that unhappy to see them move elsewhere.

They endear themselves to many people because they are the signal that the seasons are changing. Their V formation flight, and ceaseless honking bring the welcome news that spring is on the way. In the fall, well, let’s not talk about what they tell us.

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The field behind our house is a Goose feeding ground right now. The typical V formation flight is quickly abandoned before they attempt to land. There is much jostling, honking, and disarray as they make their final approach.

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Once safely on the ground, they move in a herd across the field, hoovering up the seeds. Late in the day they take off in a group and return to the body of water they call home for the night.  Once all the little ponds are frozen, many of these geese will head south. We will bid them a fond farewell for another season, and will not be too upset if some of them decide to settle down in the warm, hospitable lands of places other than here.

The Feather Files
Name: Canada Goose
Species: Branta canadensis
Native to and Migration: Resident to long-distance migrant. Canada Geese breed throughout North America, except in the high Arctic and in the extreme southern parts of the United States and Mexico.
Date Seen: November, 2011
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.
– Jean Baptiste Colbert –

The American Government is going to revive a $5.50 tariff on all Canadians who enter the United States by air or by sea. The Canadians have hissed and complained about this, but to no avail. Our retaliation will be to send more geese their way…

GOOSE, n. A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some occult process of nature, are penetrated and suffused with various degrees of the bird’s intellectual energies and emotional character, so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person called an “author,” there results a very fair and accurate transcript of the fowl’s thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be very great geese indeed.
– Ambrose Bierce –

Mallard Ducks – Mrs. Mallard and the Great Balancing Act

My “Office” is a reclining chair in the living room. A table on each side, laptop computer on a board that spans the two arms of the chair. A good view out the living room window. A very comfortable way of keeping track of what is going on in both the big world of the internet and the little world of my back yard.

This morning I spotted Mr. Mallard patrolling the fence line. Then I suddenly realized that Mrs. Mallard was perched on top of the chain link fence. I quickly took a photo through the window, then watched for a few minutes as Mrs. Mallard shifted her weight a few times in order to maintain her balance. Her chest was firmly perched on the top rail, and her feet anchored her position in the chain link.

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Mr. Mallard continued to pace back and forth in front of Mrs. Mallard. She carefully followed his every move.

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After several minutes, I began to be concerned that Mrs. Mallard had gotten stuck in the fence. Maybe her foot was caught in the chain link. Maybe Mr. Mallard was pacing back and forth, trying to think of a way to rescue her. So I abandoned my spying position inside the house, and quietly stepped out onto the deck, hoping not to alarm them.

The Mallards are very skittish right now, and as soon as Mr. Mallard spotted me he was in the air. And right behind him was Mrs. Mallard. She wasn’t stuck after all.

I continued on down to the fence, and realized that Mrs. Mallard had chosen to land on the only piece of the entire fence that would allow a duck to sit there. The chain link has become detached from the top rail, and has dropped down a few inches. Mrs. Mallard’s feet were actually resting nicely on the slightly rolled  top edge of the chain, giving her fairly firm and safe footing.

I can’t say I know enough about ducks to understand why she would sit there. My only thought is, it might be her way of saying, “Not today dear, I have a headache…”

The Feather Files
Name: Mallard Duck
Species: Anas platyrhynchos
Native to and Migration: Most mallard ducks are migratory birds, flying south to temperate climates during the winter, and northwards in the summer to nesting grounds.
Date Seen: May, 2011
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Mallard Ducks, Coots and Canada Geese in an Alberta Prairie Pothole

The Pond (and I am being generous in calling it that, because it is really just a Prairie Pothole fed by melting snow and summer rain) has seen lots of activity for the past few weeks. A pair of Mallard Ducks have been assessing it’s potential as a home. I really don’t know how a duck determines whether to establish residence or not. How do they know if there is enough water there for a whole summer? The weather man certainly can’t predict that, but some years the ducks stay, and some years they don’t, and the years that they don’t stay, the pond dries up before mid season.

 

One summer, though, we had three different kinds of ducks and a family of Coots stay on. There were babies all over the place, and flight training school was just a hoot to watch. The youngsters would all paddle down to one end of what was left of open water. Then one by one they would head off, feet flailing and wings flapping, trying to become airborne. For the first few days they ran out of water before lift off, and would end up carving a path of destruction through the long grass at the edge of the pond before they came to a stop. But they all learned how to fly eventually, and it was a sad day for me when they all left home and the pond became silent again.

The pair of Canada Geese never stay to nest. In the spring they land on top of the big rock every morning and carry on an animated conversation. But after a few weeks they quit coming. This morning there was a large silent lump on the rock, and I quickly realized it was one of the Hawks. I took a picture, but just the sight of me at the door of the house was enough to make him take wing.

I might be a disturbance to the hawk, but he or she is a bigger threat to the Frogs. They started croaking a few days ago, and their chorus comes to a sudden stop when the hawk arrives.

The Deer have started hopping the fence again. They like to eat the new little tulip leaves. If I was the hunting kind, the hawks would soon see deer on their menu

Canada Geese, Ducks – Few Days of Honking and Quacking

There is a row of big rocks in the field behind our place. They arrived on a sheet of ice during the last Ice Age – 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. The departing Glacier, tired of carrying these big freeloaders, simply dropped the rocks and retreated to a more hospitable climate.

In the spring a Seasonal Pond forms in the depression around the rocks. It is home to frogs and mosquitoes mostly. In very wet years the pond has been large enough to appeal to several species of ducks who set up housekeeping and raise a family.

Every spring a pair of Canada Geese arrive to check things out. They land on the rocks, where they are often joined by a few  Mallard Ducks. Much honking and quacking ensues. I originally thought the geese might be discussing the possibility of moving into the neighbourhood, but then talk themselves out of it because they don’t want to live with a group of rowdy ducks. But there is also the possibility that the geese are actually Realtors and all the honking is just the geese telling the ducks that this would be a really great place to live.

Whatever the story, it is fun to listen to, and is a nice change from all the Honking and Quacking of the Politicians in the run up to our Federal Election