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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

There are, definitely, great advantages to napping.

I’ve been blessed with the uncanny ability to nap at any time, in any position, at any moment’s notice.

I’m sure many people have wondered if I was napping as they talked to me—even though my eyes were open and I appeared awake.

Not so many years ago, as I fished one April morning along the Poudre River in the northern Colorado Rockies, all I heard were trout laughing at me. Well, some giggled, too.

A merganser female (left) and male on the Poudre River. Photo by Edie Palmer, taken from her backyard in the lower Poudre Canyon.

A merganser female (left) and male on the Poudre River. Photo by Edie Palmer, taken from her backyard in the lower Poudre Canyon.

I came upon a deep pool fed by whitewater rapids, and decided upon the most productive, the best and the most logical course of action. I stepped over to a grassy shelf of soft, pillowy wild grass jutting out a bit into the pool.

Nap time: I laid down. With creel to one side, fly rod to the other, the back of my head comfortably on a flat rock, I gazed up at a sky as blue as a delphinium flower. The temperature was in the magical realm where neither heat nor cold could be felt. The air smelled so fresh that I took deep, meditative gulps through my nostrils.

It was perfect reclining there, slipping into what I do best: napping.

Sometime later I was awakened by loud grukking. The sound resembled off-key music made by a sharp-toothed orangutan blowing spit through a twisted copper pipe. In other words, indescribable unless you hear it yourself.

I had heard such sounds before, in the springtime when a dozen or fewer mergansers annually return to the Poudre for the summer. There are so few of these ducks that not many people have ever seen them, so any sighting is a blessing.

The mergansers hang out for a while along this stretch of the river and get acquainted before heading upstream to create baby mergansers.

By getting acquainted, I mean the lady does the choosing, and the guys do the strutting to gain her favor.

Beautiful babe: From my reclined position, I saw a female merganser move quickly down the rapids. She reached the bottom and swam into the middle of the pool, not far away from me.

I knew if I moved, even twitched my nose, she would take flight. Mergansers are skittish.

Her sleek body was replete with feathers of shades of brown and white. Her head was crimson, her topknot feathers wild and glorious.

All in all, a stunning babe.

And then came the source of all the grukking.

What ensued next was a classical look at the ways of many members of the animal kingdom, even humans and more specifically, unfortunately, some male humans.

The Three Stooges: Three male mergansers, each grukking boldly, cascaded down the rapids. With their black top feathers and white feathery bottoms, they bounced like fishing bobbers through the whitewater and onto the pool.

They hurried over to Babe, encircling her, dashing around and around, keeping her in dead-center.

She wasn’t having none of that.

She broke through the entrapment, hurrying away, leaving the surprised guys staring blankly at each other.

My childhood memory of Moe, Larry and Curly on TV came to mind as the guys grukked angrily at each other.

If they had hands rather wings, they surely would have slapped each other silly. As it was, they nipped at each other. Mergansers are diving ducks so they have sharp serrated bills for catching and eating fish. In contrast, mallards, often seen on the river, are puddle ducks with less vicious bills; they typically feed by tipping into the water rather than submerging.

Screaming out a world-class gruk, each of the Three Stooges reared up on their webbed feet, necks outstretched, chest feathers puffed out, and freight-trained across the surface of the water straight at each other.

The three ruffians collided with a calamitous gruk and bounced back, stunned. Necks flopped askew. Bills twanged. Bodies teetered this way, wobbled that way.

Babe’s escape: Unimpressed, Babe took a short run over the surface of the water, as ducks do when they are taking off, and became airborne.

She was gone from sight by the time the Stooges recovered. They looked around every which way, and I could feel their thoughts form:

Where’d that beautiful dame disappear to?

Finally, one of them geared up, sprinted across the water and flew downstream—just guessing on Babe’s flight plan, I suspected.

He let out a grukking raspberry to his two competitors.

They were having none of that.

Within moments, all three Stooges were speeding in flight downstream–in the opposite direction of Babe’s upstream journey. She was safe.

Back at my grassy riverside spot, I was having some of that: three bullies outwitted by a lady. I decided it’s always good to take a nap.

You never know what you’ll discover when you wake up.

 

To learn more about mergansers, read the March 26 poudreriver.org blog.

To contact this blog’s writer: GaryKimsey@yahoo.com. Cell: 970.689.2512.

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As a way to usher in a New Year, I like to rise early to take stock of the world outside.

The first dawn of 2015 found me—bundled in warm clothes—wading through five inches of snow that carpeted Poudre Park white on Christmas.

The mountains surrounding this northern Colorado hamlet were splotched in dawn grays. The air was fresh and frigid. It felt like ice crystals formed in my nostrils with each breath.

The first places I visited were the bird feeders in the front yard. The feeders hang from poles about six feet tall. The morning, though, was still too early for the American goldfinches, mountain chickadees, juncos and other types of birds that come feeding during the warmer parts of the day

The snow under the feeders was packed down and marked by hundreds and hundreds of tiny, needle-thin cross-hatches of tracks left by yesterday’s visitors.

Life and death in the snow

When there is snow on the ground, I shovel away a large patch where I can spread around millet, cracked corn and sunflower seeds favored by doves, Stellar jays and other ground-feeding birds.

This morning—a foot or so away from the cleared patch—there was an impression in the snow about the size of my hand if I spread my fingers wide. The edges around the imprint were fluffy.

It took me a moment to realize this was likely a spot where one of the Great Horned Owls that live in the mountain forests swooped in during the night to capture a mouse. Most likely, the mouse was feeding on the nearby seeds and, sensing danger, tried to escape by scurrying under the snow.

It didn’t work. Great Horned Owls have remarkable hearing. Ornithologists say the owls can hear a mouse moving around under a foot of snow.

Stealthy visitor

Our backyard is edged by the Poudre River. The stream is largely frozen over, save for a narrow channel. Farther down the river, as well as up the river a ways, the Poudre freezes over completely. This creates a mass of ice that can be traversed to get from one shore to the other.

For the last couple of years, a bobcat has lived in a den somewhere among the trees and rocky crags of the huge mountain on the far side of the river. Local residents have spotted the cat strolling along the ice-covered shores in the early mornings. Others have heard it screech in the night. I’ve never seen or heard it.

This morning, however, it was clear the bobcat came visiting in the night.

The tracks are easy to identify in the snow. A bobcat’s hind legs sink into the snow and make what looks to be a small handle at the back of the print.

The tracks came down along the river bank and turned up into the backyard. They went straight to an old sawed-off tree stump that’s about a foot tall.

There, the bobcat hopped up on the stump for, I imagine, a better view of the night terrain.

It had been a clear, starry night. The moon is in what’s called the Waxing Gibbous phase. The word Gibbous dates back to the 14th century and is Latin for humpbacked.

In this phase, on the first night of 2015, the moon was more than 80 percent illuminated, but it wasn’t yet a full moon.

For a bobcat, it meant good moonlight for spotting the next meal or identifying lurking dangers.

I wondered: Did the bobcat just pause for a moment on the stump? Or did it stand there for a while contemplating the world, the same as I was doing as the morning light grew brighter?

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