Across the field above the sedge was a dark shadow. I thought it a squirrel and continued to watch the shadow as it rose higher and higher above the blowing grass. The long, lean neck was that of a Canada goose and beside it, its mate.
Over the past few weeks there’s been an increase of waterfowl, mostly in pairs. The Canada geese spend their days wandering the fields. They are not as wary of my presence as usual. As I feed my three domestic ducks, I hope they will see me as a safe person, with a generous hand of corn or holding a bag of white bread. They never come quite that close.
One afternoon I noticed a single Mallard drake cruising the lake. I thought it a bit sad, and unusual, that he cruised alone.
Then while Sam was bush hogging the Mallard hen flew up from the sedge. Sam immediately changed his course and left a swath of sedge hoping to save her nest. A few days later he tipped out to the grassy area, searching. He found a depression but no eggs. “There should be shells,” he said.
I remembered seeing Leah, the domestic duck, eating her own broken eggshells so perhaps the ducklings hatched, dined on eggshells and went on their way. The Mallards were not seen again.
Wood ducks have come and gone from the wood duck box. It’s an incredible sight to see wood ducks flying at supersonic speed and then, without braking, fly directly into the box. Nature cannot be adequately explained.
It’s not just waterfowl. Bush hogging brings all sorts of birds. The mower stirs up insects and small rodents and the opportunistic birds follow. I’m not sure where the derogatory phrase “bird brain” comes from because as I grow older and more forgetful, I can only hope I can be as wise as the birds.
“You’ve got to see this — and you might want to bring the camera.” Sam was bush hogging when he came inside and described the most beautiful diving and soaring bird he had ever seen. He said that while he bush hogged, the birds ascended high into the air and then dived directly down over him. “You’ve got to see this.”
With the camera I positioned myself near the edge of the field against a tree. Capturing a soaring, diving bird in midair would not be easy. Sam started bush hogging, and the four birds appeared. He was right; they soared high then plummeted, stopping maybe six feet over Sam’s head. It was difficult to photograph the birds. With the sky as a background there was little time to focus; with the trees as a background the birds were lost in the foliage. I managed to get a few good identifying shots.
“The Sibley’s Guide to Birds” identified the flock as Mississippi kites: ” … highly aerial species having long, pointed wings and very buoyant flight … capture and eat insects in midair … are found over edges of woods.”
Sam was right. The birds were acrobats in the air, and then they disappeared.