Posted by: atowhee | February 3, 2015


It was a seemingly quiet day at Ashland Pond.  In the morning some showers (appreciated, let the weather gods know) a brief  burst of rainbow, then low clouds draped over the lower hills.  The mountains beyond unseen behind the gray curtain.  No breeze and mid-afternoon temps hit 60 degrees.  Are we in the Southern Hemisphere?

In an afternoon circuit around the pond the Ring-necked Ducks were sleeping, beaks properly tucked beneath wings.  The Gadwall trio paddled lazily along the far side, worried perhaps by the dogs. gadw3 DRAB DUKS-3 The Great Blue Heron was slumped, looking comatose, on his little mid-pond platform.  The morning’s pair of Hooded Mergansers had gone.  There was only a single cackle from one Acorn Woodpecker.  The sparrows were already napping.  Scrub-Jays, their bellies filled from a day’s plunder, perched upright in treetops, unmoving and unmoved.  Distant Crows were gathering to discuss the day’s business, and probably plan for tomorrow.  I often think they’re more perspicacious than our politicians who plan mostly for re-election.  Nobody votes you into the Crow Clan you’re born into it and then you simply must work at being the best Crow you can be.  No pandering, no campaigning and fund-raising but plenty of pluck and planning.

The Heron lifts off with an angry squawk.  What’s his problem?  Then a I see a pair of Wood Ducks flapping hard, coming my way above the pond.  Then four more behind them a ways.  Suddenly in their midst a small jet appears.  The first two ducks peel off and sweep down into Bear Creek.  The jet reveals itself as a Peregrine and the four laggard Woodies drop precipitously down into the pond with great splashes.  Danger trumps style points for cool landing.  The Peregrine never wavers, nor slows, jets on past us all, heading west for a duck that might be higher in the sky.  The pond Woodies paddle into the willows to hide, letting their heart beat return to a slower pace before their chests burst.  Then a Red-tailed Hawk comes across the pond from behind me and lands in a tree opposite.  A big bird but such a lumbering flight, such a ponderous perching.  By now, after a few seconds lapse, that Peregrine is a mile or more gone.

What did the all-seeing jays make of this incident?  The Blue Heron returns to his perch from the pondside.  The ducks already on the pond have made no move.  The Starlings never left their treetop perches.  A Robin lets out a whinny–nerves or just coincidence?   Crows continue their conflab.  The surface of the pond returns to its flat affect, the Wood Ducks’ waves have run ashore to leave no reminder.

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