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…
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.