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Last Day of Vacation: WPA Rock Garden

Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

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).

Album #1:

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Album #2:

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I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home.