Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just Like On TV

Once in a while I’m lucky enough to be at the right time and place, and paying enough attention, to see something really special. Earlier this spring, for example, I happened to stop at a favorite birding spot just in time to see an enormous river otter splashing and cavorting its way along the broad stream…I watched it for about five minutes before it disappeared around the bend. At the same spot on another day, I watched a coyote hunting field mice in the newly-mown meadow. And on one special morning, as I stood on my back deck, our resident red fox trotted almost up to the edge of the deck and looked me squarely in the eye for a few precious moments before veering off around the house. Unforgettable.

This morning, I saw a scene so amazing that if I had seen it on television I would have questioned its veracity and might have thought it had, somehow, been staged.

On my morning drive, I sometimes stop in a little commercial parking lot right at the edge of the Farmington River. At that hour in the morning, the lot is always empty and quiet. I can look up and down the river, and have a clear view across to the opposite bank, where woods come right down to the river, and a cell tower looms over it all. I like to stop there to get a good look at the Red-Tailed Hawk that frequently perches on top of the tower. This morning, both Red-Tails were there, beautiful in the early sun.

As soon as I pulled into the lot, I saw a large adult Great-Blue Heron stalking in the shallows on the opposite bank, where several ducks were also busy feeding. A closer look with the binoculars revealed several Mallards, a brilliant male Wood Duck, and a first-year female Common Merganser (short crest). The Mallards and the Heron were very busy in one area which seemed to be teeming with small fish or some other tasty treat. The Wood Duck trolled up and down the bank, with the Merganser always following close behind. At one point, the young Merganser reached out and nipped, or pulled, the Wood Duck’s tail! Wonder why? Food? Fun? Feistiness? The Wood Duck was not amused and for a few splashy moments it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be. Soon, the Wood Duck continued swimming about feeding, with the Merganser close on its tail.

My attention was distracted by movements in the woods …. Two White-Tailed Deer, a doe and a young one, came down to the water to drink, their delicate steps making almost no sound at all. The birds looked up, but were not afraid.

This was the “made for TV” moment – the morning sun filtering through the trees to the water, the sun-lit mist rising above the river, the silver-blue Heron, emerald-headed Mallards, multi-hued Wood Duck and pearly-grey Merganser moving about in the sparkling water, the russet-and-white deer drinking and raising their heads, dripping, above the water, and above it all, the two Red-Tailed Hawks serenely overseeing the scene.

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