Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

March 30, 2007

Sleeping with da Fishes

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 11:03 pm

March 30, 2007

 There is nothing as peaceful as a sleeping fish.  This afternoon I spied a wild goldfish engaged in counting sheepshead (that’s a joke, by the way – sheepshead are a kind of fish and since we landlubbers are said to count sheep, I….never mind).  The fish was suspended just below the surface with his dorsal fin protruding ever so slightly out of the water.  He was motionless except for a few obligatory waves of his pectoral fins to maintain balance.  The gill covers moved ever so slightly in rhythmic time with the opening of his mouth.  As gentle currents attempted to turn him around in a circle, automatic tail twitches re-positioned him face first toward the sun. Coming off a cold winter, these warm shallow waters provided the equivalent of a hot tub experience.

  We are used to seeing fish doing active things such as swimming, jumping, eating – always on the move.   In fact, bunches of hyperactive Carp were living up to that ideal by leaping out of the water and splashing just a few feet away.  This one, however, maintained an inactive state for the full 15 minutes I was in his vicinity.  I could have stomped my foot or dipped his fin into warm shaving cream to wake him up, but I didn’t.  It was comforting to contemplate the lazy afternoon marsh as one of its residents sawed logperch (logperch are another kind of fish and sawing logs is another term for sleeping, so I…o.k., forget it). 

  The goldfish had his eyes open the whole time.  Fish have no eyelids and are destined to have that “I just sat on a pin” look throughout their life.  The bright yellow eyes, with centered black irises, were not communicating with the brain for the time being. The sight function was in standby mode. The chosen rest spot was surrounded by ring of tall cat-tail stems that offered some shelter from predators.  It was a sizable fish – about 12 inches long – but still vulnerable to eagle talons.  Unknown to him, a fish-eating egret was on the prowl for sushi just around the bend.

  Internal air bladders act to suspend the fish at his chosen level. The ability to rise or sink is controlled by the gas density of these bladders, so the fish needn’t worry about treading water all the time. 

  My goldfish represents a fish that is often confused with the Carp. Like its uncouth relative, wild goldfish are mostly greenish brown with large fingernail like scales, but unlike them they do not have any barbels (whiskers).  A few individuals express the bright orange which is reminiscent of their domestic background, but wildness and natural selection tends to eliminate the flashy ones.

  A few days ago I spotted seven or eight glowing gold orbs in the murky water and assumed this represented only a few goldfish.  Eventually, my eye adjusted to the situation and recorded the fact that there were actually thousands of goldfish.  A huge school was making its way up from Lake Erie.  The dark ones blended into the bottom while the day glow ones stood out. Which ones do you think are picked on by hungry fish eaters?  This is called natural selection.

  It was reverse selection that was responsible for the development of the ornamental goldfish in the first place. They originated in China. There wild green-brown goldfish were crossbred and cultured into the brightly colored varieties familiar today. They were introduced to Japan sometime after 1500 AD and made it to proper English estates by the late 1600’s.  The last step of the journey brought them to America and release into local waters in the 1880’s. 

  Since German Carp were introduced about the same time, it has become natural to lump the two together.  Sometimes they do interbreed (it’s those pretty little gold ones that have all the fun) but, for the sake of my sleeping friend, let me state that they are separate species.  Goldfish do Carp one better in the human world, in fact, because of their value in medical and behavioral studies. They have been called “aquatic guinea pigs.”

  Have you ever heard of a Carp being referred to as a “guinea pig” – I think not. Have you ever heard of a Carp swallowing contest or seen a Carp given as a prize at the county fair. No. So, let’s just let sleeping fish lie and give the goldfish his due.

March 29, 2007

Gimme a “C”

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:55 pm

March 28, 2007

  It is a fact that earthworms contort into interesting letters when they dry up.  As a result of the tremendous thunderstorm last night, an exodus of worm life was forced to the surface.  Of those individuals that didn’t make it back to safety by the following noon, the lucky ones were victimized by robins. The unfortunate stragglers were dried by the rising sun and baked into letters such as “J”, “I”, “C” and an even “G.”  An occasional free spirit did attempt to create an infinity symbol or the Chinese character for “help”

  Seeing all those dried bodies caused me to wonder just how many earthworms there really are down there in the soil beneath my feet. Finding this answer could prove difficult.

  Since worms usually only come to the surface at night to feed on plant material, they go about their daily lives pretty much out of our sight.  Even when they do come out, they try to keep their hinder end within the protection of the burrow. By a swift contraction of the body, they pull back into the hole at the first sign of danger. They have tiny hairs that anchor them into the walls of the tunnel. Later, they turn around and deposit a little pile of earthy poo at the surface.  This is called a casting.  A casting consists of undigested soil particles and other “poo” type things (and I don’t mean Winny).  There are so many worms pooing so much that they move tons of earth annually – they are nature’s cultivators.  This gets us back to the primary question of how many worms there are per acre. I needed a way to count.

