Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Rest Of The Walk

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.


Rebecca D said...

Wow, how fun to spot an owl. We have on occasion spotted one too, but they are rarer then eagles to spot... At least around here. What a treat. (and the pregnant owl thing made me laugh out loud!)
As for the mallards, maybe we humans could learn something from them... Instead of the females dressing all up and parading in from of the men, hoping to catch ones eye, we should let them be all kinds of flashy and see if they are good enough to catch ours... (Well, not mine... I've done been caught... You know what I mean... right?)
PS. There are so many steps to leaving a comment on your blog these days with all the "saftey" settings, if I didn't really love ya, I wouldn't bother... Are you plagued by spam??

Q said...

Pregnant owl . . . HA!

dlefler said...

So very cool! I'd love to see an owl in the wild - we hear them all the time, but I've never seen one! We have a lot of barred owls in our area - we say that their hoot is, "Who cooks - who cooks for you?"

It might be in the high 50's on Friday, and I'm keeping Nolan home from school. Maybe we'll head out to the Audubon Center!

Felicity said...

It's so nice to spot an owl. I love the way they look at you from up in their tree.
Beautiful photos!

sara said...

By "pellets" do you mean owl turds?

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Sara - Owls don't have teeth. They might tear their prey with their talons and beak, but I think they swallow a lot of small things whole. They digest what they can and regurgitate the rest.

Yes, the pellets look like turds, but they come out of their mouths. (You still have to be careful about germs.) The cool thing - if you're not too grossed out - is that the pellets dry out and you can pick them apart and try to figure out what the owl ate.

My boys have tried to reconstruct the skeletons of what were probably mice/voles/moles etc.

What can I say? We're geeky homeschoolers ;D

sara said...

Thank you for the information! My boys would love that. I do a good job of pretending not to be grossed out.

The dB family said...

I'm just a tad green with envy. We have great horned owls that migrate through, but I've only ever heard them. What a gift to get to see one in the day who could care less that your looking at him/her (after all she looks pregnant. Hahahaha!!)