Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Upon Closer Observation

Our pond is like virtually any other natural environment. Sometimes just a quick look will give you the impression that nothing much is happening. But, with a closer look and a bit of patience you will observe all types of activity going on around you.

Just a few days ago I took a short walk around the pond. The sky was covered with high clouds so it was bright but not really sunny. The wind was calm and the pond was smooth with barely a ripple. All seemed quiet.

The smaller fish that are commonly seen in the clear shallow water around the edges of the pond were mostly hidden in the grass or had gone to deeper water. The absence of the feeder fish in the shallows also meant fewer preying bass were visible. The basking areas were in the shade so they were empty of turtles at the time. Only a few bird calls and an occasional turtle poking its head out of the water gave any indication that anything at all was going on.

Closer observation, however, revealed that there was plenty to see and be amazed by. Along the bank at the edge of the water there were hundreds of the tiniest frogs you can imagine. So many that you had to be careful of your footsteps for fear of crushing them. (I later calculated that in just one small section along the edge of the pond had a minimum of 1,200 of these tiny frogs.) We had seen these baby frogs come out in large numbers in the evening, but this was the first time I had seen so many in the middle of the day. They were so small that you would not really notice them unless you were looking of them.

In addition to the frogs there were dozens of dragonflies and perhaps a few damselflies buzzing along the edge of the water. I counted at least 7 different types with at least 3 of those being ones I had not seen by the pond so far this spring. I'm looking forward to getting some good pictures of the dragonflies to share.

The pair of bluebirds was evidently house shopping again checking out the empty houses one by one. (A few days later they decided on a house and started building their nest.) They eventually flew over to the pine tree under which I was sitting and perched just a few feet from me. It seemed as though they came to check out the potential threat. I guess they were satisfied as before too long they wandered off and checked out another house nearby.

There were several other pairs of birds in and out of the trees. They didn't appear to be feeding and remained close together. I couldn't identify any of them specifically, but I felt they were likely mated pairs or perhaps there was a bit of flirting going on.

The brown-headed nuthatch showed up on the tree. I'm always amazed by this little guy. He's so small and even seems a bit chunky for a bird. He looks so funny as he hops around circling the limbs, even hanging up-side down on a limb to peck away for his lunch. He is a brave little bird and doesn't seem to mind a bit of human company nearby as long as the human remains fairly quiet.

Later the red-tail hawk soared over-head for a few minutes and then disappeared off to the west. It reminded my of a few days before when I saw a crow attack one of the hawks. They were fairly low over the pond, perhaps only 30-40 feet high, when I first saw them. The crow was continually flying at and attacking the hawk as they circled. It was obvious that the hawk was trying to gain some altitude, but the crow appeared faster and was able to circle the hawk and generally stay above it. They continued this aerial dogfight for some time, steadily getting higher and higher. The hawk was calling out, but not in the really loud screech we normally hear.

By the time they had reached about 200 feet I saw the other hawk approaching from the northwest at a much higher altitude. Evidently the crow saw it, too, or heard it call out. Almost immediately the crow broke off the attack and dropped into the tree tops below to beat a hasty retreat. The first hawk continued to climb and soon joined its partner circling high in the sky and calling to one another.

That day was good reminder to me that sometimes the most amazing sights are just before our eyes if we just take a closer look.

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