wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Preeners Get Clean “Bill” of Health

The local estuary is looking something like a Roman bath house.

The customers flock to the baths for their daily constitutional. The Canada geese are taking advantage of the safety of the tide being out some distance from the road nearby, while they still have the water for an escape from any people or animals approaching by land. Worst case, they can fly away.

But the day is warm and they are comfortable.  They are hard at work preening their feathers, nibbling away parasites, and  splatters of grit and goo after dipping their bills in the greasy uropygial gland on top of their back end at the base of their tail to smear a little Goose Brylcreem onto their feathers. This also helps with waterproofing. Having not a feather out of place improves the aerodynamics when they fly.

Even the mergansers are busy preening. She doesn’t seem to care that she has a “man” on either side of her, watching her tidy up.

 

Everyone is seriously on task.

But this one must have plans to go camping and maybe do a bit of trout fishing. See her testing her newly cleaned wings?

 

While you are waiting for my next post, why not check out one of my five novels? Just click on the cover of the books at the side of this post. Or you can visit my website: anneli-purchase.com


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Love Conquers All

Love happens in the most unexpected places, between the most unexpected individuals. Here in the estuary of the Puntledge River, an odd couple have been “seeing” each other for weeks.

 

Remember Red Skelton’s Gertrude and Heathcliff? They are gossiping at the top of the next photo.

“Watch this, Gertrude.”

“I can’t, Heathcliff. Can’t you see I’m doing my feathers?  I got this spot on me when I ate that clam.”

“Oh, you women. Never mind that. You look beautiful to me. But look over there. It’s that Betsy Barnyard, trying to make a move on Charlie Canada … AGAIN! She just pesters him and pesters him. Just won’t leave him alone.”

“Oh go on … you know he likes the attention.”

“Shh! Here she comes.”

***

“Honk-honk! Hi, Charlie. Whatcha doin’?”

“Oh, just hanging out. Fixing up a few feathers. Minding my own business.”

“I wondered if you wanted to ‘hang out’ with me today. It’s such a lovely spring day.”

“Are you serious? You know we’re not the same kind. Heavens to Betsy Barnyard! What would your father say?”

“I don’t know, Charlie. I haven’t told him about us. Anyway, who cares? These days it’s okay to  love whomever you want.”

“But Betsy, there’s also the fact of our stations. I represent the country. I’m Charlie Canada, and you … well, there’s just no getting away from it. You were brought up in a barn.”

“It’s no use hanging your head in shame. It’s just the way things are.”

“I’m sorry, Betsy, but I don’t think we should see each other anymore. We’re just too different. And think of the children. They would have such cultural issues. I don’t know if I could handle it.”

Betsy sniffles and wipes away a tear. “Okay, Charlie. If that’s the way you feel about me….”

“I’ll just have to go drown myself. I can’t face that gossipy gaggle of geese in the barnyard.”

“Awww … Betsy, don’t be like that. Come on over here. ”

“Are you sure, Charlie?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I couldn’t be happy without you.”

 

“Well, Heathcliff. What do you say now? It looks like they’re getting back together again.”

“Just as long as they’re happy … like us …. Right, Gertrude?”

“Whatever you say, Heathcliff.”

 


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A Honkin’ Good Time

Skies are still a bit hazy from the wildfire smoke, but somehow the geese have found their way to the estuary. Many of these birds will move on further south, but many will stay for the winter, putting up with wind and rain, and possibly a day or two of snow. The farmers’ fields will provide food for them with leftover cobs of corn and grain seeds that have missed being harvested. In case of severe frost or snow, the geese have the estuary to find food as the salt water doesn’t freeze.

The arrival of the geese always tells me that summer is ending and the northern latitudes are cooling off already, driving the birds south.

For now, life is still comfortable for them and they chat and preen and enjoy the warm days and nights. Some stretch their wings while others preen their back and neck feathers. A few are resting, some are dabbling at the water’s edge, and the farthest one has his neck stretched up tall and alert. It’s like kiddies’ day at the beach.

