I'd have been glad enough to go for a walk just to get the fresh air and sunshine, but Gunnar and I were rewarded with a couple of more unusual sights. Gunnar loves being the one to spot something. Or hear something... like rustling in piles of brush and branches along the path. What could it be? Well, we didn't see it, but I'll give you a hint...
Do you know what does that? Beaver. And if you don't protect your trees...
But we really hit the jackpot deeper in the woods, when Gunnar discovered...
... this big fellow. He's (she's?) a good sized barred owl. He didn't seem at all disturbed by us, though he swiveled his head around in characteristic owl fashion as we walked around him to get a good look. I love the way he's fluffed out his feathers to stay warm on a cold day.
We didn't hear him vocalise, which is too bad because they make some interesting sounds - not your typical hoot. (Hear him here.) It's the right time of year for them to nest and lay eggs, so he may have had a mate nearby. We didn't see another, but they're typically cavity-nesters, so she would've been hidden.
We watched him for ten or fifteen minutes. Gunnar was glad to be able to point him out to a couple other folks, walking by. Oddly, one man asked me if I thought it was a pregnant female, since it was so big and puffy.
Um, sir. It's a bird. They lay eggs. I'm pretty sure they don't gestate.
We finally walked on, down to the other pond, where we usually find ducks. They're quite accustomed to people. The very second the first piece of stale hamburger bun left Gunnar's hand, we had the attention of the whole flock.
In fact, sometimes they'll take food right from your hand, but they were a bit more skittish today. The current was flowing faster and they had to keep moving all the time, just to keep their place.
If you're not familiar, they're common mallards. The male has the iridescent teal-green head, while the female is spotted brown. She has gorgeous indigo feathers near her tail, but they're not visible in this photo. I always felt sorry for the females, being so drab. And that's pretty common across the board, with birds anyway. But then, the females usually stay on the nest to incubate the eggs, and it's much safer to be plain. She wants to be unnoticed.
Boy were the drakes ever feisty. Chasing each other around. Maybe fighting over the bread, but probably over the females.
The females, on the other hand, were much calmer. These girls hopped right out of the water and came around behind Gunnar, trying to get a bite they didn't have to fight for.
We usually make a big circle and come around the other side of the pond, but decided to retrace our steps and look for our friend again.
Yep, still there. Up in a hemlock, surveying his kingdom.
We looked under his tree for pellets, but no luck this time. We'll be back, though.