Ducks on a Pond
April 7, 2014. It had rained off and on throughout the day, that kind of spotty rain that you can walk out of in a few steps with a rain cloud here and sun shine there. Mom and I decided to go bird watching, equipped with binoculars and camera. We drove on County Road 8 out of Plainview. Descending into the valley, we stopped along a pond. Some ducks took flight, but mainly only the Canada geese were alarmed and left the pond. Several ducks remained. With delight we observed them, mom with the binoculars and I through my telephoto lens. We were excited to see four species of ducks; blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, hooded merganser, and mallard. Other than the mallards, I had never seen these species of ducks before except for photos in a field guide which I examined before our birding venture. We lingered to watch the birds for a few minutes, but this pond wasn’t our destination.
We continued on County Road 8 until it was intersected by Highway 74, and then turned south. This area is part of the Whitewater wildlife management area, most of it being state land. A big wetland area, with a large area of open water was to the right of the road. Just before it is a graveled parking area, with a path running along the water edge. We stopped in there, to walk along the path. The pond was filled with water birds. It was incredible! So many sounds – the splash of birds running on the water and lifting into the air, different sounds of quacking, and snort of geese. The birds, especially the ducks, seemed to be laughing. They were joyous and delighted in talking to each other, every conversation resounding across the pond. Adding to the voices of the water birds were red winged black birds loudly singing in their shrill voices. A chipmunk chattered in the woods behind us. A woodpecker drummed on a tree. We were surprised by a chorus of frogs and toads, their beautiful music making it all the more spectacular. The beautiful music of nature delighted our ears.
The pond was also a pleasure for our eyes. There was a lot of diversity before us and with many patterns and sizes – the familiar gray, black of Canada geese, distinctive shovel shaped beaks of northern shovelers, the mallard’s metallic green head and yellow beak, the white and black of buffleheads, and the distinguishing white pattern on the side of the ringed necked ducks. In the distance, trumpeter swans, a pure white, swam. A common merganser with his red bill and the russet feathers on his mate’s head making her look like she had a bad hair day. The red neck and head of a redhead bobbed above the grasses. Females differed in shades of browns and grays and also patterns from species to species.
In the van again, we continued along Hwy 74, getting a closer view of the far side of the pond. I had only ever seen trumpeter swans in a distance, flying. To be so close was breathtaking. They weren’t pure white when you got closer, however. Majestically they floated atop the water. While I was admiring the swans, a beaver swam in front of me before it disappeared under the water. It was fantastic! Here we were watching birds and we got to see a beaver, too. A big cluster of blue-winged teals bobbed in the water at the end of the pond, a white crescent on their face and a touch of blue on the wing. It was amazing how many ducks there were, not just species but individuals as well.
Continuing on, we came to a stream that flowed under the road. To our left a pair of mallards and Canada geese sat in the water. Then we saw a hooded merganser puff out his hood trying to impress the female with him, he looked very silly to us. Further in, we observed a great egret standing by the water’s edge staring at it. The bright white, almost angelic egret was like a bonus gift to all we had already seen.
There was something special about seeing all these birds together, as mother and daughter that made the even more experience beautiful. It was an experience enriched by sharing it with a loved one who is equally as passionate and awed by the splendor of these birds.