Just before leaving, I snapped one more quick picture. When I got home I noticed that one of the geese was flying past the camera just by the tree on the left. Or was it? I zoomed in for a closer look.  You can see it on the next photo.

Here, below, is the flying goose at the end of a skinny branch.  It’s all dressed in leaves. Sure had me fooled.

Mrs. Goose is on the loose,

Chattering, she’s quite obtuse.

“There’s a party at the beach,

And I hear it’s out of reach.

Nobody will bother us,

We can honk and spit and cuss,

Holler loudly as we wish

And the place is one big dish.

Food aplenty ‘cross the way

in the fields  where corncobs may

Still be lying on the ground,

Seeds are scattered all around.

People stop and look at us

But they’re harmless, make no fuss.

It’s just heaven being here

Even though the winter’s near.”

“Honkin’ right,” the gander said.

“Still some pleasant days ahead.”

“Watch your language, Gander Dear,

Bloggers won’t approve, I fear.”

Gander stretches out his wings,

Rolls his eyes and up he springs.

Goosey scurries, much impressed,

Goes to give her mouth a rest.

 

 

 


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Hard Times

The ferry route from Quadra Island to Vancouver Island can get quite sloppy during tide change. No problem for the ferry, but I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be out there in a small boat.

Heading home from the quilting retreat, I was surprised to see more and more snow, the farther south I got.

When I arrived in Comox, the field near the estuary was covered in snow … and geese. I counted about 230 geese in this field. I pulled over and quickly snapped a few pictures without even getting out of the truck. Sorry they are blurry. When taking pictures, “Hurry makes blurry.”

I noticed as I drove away, that there were a few trumpeter swans  with the Canada geese, but the photo doesn’t show them, as they were at the far end of the flock. But there were several other geese among the Canadas, too.

Do you see the white blobs in the front of the photo?

Five snow geese were foraging for food along with the Canada geese. They didn’t seem to mind each other. All were concentrating on digging under the snow for grass roots. Their usual dinner plate, the grain field, was mostly covered with snow, and they needed to find something to keep up their strength in this cold weather.

This photo is especially blurry but it shows how desperately the geese are foraging, searching under the snow to get at the grass and roots for any nourishment they can find. Only the goose in the front of the photo is not feeding at the moment, but she probably had to stop to warm up her bill after having it in the icy ground for so long. Hard times for the animals.

 


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Talent to Spare

Our friend Bruce Glover is a talented man. Not only does he know a lot about the habits of many animals, he can paint and carve their likenesses with such skill that any of his subjects would be flattered if they could see his work. Here, Bruce stands before a display of some of his work on loan to a seniors’ residence.

Bruce Glover

One of Bruce’s favourite birds to carve is the brant goose. Here is a flock of them flying near Goose Spit on Vancouver Island. Notice the various wing positions in this photo and the next one.

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Now compare the live birds with carvings that he has made.

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This life-size brant has fooled many an admirer whose first inclination is to touch it to see if it’s real. Of course, touching a carving is a no-no, because even the cleanest fingers leave an oily residue that would soon break down the paint. This brant is carved from wood and each feather looks delicate when you look closely. It’s hard to believe it’s not alive.

The little miniature ducks at the brant’s feet don’t belong there. That was my own (silly) addition to the scene.

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Bruce also did this flock of Canada geese …

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and this one of the pileated woodpecker.

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The black brant carved right into this piece of wood was meant to be a sign by our driveway. We didn’t like to leave it out in all kinds of weather though, and it now hangs in the house.001

A very large sign that Bruce has recently made covers the whole table in his shop. The bend in the wood is from the way the trunk grew when the tree was knocked over by a larger tree that fell on it. The small tree continued to grow for many years and had a huge trunk when it was finally knocked down. It makes a unique piece to work with.

