Update at the Pond

It has been a busy week here at Green Heron Pond.  Busy for birds getting ready to fly South, busy for the little animals (mostly squirrels, a few bunnies) preparing warm nesting areas for the fall and winter months and busy for the myriad garden spiders spinning webs all over the lawn, hurriedly seeking insects- while the air remains temperate.  The webs create an obstacle course when I head out to water plants, feed ducks or trek to the dock.  I now have an established path that helps me maneuver past several webs that extend from the ground to high tree limbs with good sized spiders in the “bulls eye” of the web.  And I am beginning to think they are sizing me up, wondering if they could spin me into a tight volume of silk and feast til the cold comes…

For several evenings Dan and I have observed the Black Crested Night Heron fishing off our dock, sometimes in the nearby willows or perched on a dead cottonwood branch- leaning over the water.  He is soon followed by a couple of Green Herons and sometimes the two or three Belted Kingfishers, all looking for a late evening snack before settling down for the night.  I imagine the herons will leave within this next week and that the Kingfishers will continue to drop by until deep winter weather.

Though we have not seen any migratory ducks on the pond yet, there has been an influx of Mallards (35 plus sometimes) and noticeably three who have damage to one of their webbed feet or legs.  The one female- with one good leg has had to work hard to hop around for food and to the water this week as we have had temps in the 90s and that famous Kansas blast furnace wind.  I make a special effort to get food to her and another little duck that apparently had some fishing line tightly wrapped around her leg; she has now lost her blackened webbed foot and moves about like an old peg legged sailor.  The third duck seems to have had a run in with a snapping turtle and one webbed foot is missing the webbing, creating a chicken foot appearance… only further evidence of this injury is a rather odd gait.

There have also been some late fledged cardinals at the flat feeder this week.  One little male and a female, both looking raggedy and comical; big shiny beaks, black snapping eyes, the last of wispy fledgling feathers and rough beginnings of adult coloring peeking through- enough to tell who’s who.  It is as if they have had no supervision- born so late in the season, left to their own and learning to find feeding areas and cover.  So, they have been so cheerful to discover the flat feeder, feasting on sunflower seeds.  Only intimidated by the big Blue Jay who appears sometimes, all the little finches and sparrows seem easy to share the feeder with these two. Until yesterday evening…     flat feeder

Dan looked out the window to see a large shadowy figure coasting through the yard.  I gazed out to see a large hawk, almost too big for a Sharp-shinned and in a silhouetted view- a brownish bird with markings, more like a Broad Winged Hawk.  The ducks collectively flew out of the yard, onto the water…  and my heart sank.  I could see clutched in the large raptor’s talon a small bird, red feathers fanned out like a deck of cards.  I ran out and clapped my hands, watching the hawk fly to another tree in the yard and as I rushed closer, it flew across Green Heron Pond with its prey.  I felt deflated and slowly headed towards the dock attempting to calm the still skittish ducks as I made my way.

I sat there just a couple of minutes wondering if it had been the little male cardinal from our yard, as the raptor seemed only to have coasted over the lawn.  Dan made his way to me quietly with chair cushions in hand, knowing we would sit there and think on this happening; the hawk just hunting supper- compelled to survive too.  Nature sometimes exhibits tragic beauty but I am always so grateful to experience its presence- it is a great teacher about life and about life going on.

As the evening turned to dusky dark we heard the “tick, tick” call of a red feathered cardinal, half hiding in the big Blue Spruce next to the flat feeder. Do I know if it was my little cardinal? I could only make out the reddish form landing on the feeder, but the sound was comforting, familiar, the soft darkness now cooling and we walked across the yard to the house, lights in the window, glowing.

Evening Wedding in the Flint Hills

Flint Hills wedding hollowOnce in awhile Dan and I take a small jaunt away from home and Green Heron Pond; yesterday was one of those times. We were to attend the early evening wedding of some friends’ eldest son. The wedding and accompanying festivities would be held outside a small community in the Flint Hills. Kansas has such a subtle beauty that needs to be explored, usually revealing its charm over time, almost cautiously.  But the Flint Hills, they undulate and twist from one panoramic view of sky and land to another; stone, trees, shrubs, grasses, from cloudless high ground descending to deep pockets of hollows to subtle hues of blue, green and brown to the vibrant orange-ish pink of sunrises and sunsets.  So an outdoor wedding set here- this is quintessential Kansas, its beauty at its finest.

And what a setting! The homestead of the groom’s mother’s family- complete with a 100 year old home and across a small stream, a more recent farm house.  The shallow water of the stream bubbled out from under the flat and rocky layers of the creek bed.  Close to the newer house, elegant plumed turkeys and an array of colorful chickens were housed in enclosed pens for the evening.  A large tree lined hollow formed a natural chapel with dappled sunlight filtering through old cottonwoods on rows of white chairs and the wedding arch.  Just  beyond was a meadow freshly cut and manicured for the occasion.  Its boundaries set by native grasses, wild sunflowers and in its midst a large white tent where (in the words of the invitation) “dinner and merriment would follow”.

Dan and I followed a path over to the hollow locating a couple of  chairs in a shady section, as even by early evening it was still in the 90s, to await the ceremony. We had picked up a program of the evening’s schedule: wedding, dinner, toasts, games, the “cutting of the pie” and fireworks. Included in the order of the ceremony were the names of the families, members of the wedding party and an Honorary Best Man, the groom’s younger brother- a soldier, killed in Afghanistan a few years ago.  The ceremony itself was not lengthy but meaningful with the vows exchanged written by the couple themselves.  As the vows were being repeated a butterfly landed on the groom’s crisp white shirt sleeve, remaining for a few minutes.  It made us all smile… a gentle reminder, a sweet presence that none of us would forget throughout this wonderful evening.flint hills wedding couple

After the ceremony everyone gathered at the tent sipping beverages, playing yard games, visiting over dinner, listening to the endearing toasts given and dancing  in the sultry Kansas darkness- the only relief from warmth and exertion a mild cooling breeze. As Dan and I danced from under the tent awning we looked up to see myriad stars sparkling above us.  It was so exquisite to feel the Kansas night all about us. We turned back to watch the festivities from our isolated view, the bride lovely, her new husband, handsome- both smiling, happy and a merry gathering of family and friends sharing, celebrating this love and happiness.  It was such a precious time suspended in the warmth of the Flint Hills.

I did not last long enough for the fireworks, I am sure they capped off the late evening in fine style- that rural darkness providing the perfect foil for the brilliant colors filling it.  I wondered how the turkeys and chickens fared with all the festivities and the little wild prairie creatures too.  I thought of the happy couple,  and this unforgettable night.  And that butterfly, it and the wedding in the Flint Hills will stay close to my heart for a long time.