Close Call?

While Aki sniffs a pile of beaver dung, I stare at a yellow pond lily flower—the only strong show of color on this misty day. The little dog and I are both startled by a disturbance on the pond. It sounds violent, almost as dramatic as a beaver-tail slap. Something the size of a beaver’s head is moving with speed just beneath the surface of the water. But what emerges is a mallard hen surrounded by three of fuzzy chicks.

            Last summer an eagle and a great blue heron stared down at the same mallard hen and her chicks as they tried to hide on a grassy beach.  The number of chicks dropped each subsequent visit to the pond. Water now covers the beach so the hen has only pond reeds for hiding for her little family. I suspect the commotion we just witnessed was started by a low swooping predator.

            Aki moves down the trail but I stay, trying to discern the duck family through a blind of reeds. It’s hard to see past the reeds because of the sparkling circles of rain water that brighten the stalk of each reed like Christmas lights. 

            Deeper in the forest, a raven chick screams for food. Both parents belt out even harsher tones but in a lower register. The chick will not stop squawking. I wonder if one of the raven parents had swooped down on the mallard family and failed to snatch on of the chicks. If it had gabbed one, all would be quiet in the ravens’ nest. Or maybe the duck baby was grabbed and delivered to baby raven and it was complaining about having to eat another fuzzy chick rather than French fries salvaged from beneath a picnic table. 

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