  I could stand out in the middle of the next thunderstorm and take a head count, but that would mean risking a lightening strike and ending up as a “C’ shape corpse on the wet pavement.  I decided for the moment to simply try to count the worm trails left on the muddy ground. Perhaps I could estimate numbers by extrapolation.

  I measured out a six inch square and tallied exactly 14 worm trails – 12 skinny ones and two big ones. Let’s see, if there are 14 worm trails in 6” square then there would be 28, no…40 something in a square foot and….never mind.  This didn’t make sense.  How was I to know which way the worms were going and how could I rule out that some of these were return trails.  For all I knew, there were 6 skinny worms and one fat one that passed back & forth over this piece of ground.  Perhaps the fat one traveled back and forth so many times that he lost weight and performed 6 more trips as a skinny worm. 

  Seeing this was no good, I hit the internet for an answer. The first site I went to offered a reprint of a 1969 Dupage Co. Nature Bulletin. In it, was the statement that there were two million earthworms per acre of good ground.  It went on to say that would be a total of 1,000 lbs. of live worms, although didn’t specify how many of these were skinny worms. The next site, however, quoted 148,000 per acre in a cultivated field and 584,000 in an unplowed field.  The third authoritatively stated that one million per acre was a good figure – 25 per square foot.

  By the time I hit upon 50,000 per acre on site number four, it was becoming obvious that nobody really knew and that they were making numbers up.  It is perfectly reasonable, then, for me to pick a number between five and five million as my population estimate.  I predict that there are approximately 324,234 ˝ worms per acre in my patch of earth. At least my estimate has the realistic touch – because everybody knows that you can not count on getting whole worms when digging them up out of the ground. I also know that nobody can prove me wrong without risking a lightening bolt from heaven.

  On a final note, I have to say that the eminent naturalist Charles Darwin estimated that there were some 50,000 worms per acre on his plot of English turf.  Like all good naturalists, he took it a step further and brought a few worms back to his study for, well, study.  He put the two worms into two flower pots and placed them on his piano. He started to plink out a few notes while contemplating his research. To his surprise, he noticed that they reacted strongly when he struck a “C” note on both the bass and treble clefts.  They reacted only mildly to a “G” and paid no heed to the rest of the scale.

   Now, that’s the kind of precise thing that we can sink our teeth into. No guessing here (we’ll forgive the 50,000 thing). Personally, I think the worms are recoiling in horror at the thought of drying up into “C’ shapes.

March 26, 2007

A Chorus Line

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:40 pm

Monday, March 26, 2007

  The ancients once believed that animals sprung to life spontaneously out of the earth elements like seeds. Rotten meat germinated flies and geese were born of barnacles, it was said.  After all, rotten meat magically produced flies where there were none before. Specific kinds of rotten meat produced specific things. Dead lion carcasses, for instance, produced honeybees.  This belief was dubbed “Spontaneous Generation.”

  Scientific observation and experimentation eventually caused that idea to spontaneously combust.  Should you now stumble into a carcass just “lion” around, realize that it didn’t actually create the flies around it, but instead, attracted them to lay eggs in it. The honeybee thing, well that was just plain weird.

  I guess you’d think it equally as weird, if I mention that a rotten lion would remind me of one of our earliest spring frogs, but it does. 

  You see, this week the Chorus Frogs started singing.  They always seem to spontaneously generate out of the spring pools. Look in the same locations after mid summer, and you’ll find no sign of them either in or around the water – they disappear completely.  Even a dead lion won’t cause them to return. Only the lengthening days of spring call them forth.

  They come to the shallow watery places on a mission – they don’t have time to fool around (actually their intention is to “fool around” but not the “goofing off” type of “fool around.”)  They come to find love and lay eggs.  Although they’ll use permanent bodies of water, they prefer temporary pools for their shenanigans. Such temporary bodies of water are called Ephemeral pools.  Most of these pools dry up by mid-summer but are great as tadpole rearing pens because they don’t have frog-eating fish in them.  The pollies metamorphise before the nursery dries up.

  These tiny frogs are only about an inch in length, but their loud repetitious calls liven up the spring air.  Their sound is somewhat insect-like, which is why their Greek name means “false cricket.” Take your fingernail and run it down the teeth of a comb and you have a pretty good imitation of the call. “Cre-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-k, Cre-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-k.” Get together a group of friends and have them do the same things with their combs and you have a chorus (and perhaps a spontaneous generation of either laughter or flies).

