Group Dynamics

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It snowed last night, which seems to have disturbed the gulls. Thirty or forty of the normally noisy birds float quietly along the newly whitened beach. Some stand on the snow mounds that have formed on offshore rocks. As usual, Aki ignores the big birds. But oddly, the birds appear to be ignoring me. They don’t flinch when the trail brings me within ten feet of them.

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The snow won’t last, I tell the gulls. I am not lying. The temperature is already rising; snowmelt dropped on us when we walked in the forest. The gulls continue to ignore us so we move on to a portion of the bay favored by my favorite guys—the harlequin ducks.

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Diving ducks, the harlequins aren’t bother by the new snow. They must be on top of a school of baitfish. More than once a parti-colored male chases off another duck and then dives under the water. Six of the ducks breaks off from the larger raft and work like a synchronized swim team. One duck diving is a beautiful thing. Six diving together, well, it’s six times better.  One second there are six ducks swimming in formation. The next, just disturbed water. A few seconds later, the six are back.

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