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The lettering is part of the wood, not pieced on. So is the salmon which is about to eat a smaller fish. A great deal of work went into making this large sign which will hang at the entrance to a fishing charter business. You won’t find another one like it anywhere.032


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A Beach Too Far

“Stopstopstopstopstop!” I called. I rolled down the truck window and snapped a few pictures. The smell of the sea wafted in. Not that awful iodine smell of low tide, but the salty aroma of sea grasses and wet logs. A couple of pairs of mallards gabbled in duck-talk and waddled their duck-walk. A great blue heron stayed out of zoom range near the Canada geese who held a honking good conversation at the distant water’s edge.

I would have missed all this if I hadn’t insisted on capturing this photo. As I rolled the window up, the Captain said, “I could live here.”

“Me too,” I said, “but remember about 30 years ago we almost bought a place near here? We’d have peace and quiet and all this beauty, but it’s twenty miles to town if I ran out of cream for my coffee.”

“Or coffee for your cream.”

“Yeah.” We sighed. “Too far….”

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The Estuary

Between  Comox and Courtenay, the road runs along the estuary. I always see at least one interesting thing when I pass by there.  It is a place where many species thrive, and a refuge for them when the weather is extreme. 124

From Comox Bay, boats sometimes (not often) come partway up the river. In old times they might have been going to the ways to be hauled out, or they might be going to the small government wharf in Courtenay. The Town of Comox has the much bigger facility, with easier access from the Strait of Georgia. Markers and pilings in the river mouth help to guide boats along the deeper river channels. Many a boat has run aground here, for lack of better navigation aids.

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Birdlife is everywhere. Here are two kinds of ducks.  I’m ashamed to admit that a long time ago, I thought all ducks were brown and their ducklings were always yellow.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Duck plumage is as varied as that of other bird species.

Drake mallards are immediately identified by their green heads, but look more closely and you’ll see other markers. Yellow bills, chestnut breast feathers, a hint of a white collar on the neck, beige sides, darker brown on top, dark blue wing speculum outlined by white bars. Flashy little devils, aren’t they? Their wives are dull for camouflaged safety when nesting, but in spite of the boring mottled brown, they do have the same dark blue wing speculum bordered in white. Oh, and notice the bright orange of the feet. Both male and female have these cool boots.

Beyond the mallards a flock of widgeons are milling around. Again, the drakes are the flashy ones with their white head stripe and black and white rump feathers. A slash of white under the wing takes the boredom out of the brown body colour. The hen widgeons, again, are dull, dull, dull. And in this case, neither drakes nor hens have those cool booties like the mallards have. The widgeon boots are a more modest greeny-gray.

I find it interesting that the two kinds of ducks are together here and yet they are keeping to their own groupings by species.

Most likely they are here in the estuary because there is snow on the fields just now. Usually, the widgeons visit grain fields where they are like lawnmowers when a group of them get together, nipping the tops of the grass. A new planting of grain can be devastated by a huge flock of widgeon grazing for a few hours.

The mallards, on the other hand, will forage for other things. They don’t mind eating rotten potatoes left in the field, or kernels of corn left behind. If they are hungry enough, you might see mallards snacking on a rotten salmon on the shore, something that is beneath the dignity of the widgeon.116

But see (below) who has moved in from the frozen fields and the mist of the last blog post. The Canada geese!

And if you look closely, in the distance, you’ll see another visitor, sitting on a branch on the island in the estuary (maybe click to enlarge the photo). He’s watching for anything edible, be it fish or fowl. The bald eagle seems to sit a lot, but his “eagle eye” is watching for any sick or crippled ducks that would be easy pickings. Barring that, there may be a careless fish in the shallows. You never know what might wash up. Just now it is a hard time for eagles. The spawned out salmon  are almost gone and it is a bit early for the herring to show up. But they are always on the lookout for an easy meal.

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The estuary is full of life.You never know what you’ll see but there is always something of interest.