Yes, Mother Goose did it, at least I’m going to believe she did. Mother Goose was gone from the osprey nest platform, but there were some brand new goslings in the pond at the base of the tower at Grass Lake. Somehow four little fluffy ducklings, looking recently hatched, may the ones that survived the plunge down to the pond and are now happily swimming around with their parents.
The Canada Geese are particularly noisy right now, as they establish mated partners and set up their breeding sites. A few intense squabbles broke out as I watched the mated pairs interact on the bass ponds at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Note: this post is not a comment on the behavior of any political candidates.
I wasn’t the only one feeling the nip in the air this morning as I walked around the Bass ponds at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Mallard ducks had their heads tucked under their wings and were still sleeping pressed tightly into the bank of the ponds when I got there.
Let the honking and quacking begin…
A brief tangent to explain what I’ve been doing lately with The Arcanum photography group (and why the Backyard Biology blog has been taking somewhat of a back seat in my “work”). I graduated from the Foundation levels (in early May) and have moved into a Landscape Mastery cohort now with 19 other apprentices and a new Master, Ron Clifford. Now I’m learning about the subtle changes one can make to a photo, using various software products to process or develop that image to its full potential. I started with a couple of photos I had trouble with in the Foundation level, and have moved on to work with some new pieces I shot this week.
Some before and after shots will illustrate this process best.
One more before and after of the Sucker Lake part of the St. Paul reservoir on a sunny afternoon where the light was so uniform, the scene was very flat and pretty uninteresting.
[You can click on any of the edited images for a higher resolution and larger view]
My goal isn’t to introduce something that isn’t there naturally. I think our eyes see far more range or color and values/tones in a scene than the camera does, and editing software makes it possible to bring back the scene to the level of our visual memory. I have found there is a kind of divided camp among nature photographers, with some who like to “play” with the scene to create a much more vivid and dramatic imagery that might depart significantly from reality, and others that simply want to portray that same scene in a way that is more realistic, but highlights to draw attention to or focus on the subject(s). I guess I am in that latter camp. So, how am I doing?
The idiomatic meaning of this strange saying is to get one’s affairs in order, to get organized before some big event, like a trip around the world.
Some waterfowl species really take this idiom to heart: they swim in a row, fly in a row, walk in a row, even stand in a row.
Do you wonder where these strange idioms come from? After watching some ducks evade my attempts to photograph them, I started to wonder whether this idiom originated from watching birds behave, or from some other source.
Wisegeek.org and word-detective.com had some thoughts on the subject. The bottom line is that the expression probably originated from sports games, specifically bowling, shooting, and pool. Early bowling pins were short and squat and were called ducks. Hand-setting of the pins after each frame was therefore called “getting the ducks (pins) in a row”. Early carnival games often featured sitting or flying ducks placed on a conveyor belt that had to be perfectly aligned (in a row) for the shooter to topple them with an air gun. Duck is also a term used in pool for a ball that is sitting right in front of a pocket — i.e., an easy shot. Thus, to have one’s “ducks in a row” was to set up easy pool shots. So take your pick for an origin of the term.
The common behavior of waterfowl species to form a line, rather than clump in a ball like a school of fish might do when threatened, seems to have some selective pressure driving it. I have no idea what that is, but it’s interesting to contemplate why it happens. Would a bird be safer in the middle of a line? Do lines provide greater energy efficiency?
Migrating birds are on the move — as weather fronts (and winds) conducive to long distance flight move the birds northward through the midwestern U.S. I saw numerous flocks of migrating geese and ducks while driving back roads to various sites along the Mississippi River yesterday.
Seeing natural phenomena like this makes one wonder: Why do they fly in a “V”? Why do they migrate along the river? Why are so many flocks of birds seen on this particular day?
Why fly in a “V”? A study of flying endangered Bald Ibis (published recently in the journal Nature) showed that individuals position their wing tips just downstream from the bird ahead of them, and synchronize their flapping to maximize the lift created by the updraft of that preceding bird’s flapping motion — finding a sort of aerodynamic “sweet spot”.
Why fly along the river? Rivers are natural migratory flyways, because they provide not only sustenance for hungry migrants, but are topographical markers that are easy to follow as birds move north or south along a migratory route. Mixed flocks of migratory waterfowl seek protection in numbers resting on the water, while songbirds and raptors seek food and protection in the forests along the river’s edge.
Why fly today? Changing weather patterns are key signals for bird migration. In the spring, as warm air heats up in a low pressure area in the southeastern U.S., it pushes northward, and birds follow this warm air current as it rises over the cold air below. Where warm and cold fronts meet, precipitation might force birds to halt their migration, until the next warm front moves them in another wave north.