A Few Surprises at William Land Park, 03-25-18

At the William Land Park, I walked the dog through the WPA Rock Garden and around the middle pond. At the pond, I saw a woman walking with a stroller, and I was astonished to discover that she wasn’t walking with a baby in the stroller. She was walking with a large, brown Flop-Eared Rabbit!  It was soooo adorable!

Other surprises around the pond were Cackling Geese in among the Canada Geese, and a Crested Duck. Cackling Geese are nearly identical to Canada Geese but they’re much smaller in size. The joke is that they look like Canada Geese who were “left in the dryer too long” and shrunk. Hah! I’d never seen them at the park before.  The Crested Duck, which looks like a duck with a powder-puff glued to the top of its head, was a first for me, too. I’d seen photos of them, but never saw a live one before.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The poofy top-knot is specially bred into this species. As cute as it may appear, it’s actually a genetic defect (and covers a soft spot on the skull). Most Crested ducklings die before they hatch because their brains form outside of their skulls. In this instance, “beauty” can literally be lethal.

I saw several Mallard ducks in the midst of mating stuff. Two of the males that I saw were being mounted by other males (one by a Mallard/Swedish Blue hybrid and one by a larger Peking Duck) – to each their own. I worry about the duck at the bottom of the process because they’re often shoved under the surface of the water while the other duck treads on them.  It was horrific to see, then, a female Mallard shoved under the surface by a frantic male, and held down there until she drown. Even after she was dead, the male kept trying to mount her and pull at her.  It wasn’t until she rolled over onto her back and floated there unmoving that he backed off.  When he tried to get near her again, another male Mallard chased him off.  It was too little, too late, of course.  So sad.

I spent about 2 hours at the park, and then headed home.

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.