Thursday, February 28, 2013

Herbert's Pond: Part I

Feb 15: ....We pulled into Herbert’s Pond on our way home from Grants Pass..... wood ducks!  Usually wood ducks are all too private.  They ease off as soon as we get anywhere close; but these are sharing a small pond with a gaggle of ‘funny ducks,’ i.e. various shades of domestic.  The wood ducks seem reasonably tolerant.
It is almost sunset so we don’t have much time. I immediately start to sketch.

Feb 17:  We arrived back at Herbert’s Pond late morning.  Before parking I got in the back seat of the car, behind Dale, so we could both sit on the pond side of the car.  While he photographed I sketched.  
Two double-crested cormorants sun themselves on a partially submerged log.  Already their faces have turned bright yellow, but no ‘crests’ yet.  That will come closer to nesting time. 

For a moment I thought my stomach was growling.  No, just the mumblings of the cormorants.  Then “HAANNK!”  Loud.  So loud I startled.  I thought someone had come up behind me.  Then I realized it is just more cormorant talk.  Apparently he said, “Let’s go fishing.”  Both slipped into the water and have been making frequent dives.  One comes up with a fish and tosses it quickly.  Down the gullet it goes.  

The cormorant dives a few more times but soon heads back to his log.  A coot has been enjoying the log, but there is no doubt in the coot’s mind as to whether the log is his or the cormorant’s.  Off he goes.  

Just before the cormorant climbs onto the log he ruffles and shakes .. a quick splash bath before climbing up.  Water droplets pearl on his dark feathers.  After a few quick preens he spreads his wings to dry;  first he angles his breast towards the sun, then his back.  
Feb 19:  Back to the pond.  When we first arrived one wood duck drake displayed once.  I want to see more!  He fluffed and threw back his fabulous head and kicked  up his tail; but it all happened so fast!  I can’t remember the exact sequence.  Head first?  Tail?  both at once?  I watched and watched.  I see little head bobs, but no real display.  

After three sessions of pond sitting I go home realizing how little I know about wood duck behavior.  It is obvious they are pairing up before they reach their nesting territory and I think I am seeing some courting behavior.   The interesting behavior happens so fast I’m not quite sure what I’m seeing.  I’ve got a plan of action -- read about them on Cornell’s ‘Birds of North America Online’  and I’m going to try to video some of their antics so I can slow down the action.  

More to come........


  1. Hi, Elva,
    Wonderful drawings and post! Thank you for sharing them all.
    Best wishes, Sadami

  2. I enjoyed this installment of your pond watch. Wood ducks are one of my favorites. How could anyone not like those handsome colorful drakes and the elegant hens with their eyeliner always applied. Can't wait for the next installment. Your sketches are wonderful. I like seeing the different poses. I did a series of duck butts while watching a gathering of dabblers. Fun to see the differences.

  3. Beautiful and all those sketch positions! I would have been cross-eyed trying to do all those in such proportion and detail over and over. Amaziing!

  4. WOW - the ducks! the first color one and the other sketchs are so good Elva! loved them

    rajesh s

  5. Elva, your sketches are wonderful! I feel like I'm out there with you...with a little breeze. I have enjoyed catching up on your blog after being gone for a while. I find all your drawings so captivating. Dale's photographs are just stunning too. Hope to see you soon.