Birds in Trees–Natural, Right?

When we walked the Nisqually Delta on a warm spring day last week, this was a sight we never expected to see. I’m guessing you’ve never seen it, either.

Nisqually Delta, to set the scene of this abnormality, is a jewel of Washington State–almost 800 acres restored to a natural estuary, located just north of Olympia. It had been diked for farmland, but in 1974, the area was bought up and made into a refuge. This was about the first time I visited it. Then in 2009 the dikes were removed. The refuge now has four miles of trails, much of it in wooden walkways over the tidal flats, although I enjoyed the walks beside the river and through the woods even more. When we returned the second day early in the morning, we were able to see more birds, and what was probably a beaver swimming near us.

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Beyond the woods, the boardwalk extends over tide lands

These were days for swallows practicing their acrobatics. We also saw a red-winged blackbird, green-winged teal, robins and sparrows, coot, grebe, mallard ducks, bufflehead ducks, shoveler duck, great blue heron, and gulls. We watched bird-watchers watching hummingbirds, but never saw them ourselves. One of our best sightings was a pair of beautiful wood ducks up close. With the leaves not quite open on the trees, we had a good view of the birds.

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A pair of handsome wood ducks

The second day brought the surprise. We came upon a bird-watcher with his tripod focused high up into a cottonwood tree. When we asked what he had found, he pointed–there, high up in a fork of the cottonwood, sat a Canadian goose! It took me a moment to remember that geese have webbed feet. They do NOT land in trees. But this silly goose had. My companion, a veteran bird-watcher who is always excited about any sighting, just about fell over, “That’s the damndest thing I’ve ever seen!” Tripod Man agreed.

A short distance down the path we met a woman who was watching a hummingbird nest, so we led her down the path to the goose. She was quite excited, “So that’s what they were talking about! I had been asking at the visitor center about the long-eared owl. I watch for that nest being built every spring and hadn’t seen it this year yet. They told me that the eggs hadn’t hatched, the owl had abandoned the nest, and a goose had taken it over!”

The goose we saw wasn’t setting on a nest–you can see him in the photo standing in the tree, but I’m guessing it’s the same one.

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Can you find the goose in the tree?

After a little bit of research, I learned that geese in trees are indeed occasionally seen, but not often. One Nisqually Delta blogger says that they are seen quite often at the Delta, but these two birders we met had never seen them before.

Spectacular place to visit! The two weekdays we were there were the first warm days of the year, and there was a parade of moms with strollers and small children, old birders like us, and flocks of photographers with tripods. They were all as much fun to watch as the wildlife.

When I recently experienced a grief spell over the lack of interest in tending to climate change problems, I decided I could do three things to deal with it. One, I would contribute what I could to 3-4 very reputable groups who are actively campaigning to protect the earth. Secondly, I would write letters occasionally to newspapers or organizations about climate change issues–and mention them in conversations, as well. Finally, I would spend more time treasuring and enjoying all the natural beauty around me. Part of that beauty is the unexpected–geese in trees!


Shadows and Other Companions

I’m working alone outside and suddenly a shadow, rather large, is moving beside me in the gravel. It’s only happened to me a few times and only at the height of the summer when the sun is high. It’s unnerving, somewhat like having someone come up close to you at your elbow without warning.

I stop, glance around, and finally look up–an eagle, or perhaps a red-tailed hawk, circles above me, right between me and the sun.

English: clouds and shadows over the Mediterranean

English: clouds and shadows over the Mediterranean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In recent years I’ve developed an urge to sketch. Even though I enjoy writing, I’ve never done well writing to a journal. Perhaps if I kept a journal with very short entries accompanied occasionally by a sketch, I might be more productive.

My first entry would be that shadow bird on the ground beside my feet. My second entry? The seal that went with me on my walk last week. No, no–it was indeed swimming and I was indeed walking, but we were, without a doubt in my mind, together

I walk on a road beside Liberty Bay. I hadn’t gone far that morning when I noticed that black, shiny, bowling ball head swimming rather close to shore, not far from me. He was headed the same way I was. After a short distance, he dropped down into the water, and disappeared for maybe 30 seconds, but then surfaced–again almost even with me. We apparently were swimming and walking at the same speed. This continued for the distance of what would have been about a block. Occasionally he would dive, but his head was at the surface more often than not.

In my journal, I would draw his head in the water, and I’d color it in with my black felt-tip marker. It’s difficult to miss those shiny black heads when they’re swimming close by. Then I’d draw in the gentle little wake he was leaving in the quiet morning water.

I might do an entry for the stately Canadian geese I met swimming yesterday on my walk. The lead goose held its head high. The 13 geese who followed formed a teardrop shape behind their leader. I told them, “Good morning,” hoping they might turn around and join me, but they had places to be, things to do, and couldn’t be bothered to change directions.

English: Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) swim...

English: Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) swimming in Palatine, Illinois, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just now, as the sun is setting, I went to close the slider to the deck. I heard–and then saw–a noisy flock of Canadian geese flying by, just skimming the water. My friends? I quickly counted–13 geese. Close enough.

In my journal Number 14 would be down in the corner of the page, visiting with the seal.