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Dancing Mallards

Today I went for a walk to the riverside park to watch ducks dabble, wiggling their butts in the air. Today’s air was remarkably warm: it was almost 60 degrees here and sunny, the perfect day for a dog walk.

The ducks were feeling feisty in the sun. One male mallard and his lady were being tailed (ha!) by a bachelor. Mr. Mallard was not having it. He’d wait until the bachelor got daringly close – then turn on him, lower his head, stretch out his body, and give chase. Well, by “give chase” I mean he swam at the bachelor at a mildly faster clip then he’d been perusing for food. It’s not as though duck chases are like the kind you see on the Serengeti. After the bachelor got away, the two performed a comical mirroring of each other’s manly display: one duck shook his head; the other did too. One duck waggled his tail feathers; the other did so too. One duck stood up tall and flapped his wings; the other did too. The dance was followed by a few more head shakes and butt waggles before they went back to ignoring each other. Bachelor stayed close.

Off in the distance, a whole flock of ducks were performing the same antics, although there was a great deal more tussling since the crowd was large. The girls looked non-plussed; perhaps even approving of all the attention and momentary chaos. As I watched the ducks chasing each other, heads down like  bikers trying to win a race, I realized that displays like these, like those of most other animals, are harmless shows of bravado. No animal truly wants to come to blows. But what if they did? Ducks have blunt bills and entirely silly feet. They certainly can’t grab at anything with their wings, and although they have pointy little teeth, they also have a nice thick coating of oiled feathers. I do know from working with raptors that the wrist joint (in human terms) of the wing is pretty powerful; maybe they’d swing at each other with those. I think I’ve seen them trying to stand on each other awkwardly while afloat when the dancing doesn’t work.

I love the ducks. There’s a bench that I sit on to watch them and even in small moments you can see a great deal of the “wild kingdom” in their interactions with each other. Sunka sits on the bench next to me, but facing backwards; he knows that in the towering pines of the park there are many tiny tree monkeys just waiting to antagonize him. I watch the ducks, he watches for squirrels. People give me big toothy grins as they walk by, seeing him seated so politely next to me on the bench, ears up.

After the ducks, we walk to a small grocer and I give in to the months-long craving I’ve had for fried chicken. And potato wedges. Those, and the latte I’ve already had are counteracted entirely by my outing to the gym this morning. No, for real.

Sunka gets a potato wedge and one tiny hunk of fried chicken, and his day is made ten times over.

[Video] Dog Sings to Sad Baby

Any ideas why a pup might resort to yodeling and submissive behavior when a baby is crying? This video is super short but it fascinates me; my dog acts like this when we play-wrestle, but with more whining than singing. Precious, hope you enjoy!

[Video] Starling Murmuration

Wow. Wildlife synchronization at its finest.


[Video] Ostrich Eggs and African Predators

Holy cow. Here are some of the things I love about this clip: the jackal’s frustration (I’ve seen my dog do this with a soccer ball), the ridiculous face of the first vulture, and the way the FOUR FOOT TALL VULTURE at the end dwarfs the EAGLE.

When I lived in South Africa, I was delighted to discover that you can purchase ostrich eggs in the grocery store. There are tons of ostrich farms around, and the eggs, which weigh 3 or 4 pounds, are quite good. While on holiday, we bought one to have for breakfast. You can’t just crack them (unless you have a rock and you don’t mind half a gallon of egg everywhere), so you actually have to drill a small hole in the top of the egg and then drain it into your pan.

Our one ostrich egg, scrambled, served more than eight people.


[Video] Dog Tease

Ok, you guys have probably already seen this one a million times but on the OFF chance that ONE of you hasn’t.. I posted it. Classic story of a man teasing his dog with a discussion of food.. only this dog talks back.

(Also, this guy has created some wearable merch and all proceeds go to the SPCA in Nova Scotia. Pretty frakking awesome.)

Scrub Jay Nostalgia.

Came across some photos this evening that I don’t think I posted of the Brothers Jay back in spring before their release. These images depict some of my favorite things about birds: the tenacity they have in wanting to fly and shit wherever they please, how they must – if they are forced to be in the presence of a two-legged – sit on that two-legged’s head, and how, regardless of their lack of human-esque forms of affection, the site of two birds huddling together as they slept can warm the cockles of my little heart. Thanks for sharing this with me folks. :)

An inordinate fear of lake monsters.

Recently I took a little jaunt to Lucky Lake in the Cascade mountains. The hike was a blood-pumping one mile, the lake was shallow (which means the water was refreshingly cool rather than omg-I-think-I’m-dying freezing like most of the lakes up here), and it was deserted. My hiking buddy and I got to swim, the dog ran around until he was exhausted, and I revealed to yet another human being my absurdly irrational fear of lake monsters. Read the rest of this entry

Oh hai! Allow me to introduce myself.

I just realized I haven’t posted in a month and it’s not that I’m offended by my own laziness, it’s that I can’t believe a whole month has gone by and I kind of didn’t notice. That’s summer for you.

Given the short season, I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to enjoy summer. For nearly the entire month of August, I traveled to visit faraway friends, had sleepovers with my girlfriends and their kiddos, took the dog hiking all over the place, went swimming in lakes, and even took a trip to the coast in a ’76 VW van, which broke down and had to be push-started about 10 times in two days. (I honestly couldn’t even believe that a vehicle could just magically START from a few people pushing it. Now I want one.) As you can imagine, every time we parked, we were sure to locate a desolate street with a slight downhill slope and a good 20 or 30 feet of clear space ahead of us. The great thing about being able to push-start one of those things is that it didn’t cut into our shopping time by much.

Why all this blathering? I am going to introduce myself. Cross the jump if you dare! Read the rest of this entry

Hippo + Gerbil = ?

  + =



Tail feathers and Tuesday night musings.

I’ve spent the last 10 days working on the annual wildflower show that I organize at the nature center each year. We collect and display labeled local flowers, weeds, and other plant species and sell native plants as a fundraiser. It’s a lot of work, but honestly, I love it so much – seeing that room full of beautiful wildflowers in bloom, causing smiles and spreading education, and sending people home with happy, bouncy plants for their gardens. Placing that plant order gives me the same feeling as saving up and buying myself a special birthday present! Here’s a short gallery of my favorite pics below from the event:

Anyway, I’m getting that place of exhaustion where you start feeling a little delirious and maybe you could try sleeping standing up just to take the edge off but you’re not sure where the safest place to stand might be. Paired with that, I had an excellent, invigorating walk with the dogperson today and the combination is making me a little reflective. This quote keeps passing through my mind, the last part in particular:

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. — Walt Whitman

What would it be like to live every day with so much integrity, compassion, and truth that your very flesh becomes a lyrical song? I want to live that way.

The babies continue to grow, especially their little tail feathers. Half a week ago, the feathers were incredibly short and essentially useless for flying. Now it’s a different story: the feathers are growing quickly towards their adult length. They’re both molting through some primary wing feathers so their flight efforts are shoddy, but enthusiastic nonetheless. Gump works his tail like a little rudder, trying to gain clearance, catch a little lift, or avoid landing on the bamboo flooring at an angle and speed that propels him into the dark, mysterious underworld beneath the sofa. They take risks, they clamber on window blinds and their mesh enclosure, and, when they’re tuckered out and resting, they make quiet gurgling, chortling noises to each other. And, I’m delighted to see their little white eyebrows are coming in!

They’ll look something like this when they’re adults. Wiki via Greystork

What they’ll look like in another week or so. Wiki via Tyler Karaszewski

What they look like now.

What they look like now.