After breakfast on Friday, I checked out of the hotel where I worked on the Big Day of Giving for a 24 hour shift, and went in to the Tuleyome office to unpack stuff that had to be returned there, went through the mail, and sent off some emails… Then I headed back home. I felt I needed a nature fix to help clear my tired, fuzzy brain, so I stopped briefly at William Land Park, to walk through the flowers and see the duckies there.
The WPA Rock Garden there is looking lovely this time of year; lots of different flowers and trees in bloom. Between the flowers, the fennel plants and the Spice Bush, the air was filled with fragrance…
Around the pond there were the standard ducks and geese, including one pair of ducks with 10 ducklings. The pair was made up a male Mallard and a larger female Cayuga-Swedish Blue hybrid, so some of the duckling had Mallard markings, and some of the babies were all black with tufts of yellow on them. The cutest thing about the babies was that some of them had black legs and toes, but the webbing between the toes was bright yellow, as was the underside of their feet… Mallards hybridize easily, and most of the ducks around that pond have intermixed at least once, so there are a lot of “odd ducks” walking around the pond.
I also saw a baby Red-Eared Slider Turtle in the water, about the size of a 50¢ piece swimming in the water. It followed me for a bit, then swam off, then came to the surface, then swam off again… It made me smile (even though that species of turtle is actually invasive.)
I walked for about an hour and then went on to the house.
Well after the debacle that was this year’s Big Day of Giving (CLICK HERE to read more about it) and my working a 20 hour shift for Tuleyome on Tuesday and a 10 hour shift on Wednesday trying to keep donors engaged and happy, I was exhausted in every aspect of my being, so I shut off the computer and my phone and took a walk in nature for a little while.
Nature heals. It’s been documented. The Japanese call it “shinrin-yoku” (forest bathing / walking) and it always seems to work for me. I couldn’t get out to a forest today, but I did manage to get over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond. Saw lots of beautiful flowers, interesting bugs, and cute ducklings and goslings… got some fresh air… walked around for a little over an hour to get my body moving again after sitting hunched over in front of a computer for 2 days. Just what I needed.
On the way home I stopped off at the WPA Rock Garden again, It was really too warm (for me) to be out there, but I wanted a bit of a walk and some fresh air. Not a whole lot new to see. What was sad though was coming across a Bushtit nest that had apparently been downed by the storm on Wednesday and then stepped on by someone. If you didn’t know what it was, it would just look like a snarl of dry plant material, but I recognized it immediately. I felt the nest to see if there was any movement in it (there wasn’t), so I checked inside of it and was very saddened to see it filled with dead baby birds. Awwwww…
What’s neat about the little Bushtits is that when they’re building their nests there are usually several adult male birds that help with the building, then everyone takes turns sitting on the nest until the chicks fledge. The winds and downpour on Wednesday must’ve overwhelmed all of them. I don’t know if the birds will build a new nest and try again in the same season if one nest fails…
I came across a hybrid duck (part Mallard, part Runner I think) who had one baby with her. And then later came across a Mallard mama with seven ducklings. They didn’t like the heat either, and tried to stick to the shade as much as they could. Baby turtles, on the other hand, were starting to emerge from the pond and climbing up on the structures around the water plants to get warm. Most of them were baby Red-Eared Slider Turtles, though, which we don’t like because they’re invasive.
Lots of damselflies are starting to show up, and I saw several mating pairs but I couldn’t get them to stop flying around long enough to get a shot of them. The fuzzy golden male Carpenter Bees were also uncooperative today. A major irritant, though, was some jerk play golf by the pond with a buddy – and letting his Husky dog run around off leash so it could chase and attack the geese and ducks. It must be nice to go through life thinking that the rules apply to everyone else on the planet EXCEPT YOU. I took photos of the jerk and his dog and turned them over to the park authorities.
Last day of vacation. Both Marty and I got up around 6:00 this morning, and I headed over to the WPA Rock Garden and the duck ponds at William Land Park for my walk.
The garden is starting to really show off; another week and it should be spectacular. Lots of flowers and trees in bloom; layer upon layer of color in some places… LOTS of snails. I know the gardeners hate them, but I like taking photos of them. I like the whorl in their shell, their “nubbly” skin and their stalk eyes… I also found a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and one young White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar. I was hoping to see some Monarch caterpillars, but… nothing yet. I did see several Ladybeetle larvae and one of them in its pupal stage.
It was 51° outside, so I was a little surprised to see steam rising off the duck pond behind the garden… I was also surprised – shocked actually – to see a Black-Crowned Night Heron fishing along the edge of the larger pond. I had NEVER seen one of those in that park, and was surprised to see it in such an open spot, and out that “late” in the morning. (This is the breeding season, though, and sometimes they’ll hunt during the day when that’s going on.) This bird was pretty bold, too, and let me get fairy close to it so I could get the photos I wanted. When someone brought their dog close, though, the heron took off and set itself down on the island in the middle of the pond. An older couple who were taking pictures with their cellphones saw it when it landed and asked me what it was. When I told them, they then asked me to identify the other birds they were seeing: Turkey Vultures, Chinese Geese, Canada Geese, Mallards, Cormorants, Wood Ducks… I got to do my “naturalist” thing. Hah! When I identified “those big brown birds” as Turkey Vultures, the couple were afraid that the vultures would hurt the ducklings in the pond, but they felt better when I assured them that Turkey Vultures don’t generally go for live prey – they’re carrion eaters. (I didn’t tell the couple that the Night Heron might eat chicks and ducklings, though.)
The Turkey Vultures were hanging around the trees near the edges of the largest pond, and one of them decided it liked a nesting box as a perch. I don’t know if there was anyone occupying the nest box, but the Turkey Vulture looked so “incongruous” sitting on top of it. Lots of people stopped to take pictures of it.
This time of year, it’s always fun to see all the ducklings and goslings around. Along with the Canada Geese goslings, I saw Mallard ducklings and Wood Duck ducklings… There are also a lot of very “horny” male ducks – the ones who couldn’t get a female of their own, I think – that were harassing some of the females even if the females had ducklings with them. There was a Swedish Blue duck that kept trying to get to a female Mallard, and the male Mallards ganged up on him to make him leave her alone. In the garden, I came across a female Cayuga duck being harassed by a male. She ran close to where I was standing and the male backed off, waddling away through the plants. The female hung around me for a few minutes, following me until I went into a part of the garden where she might have felt too “exposed”…
There was one of the big white Chinese Geese pond-side who was harassing people rather than other birds. Its companion, I noticed, was blind on one side, and the big white was hyper-protective of it. I saw it bite one woman, and later attack another woman’s Chihuahua. The Canada Geese hissed at anyone who came near their goslings, but they didn’t “attack” like the Chinese Goose did. When I walked by the Chinese Goose, I kept my camera bag between the birds and my body, so if it bit at me it would get fabric and not skin. It lowered its head and ran at me, but pulled up at the last second and walked back to its companion. Fake out.
There were also lots and lots of squirrels running around. A few of them were “people-friendly” and ran up to me so I could take their pictures. I actually ended up taking over 600 photos throughout the walk, and picked about 100 of them that I really liked to share with you. There are so many that I’m breaking them into two albums (one for flowers and one for birds).
I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home.