Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday at Ambleside

Saturday was so much fun at Ambleside Park, that Bill, Black Jack and I went back again on Sunday. And again, it was very entertaining to watch the ducks. I struggled to identify this one, and would love some help. My guess was a Lesser Scaup male in his first winter. He seemed smaller than most of the other ducks in the pond, and although there may have been one other like him, he was definitely way outnumbered by Mallards, Goldeneyes and American Wigeons.
This one was a new sighting for me. I am fairly certain he is a Bufflehead. The colours in his head surprised me. I didn't really see them until after looking at the pictures.
I haven't posted a crow for a while. This one was lovely against the green moss of the tree.
These berries were growing on a tree by the pond. I haven't seen this shape of red berry before, and a quick google search wasn't helpful. Can anyone help me identify them?
There were two Mute Swans peacefully foraging at the pond's edge,
as well as in the water, for food.
The rain held off yesterday, and we enjoyed the variety of walking paths. Just by the golf course, two eagles sat in a tree. They were a long way up, and a distance apart at first, so I focused on just one of them.

Then, we heard the call that, as Bill notes, makes my heart beat faster. They moved together, and I thought the maze of branch tendrils set them off beautifully.

We walked to the railroad bridge by the sea, where a Blue Heron sat. It wasn't very disturbed..
when the train came along, although it did fly off slowly and quietly. My lens was too long to get both the train and the heron in one photo, so I went for what Bill calls, "a guy shot."
Back at the point where we began, we watched this dog, named Coco, doing her best to get as much sympathy as possible while retrieving a ball.
She cried piteously, and both Bill and I were completely taken in.
Still crying, she looked back at her humans for help. They watched closely, but didn't appear to be overly concerned.
Here, I felt sure Coco would go for it.
But no, she went to the edge of the rock and waited. Each time the ball would get close, her nose..
..would push it out of reach. Bill began to search for a stick, and was offering help, when..
..she got it! Yes! I felt this was worthy of celebration..
..and Coco seemed to agree.
I mean, is this not a truly triumphant dog? What the pictures don't tell you, is that two seconds later, she dropped the ball in the water, and began the whole, pleading, piteous procedure once more. I can only assume it was the drama and the attention that Coco was most enjoying. Very cute, and very smart dog. She had all of us wound around her little paw.
After all the excitement of watching Coco, we headed back for a final look at the ducks on the pond. This time, the Common Goldeneyes provided the drama. I can't resist a dialogue to accompany this age-old mating ritual. I have noted for a while that birds, animals and humans have much in common, when it comes to selecting a partner. Here, the female, on the right is watched by two males.

Both males thinking.. "Hm, I could go for her."

"Hey Baby, over here. Here.. over here...."

The female sits on the log at the right. I think a female of another species sits near her, but she has turned her back. She can't look at the male in the middle, who is just beginning to go into an elaborate courtship display.

Foreign Female: "Oh, pul-eeze!)
Goldeneye Female: "Hm.. a bit of potential there. Let's see what this fellow's got."

The female leaves the log, and swims nonchalantly between the two males.

Male at the back: "Whoo-hoo!"
Male in front: "Man, I better do something quick before she goes with that jerk."

"Take me. Take me. Ple-e-eze take me!

Female: "Nah. I've seen better."
Male: "Don't leave! Look at my neck. Look at my neck!"

Female continues to swim away.

Male: "Women! Ya just can't please 'em."

"Oh well. I didn't really want her all that much anyway. Let's see.. there's a cute...."

The female realizes she is no longer being courted.

"Hey, wait a minute, there fella. What's your hurry?"

2nd male at the side: "Just ignore her."
1st male: "She loves me. I knew it! We'll have children together!"

Again, the female rejects the overanxious suitor.

1st male in the center: "What the...???"
2nd male: "Told ya so, buddy. Women. They're all the same."

1st male: "Yeah but.. look at my..."
2nd male: "Whoo-hoo!"

I watched this drama play itself out, over and over and over again. I don't know what the outcome was, as we finally had to leave, but I'll never quite look at ducks the same way again.

As we headed home, and over the Burrard Bridge, Bill remarked on the lamp just before the main part of the bridge. We both realized we had crossed the bridge 100's of times, but had never really noticed it before. I took the picture through the truck window, thinking how many times that happens. Wherever I have lived, there have been ducks, but it is only recently, that I am beginning to see them.

One last bridge shot from the truck, and home again, to watch the final episode of "The Life of Birds" by David Attenborough.

Just a final comment about that movie, and about Common Goldeneyes. The movie has been one of the most enjoyable, and the most stimulating I've seen on birds. The photography and the information I have gained will stick with me for a long time. Just one example: the Common Goldeneye is reared in an abandoned hole (often that of Pileated Woodpeckers) in a tree in the forest. Its first leap of faith is to follow Mom out of that hole, and drop to the ground, where it is then led to water. I mean, kids get to crawl first. In the movie, you can see the tiny little ducklings not only free-fall to the ground, but many of them hit and bounce up several feet. I saw, when watching Rose the osprey, what a struggle it is for birds just to make it past their first flight, but that incredible feat of survival was driven home again and again in the movie.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Thanks for the Ambleside tour. It seems to be as bountiful for wildlife as Jericho Park.

    That dog Coco is quite a rascal. Everytime time I hear that name my brain translates it as Coco Chanel.

    The mating ritual of those Common Goldeneyes has me thinking that Spring is in the air. Let's just cancel Winter and be done with it.

  2. Carol excellent photo gallery of your adventure. Thanks for cool narration. You got some really really cool photos of the birds, and bald eagles, wow. Happy new year my friend. Anna :)

  3. Okay, Carol, that duck mating conversation quacked me up!

    Lovely shots, and so fun to see Coco get the ball!

  4. Carol,
    I'm not sure, but I think that crow photo is as clear and detailed as you've ever gotten! You've always complained about not being able to get the nuances of black on black.

    As for the ducklings diving out of the tree--I've just seen that segment TWICE in the last couple of weeks at my physical therapist's office--he keeps BBC nature shows going all the time on a big screen. That IS an amazing feat--the one little guy flapping his little featherless wings just as hard as he can on the way down made me laugh out loud!
    There was quite a bit of coverage a year or so ago in Spokane, when a mama duck hatched her brood out on a building ledge, and the office workers ran and caught each of the ducklings as they dove towards the pavement--no soft leaf bed in the city! Then the white color types helped the ducklings across the street to Riverfront Park. NPR story here:

  5. Fred the Dog, thanks for the great link. As for cancelling winter, I'm all for it:)

    Thanks, and Happy New Year to you, Anna!

    Your "quacked me up" quacked me up too, Jean:) Glad you enjoyed it.

    Thanks, EvenSong. I thought that crow worked out a bit better than usual, so it was nice that you noticed. I had seen the Spokane story and loved it. A real heart warmer, and a lot of fun to watch again. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Hi Carol, this is Alison, Coco's owner. I was the girl with my Mum and my dog.I absoluetly loved the pictures! They were hilarious! I scrolled through the rest of your photos and I think you are an amazing photographer, I'd love to get those pictures of Coco if I'm able. Hope to see you at Ambleside again!


  7. Thanks, Alison. Lovely to hear from you, and I'm very happy that you liked the pictures. They are not perfectly focused, but definitely show Coco's strong personality. Can you print them from blogger? (Click on them once to see the large version. Then right click, and go to copy.) If not, email me privately, and I'll print off a couple and send to you, or you can pick them up at the school where I teach in North Vancouver.