Earth Day 2017

Earth Day was actually yesterday, but since I spent it outside in the rain and drizzle, planting herbs and flowers in the earth… I thought I would write about it today.  I was in high school when the first Earth Day was celebrated. It was conceived by a Wisconsin senator, Gaylord Nelson over his concern about the rate of industrialization and our lack of care about the environment in 1970.  I remember making some type of acknowledgement of the day though whether at school or as a community activity, I do not remember.

I do remember thinking of the enormity of the ideas and mission or maybe the overwhelming aspects of trying to help the environment, so I decided long ago that my best celebration would be to lessen my own carbon footprint and celebrate the earth on a daily basis.  How could I accomplish this?

Many times I think in terms of smalls… I love small animals, little birds, tiny buds and plants; small items intrigue me and I am fascinated by the minute, the intricate. How can that have any impact on the environment or industrialization you ask?  If I can make a small commitment to recycle a few items, I am affecting the environment.  If I can re-utilize, re-purpose an item for a new use in a small way I am not adding to refuse in my environment and if I take the time to observe the natural world- touch it, feel it- get in tune with it,  I am changing my own perspective and affecting the environment…. and for the positive.

begonias

So this Earth Day 2017, take a few minutes to think of some small way you can make a small change in your environment, your world, your earth… if we would all do a small thing, it would be so big.

Perfect Evening

My husband Dan is obsessed with the weather; all changes in temperature, cloud formations, barometric pressure, all chances of precipitation, winds, storms… you name it- he can give you an update.  He can even give you updates instantly for several locations- where he grew up, where all the kids are, where his siblings live, where his parents retired… Dan and his apps are my go to for weather first information! He also has this handy little app that keeps track of the International Space Station (ISS).  Now there’s a weather tracker for you… and he always has access to where it will show up on the horizon next.

That “next” was to be a pretty good viewing of the space station moving over the Kansas horizon, Northwest to Northeast at 8:57 pm last Sunday.  So we set out walking about 8:40 to find the best vantage point in our neighborhood; lack of street lights, elevated, no obstructions to our view and away from the houses, so no one would wonder what we were doing standing around with binoculars in an empty cul-de-sac after dark.  The weather in fact was perfect.  It had been a warm and windy spring day, but at dusk the wind subsided and all that was left was a gentle breeze. Menacing storm clouds were brewing to the Southeast, but our view in the dark was of stars, an almost full moon- accompanied by frog choruses.

Full Moon

At the outskirts of our neighborhood, new home construction has created pockets of low lying areas.  After the last 2 weeks of rainy weather, there were several small swampy, moist, froggy areas.  As our sneakers crunched through the gravel on asphalt the boisterous chorus would lessen until we had passed by only to begin again as loudly as before.  There were the rhythmic small voices and the an eerily deep fermata-ed call, like a choral conductor giving a cue…

And then it was 8:57 and the bright speeding light of the International Space Station appeared and drew our utmost attention. For less than two minutes we could spot the shimmery shiny panels hurling through space; traveling through the lens of my binoculars and even with the naked eye! As mysteriously as it appears on the horizon, it disappears into the deep dark.  It is an amazing sight and I always want to know if the folks in the space station are looking as intently back at us.

And they are…monitoring weather patterns, climate changes, storm movement, checking the earth’s environment (they even monitor the water levels around Venice, Italy). It gives us all a connection to something larger than ourselves and our little piece of the world.  It changes my perspective every time I see it orbiting at 17,150 mph (almost 5 miles per second).

Quite an atmosphere- endless space accompanied by the earthly amphibian voices on that spring night! Perfect viewing on a perfect evening.. try it yourself sometime: spotthestation.nasa.gov.

Seattle, Ks…

Earlier in the week I made my way to the grocery store between multiple showers and thunderstorms that kept popping up.  I shopped for just a few needed supper items and made my way to the check-out area only to look out the windows and see a deluge…how had that happened so fast?  A young woman began checking my items with a sigh and wistful look, mentioning how much she loved rain and was getting ready to move to the Pacific North West.  My return comment was that my son and his wife lived in Seattle and that this rainy season in Kansas was making me think SEATTLE…  the sacker said “That’s it! Seattle, Ks”.

To be truthful, Seattle may have wet weather and Kansas has had about 2 weeks of it now, but rarely do you see a Seattle-ite with an umbrella and most unusual- one in use.  Here I could have used one that afternoon as I slogged my way to the car with groceries in paper bags… soon to be wet, soggy paper bags and myself soggy as well.

Kansas has actually looked a bit like the Pacific North West these couple of weeks as the landscape under the precipitation’s guidance has greened up and become quite lush.  Even heavy winds with the rain could not shake the wet off  leaves and soil.  So to step out and inhale the moist air- heavenly!  Here as opposed to Seattle though, it will not last.  A few sunny, warm days, gusty spring breezes will dry the gentle sheen of moisture from land and tree, shrub and air…

However, with this wet windy, spring weather, the migrating shore and water birds have stayed in our little pond and the surrounding bigger ponds for several days.  I watched as loose groups of Cormorants flew against the wind and rain to settle in a compact circle on the big pond just north of ours.  There must have been close to 50 or more and a few have now veered to land on our pond for some solitary fishing and diving.

