Friday, August 19, 2011

Just Sitting on the Same Ol' Log: Part II of Jelly-Belly Bees

We were ready to pack up and head home when I ended my last post. I had been straddling a fallen log for nearly two hours. My butt felt concave ….
Long shadows darken half the pond edge. We’ve lost our light on the “jelly-belly bees.” Much of the pond is still in sunlight and mellow with darting dragonflies and damselflies. Each dragonfly has a twin reflected on the smooth surface of the still water. It is a very quiet pond. Sound carries easily.

Soft splashing interrupts our peace. It’s a Barrow’s goldeneye (duck) at the far end of the, but she isn’t alone this time. Swimming next to her we see one little duckling after another. Seven in all. The pond is as big as a city block, so the little ducklings are far away. Even so I tell Dale I want to watch for five minutes before we start the long drive home. Dale turns slowly on his stool; I switch from straddling my log to sitting broadside on it.

The ducklings look about a week old. The dark brown and white fuzz balls stay within a few feet of their Mama. The family is foraging along the northern edge of the pond, the sunny edge. Some ducklings dive for food, others skedaddle along the surface with their heads mostly underwater looking for aquatic creatures. I know that edge well. It will be full of dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, water striders, caddis larva, tadpoles, and backswimmers. This pond is too shallow for minnows to survive winter’s freeze.
Mama keeps a wary eye on us between her dives. We now realize she came over to check us out while we were photographing the leaf-cutting bee . She has decided those two big bumps are no threat. Now we’re being rewarded for sitting so still. All thoughts of heading home evaporate.

We can hear soft chatter between the ducklings. When Mama dives, water beads on her smooth head and back. The ducklings seem waterproof. All seven of them briefly climb aboard an old log which reaches down into the water. It is preen and fluff time, but not for long. Filling little stomachs takes over again.

Busy, busy, busy. The ducklings are three quarters of the way to us when suddenly, in a mad rush, the babies tear away from us. Tiny wings flail and ripplets sparkle in every directly as the ducklings head to the center of the pond. Mama is close behind. Why did they spook? They seemed oblivious to our presence, but perhaps it suddenly dawned on them how close we were. In any case, the goldeneyes hurry to a far log and clamber aboard. It’s a fuzzy row of nudging and settling: two ducklings on Mama’s left and five on the right. I get the impression all that time in the pond gave them cold feet. As they settle down for a nap, half of them have at least one foot sticking out behind, soaking up sunshine.

The female stays on the log just long enough for her babies to fall asleep, then slips into the pond to feed by herself. Does she communicate to the ducklings that they should stay put? So much goes on that we don’t fully understand.
All hell breaks loose. A bufflehead (a small species of duck) dares to fly in and land on this pond. It is either a female or juvenile bufflehead. In a moment the goldeneye Mama is air born and splashes into the water, trying to crash into the bufflehead. They chase underwater, on top of the water, back into the air. The two even go ashore and scramble over one log and under another. Back into the water.
The bufflehead rushes past the row of little ducklings. Nap interrupted. One by one they stand and watch the commotion.
The goldeneye chases the bufflehead directly towards us. She lands nearby, then turns and into the air again. Last seen the goldeneye is hot on the heels of the bufflehead as they both leave the pond and disappear through a gap in the trees. Three minutes later the goldeneye returns -- alone. She has a new worry now. Hikers have come around to her side of the pond. She gathers up her little flock from the log and swims into the shadows where she can hide her family in aquatic vegetation. Time for us to pack up and leave too.


  1. Great story and the art ain't half bad either!!!

    Kidding! LOVE that sketch of the seven spectators on the log!

    What a delightful peek of life on the pond.

  2. What a delightful story. I am so glad you stayed to witness all that and I LOVE the Art work. The little ones look like they are cheering on mama. :)) Thanks for your comment on my blog. Its helpful to hear personal experiences.

  3. Just ducky!

    (I looked up the definition to see if I had it right and it fits perfectly for art, photo and story.) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oooohhhhh...!!!!
    Elva, you can illustrate a children picture book!

  5. Elva....that was wonderful. Thanks

  6. breathtaking story of life on a pond- yeah, are you a children's/adult book author? if not, why?
    congrats to Dale for the goldeneye in flight on the water- striking.

  7. Fabulous post Elva! Love the sketches, the great photos and the nature story itself.

  8. ...beautiful nature writing, Elva! You really capture a feeling with your narratives. I wish I could be there!!