Thursday, February 17, 2011
We don’t get much snow here in the western valleys of Oregon. Darn little. So when I woke up this morning and saw the yard blanked in white and big fluffy flakes drifting down, highlighting every twig and needle, I immediately wanted to grab the cameras and head to the duck pond. Could I be so lucky as to find a goose still sleeping with its back blanketed in snow? Hope! Hope! Get dressed, Make coffee. Take toast and a banana. Grab cameras, husband, and sketch book. Too much delay.
Well poo! The pond is only a mile from our house, but snow is turning to drizzle. Still I’d rather munch on my toast and savor the snowy scenery rather that eat at home. There is hardly a duck to be seen. Strange. A few geese hang out, but no snow on their backs. Guess it has to be colder and I’d have to get here sooner.
Sometimes Dale just has to humor me. He loves the outdoors as much as I do but if it is too late to photograph geese blanked with snow, why eat cold toast in the car and sprinkle crumbs on our shirts when we are only a mile from home? Very grey light too. But I want to stay awhile now that we are here.
Look! There is a big wake on the pond .... an otter! A dark head pops up and he floats for a moment on the surface of the grey water. He slips back under water, first his head, then his body and tail roll into the water. I watch his wake. Where will he go? At first I have a sense of his direction, a slight ripple on the surface. Gradually the ripples soften Oops! Up he pops, off to my left, not where I expected.
I’m getting better at at anticipating where the otter will pop up, or maybe I should say I soon learn I need to keep my search pattern large. He can go a long way underwater and often changes direction.
His is zigging and zagging. High speed. A boil of water follows his underwater path. Half way across the pond he pops to the surface. No fish, but I’m sure he was chasing one. It doesn’t take long before he has a rather small one, about six inches. The otter floats on the surface while he munches.
The otter stays on the pond for about an hour before disappearing. Finally we realize we haven’t seen him for awhile, and now the ducks are coming back. Usually there is a nice mix of mallards, scaup, wigeon, teal, even a pair of wood ducks. The geese don’t seem to by chased off by the otter, but it looks as though the smaller waterfowl leave when he otter is here.
Two hours after coming Dale’s fingers are numb (from holding the cold camera) and my toes are cold. That’s what happens when you sit in the car with the windows open and watch snow melt.
Once again we headed out the door this morning with a goal in mind, and once again I’m thankful we don’t get too focused on the goal. Watching the otter hunt has been a treat. We even got lucky and had stayed put so long the local coot got used to us. A half dozen came out of the water and grazed on tidbits of greenery peeking up through the snow. Coot remind me of a bunch of fussy ladies, with feet that are way too big and green to be respectable.