I have a special place in my heart for Cormorants as I first saw them while on an spring evening’s fishing jaunt when my son was small; Lone Chimney Lake, Oklahoma.  The fishing was good that evening and we should have understood that just by the sheer number of migrating Cormorants there!  By dusk, full of fishy dinner, they were spreading out their wings to dry; lodged on large branches overhanging the water.  I loved their deep black coloring, shiny, sleek after a deep water plunge and their bills, soft yellow,  like a pelican’s but with no pouch.  They fascinated me, I’d never seen any birds like them before.  Big black, fanned

Cormorants
a Few of the Cormorants at the ponds…including Green Heron Pond!

wing birds perched on dead tree limbs, pale night light coming, evening sounds; it is a lovely memory.

pelican flight
Some of the Pelicans soaring before landing…no wind at the time…imagine…

Along with the Cormorants this week, we watched three Vs of White Pelicans struggling against the winds over the ponds. The force of the wind was so great the V leaders kept rotating out, falling back in the V while others took over the lead.  Finally the Pelican’s were able to silently circle dropping one by one down into the water on the ponds across the road.  These two water birds species would never be a rarity around the ferries or shoreline of Seattle’s Puget Sound, but to land here in Kansas for a few days, it is pure pleasure to observe.  Our special Seattle-like Spring…it will be another lovely memory.

Cast of Characters

Spring is such an active time on and around the pond.  Pursuit of nesting materials, “carb loading” Momma ducks and geese eating anything we put out (plus new grass…which is not intended for them)- prepping for the long incubation of eggs with their drake/gander sentinels posted around the nesting sites… And while the avian locals launch into this busy season, there are the migrants that fly through for a short stop- a day or maybe a week.  They too enjoy a bit of corn chops and the respite Green Heron Pond provides.

Last week I was fully entertained by the interactions of the visitors and the resident waterfowl.  To start, even after much discouragement and “shooing”, Momma and Daddy Goose have chosen to nest again by our dock… 3 coyote raids last year and frequent human activity in the yard- they have been undeterred.  But if they have been undeterred, so have some of our visitors…

A  lone American Coot arrived here last week- only the second time I have ever seen one at the pond.  Small with a deep black velvety head and shoulders morphing to a slate-ish colored body, orange red eyes, bone colored beak and long chicken-y legs ending in lobed feet; it certainly had my attention.  The movements of this little waterfowl were quick, bobbing, humorous to observe.

Coot n Mallard
American Coot and Mallard Friend

The Coot watched the Mallards come up on shore to feast and quickly decided it was safe enough to venture beyond the shoreline and have some corn too.  It rooted under rain wet leaves and pond side debris with such gusto that the ducks intrigued joined in.  It would bob along in the water making sudden dives only to reappear in seconds with strands of green pond weeds attached to its bill. It didn’t seem bothered by being the only Coot and the Mallards accepted it readily, as they do most of the waterfowl… the Canada geese however, did not.

I have no idea why this little bird seemed to frustrate and  irritate the geese to unprecedented levels, but if it got within 30 feet of them or their nesting site, they were on the alarm and threatening attack; such grandiose wing waving, honking and determined nods.  I could only chuckle at them all- what characters!  The little Coot would just scoot away, dive and disappear for a few seconds only to return just out of geese sight. Once those lobed feet carried the Coot (running not walking on water) away from the gander’s grasp.  And if on shore, those quick little chicken-ish legs could cover more territory than the portly geese could maneuver.

Early Saturday morning, I had not found the Coot on the water or near the shore and figured it had trekked on to a friendlier, more Coot populated destination. But I started looking for it earnestly when I heard such a goose uproar close to the deck… no Coot but instead a lone female Wild Turkey calmly strolling through the yard nibbling scattered bits of corn chops along the way.  I have never seen a Wild Turkey here at the pond and she may never venture this way again…

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey hen sauntering around at Green Heron Pond

The turkey seemed unaware that she herself was the cause of all the goose fuss; not until both Canadas rushed forward and forced her to take a short flight into a willow overhanging the water.  I really wondered about the turkey’s next move as she was stuck out on a limb over the pond.  The geese were below making a racket, so I stepped out on the deck… that was enough of a diversion to let the turkey hop down and saunter off, away from pond and the nesting area.  But she chose to reappear soon afterwards only to be chased across the yard and around the neighbor’s fence.

I have not seen the little American Coot or the Wild Turkey hen since that morning.  I often wonder why lone creatures make their way here.  A little Pied Billed Grebe, a lone Cormorant, a Wood Duck couple- they seem to visit each Spring and now these two newcomers.  I always hope Green Heron Pond provides needed rest and repose, sustenance to prepare for the next leg of the journey- even if some noisy nesters don’t act neighborly.  Am thinking there is a lesson here…