Posted by: atowhee | December 2, 2021

THE FREIGHT OF FRIGHT

Fear seems to be one of the world’s omnipresent and strongest emotions. It gets carried, even carried away without vanishing. Fear of change, fear of “the other” or “the enemy.” Fear of dying. Fear of flying, fear of falling, fear of failing. Among our species–you might be a refugee, or a blogger who angered your country’s dictator, or a woman facing patriarchy or Taliban. In the U.S. you could be a public election official or school board member, a kid in some school without metal detectors, anybody whose car’s pulled over by police, an airline flight attendant telling some guy he needs to wear a mask on the plane. Well, today fear was found among the feathered.

For long periods of time there were no birds at our feeders. No juncos on the ground, no siskins in the hanging trays. Mid-day my wife went outside to get in the car and saw the Cooper’s Hawk flying away.
In the afternoon at Fairview Wetlands fear was literally in the air. I first heard, then watched, hundreds of anxious, frightened Cacklers in the air. Shortly after they appeared overhead so did an adult Bald Eagle. He or his cousin likely started the cackling cacophony.
At the marsh itself my mere presence terrified the Green-winged Teal who are hunted nearly everywhere, also the Gadwalls. Only the un-hunted coots maintain cool when humans appear.

I appeared to the teal frmo behind a pond-side bush and dozens flew off, making their squeaky fear whistles. They did not rise and fly far as the geese must. Thes small ducks just needed to get into the reeds and brush in case I pulled out my shotgun. Below you see a female Gadwall panic, which triggers a nearby teal. Male Gadwall remains non-chalant. In third frame a second teal enters stage right, also in fright flight.

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Dec 2, 2021. 11 species

Cackling Goose  600–all in the air, scared
Northern Shoveler  75
Gadwall  40
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  16
Green-winged Teal  240
Bufflehead  8
American Coot  15
Bald Eagle  1
American Kestrel  1
American Crow  35


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