  Chorus Frogs gather together to sing in a like manner – and thus the name.  The combined effect of dozens, or hundreds of crooning males, amplifies the romantic effect upon the females of the species. They arrive, pick out suitable mates, lay gelatinous masses of eggs, and leave.  Usually all this carousing is done by the end of April and the ephemeral adults sneak back into obscurity.

  Their tiny size, dark eye stripe and three brown back stripes are the key physical features of this diminutive songster. They are extremely wary, however, and clam up the instant they detect a footfall or a shadow.  I have caught a few in my time, but only after losing a significant amount of dignity and becoming nearly as wet as my quarry. 

  So, now you have a choice.  Next time you are near a pool full of singing Chorus Frogs you can just enjoy the concert or do something spontaneous and try to catch a few.


March 24, 2007

Seeing Red

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 10:00 pm

Saturday, Mar. 24, 2007

  It’s easy to be lulled into the belief that spring is all about the green.  It is the presence of green, after all, that indicates plant growth and new life and all that.  The very word GREEN comes from a Teutonic root which means “to grow.”  What in the world, you may ask, is a “Teutonic root?” Well, I’m not entirely sure myself, so maybe I should shift to another color before things get out of control.  There’s a lot to say about the color green, and we’ll get back to it later.  Let’s look for a little red instead.

  In the dull brown landscape of very early spring, a bright color like red stands out like a beacon.  Take the fire-red of the male Red-wing Blackbird’s epaulettes or the Orangish red of the male Cardinal, for instance. Though the red-wings have always been here, Cardinals were not always a part of our local scene.  They were once strictly a southern species and they have slowly spread north over the past century. 

  Robins are also considered a red breasted beacon of spring, but the “red, red, robin” is neither red nor a beacon of spring.  Their breast color would qualify more as a rich deep rust hue and the first robin of the year can usually be seen on January 1st since many stay all winter.  In a P.C. world (Proper Color) the familiar song lyrics would be changed to “when the rusty robin comes bob bob bobbing along.” Although, if we start doing that we’d have to change one of the “Bobs” to “Roberta” in order to P.C. the lyrics.  Let’s not go there. 

  This time of year, the male robins are truly “bob, bob, bobbing” at each other.  They are fighting like gamecocks for the rights to your front yard.  Chest to red…er, rust, chest they bang into each other like football players and jump high into the air.  After a few belly bumps, the match is decided and the lesser bird vacates the territory. It doesn’t take much to get them fighting – I guess any bird with the scientific name of Turdus is bound to have a chip on their shoulder.

  Today, I saw a Woolly Bear Caterpillar inching his way along the pavement.  For the sake of this discussion, the beet red of this fuzzy caterpillar is worthy of mention.  Wooly Bears have become noteworthy for the common belief that they predict winter weather. Supposedly, the size of the red band around their middle (the ends are black) is the key to their weather wisdom: the wider the red band, the colder the winter.  Like many beliefs that are common, this just ain’t so.  About half of the autumn Woolly Bears will indicate a mild winter, while the other half will predict severe conditions. So, those humans who find themselves among the believers will find their caterpillar based predictions to be 50% correct. This is called guessing, by the way.

  What is incredible about this hirsute little beast is that it survives the winter – any kind of winter – as a larvae.  It curls up under the leaf litter or under a log and hibernates through the cold season.  Occasionally it awakes in mid winter to take a stroll and change den sites.  I saw one out this past January when the thermometer read 17 degrees.  It was walking on the snow with its sixteen little feet and looking only slightly bemused.  Pumped full of natural anti-freeze, it was unaffected by cold. I can’t confirm it, but I do believe it stopped to make a snow butterfly.

  The bulk of winter now past, he was back out looking for some fresh Plantain or Dandelion shoots to eat.  After a few hardy meals, he’ll be ready to spin a cocoon, pupate, and emerge this summer as a fawn brown moth. This transformation even includes a change of name. The adult is called an Isabella Tiger Moth.

  Although there are plenty of other examples I could point to, a look skyward will reveal a great final choice.  The Red Maples are now flowering.  The branches erupted this week with hundreds of red pom-poms.  These are the flower clusters. Each cluster consists of a couple dozen flowers erupting out of red scales.

  The roots (not the Teutonic ones) have been holding the rich sugar reserves all winter in preparation for this time.  This tree manages to bring us tinges of red all year long through its leaf stems, autumn leaves and winter buds.  Soon these flowers will produce thousands of seeds.  Red is the reason for the season.






March 22, 2007

Nightmare on Day Street

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:26 pm

Thurs., March 22, 2007

  There is an old story I heard, or read, somewhere which was a comment on the deplorable conditions of our early Michigan Roads. 

  In the late 1830’s a traveler on horseback was slogging his way along one of our very muddy wilderness roads.  His definition of a “road” did not fit the muddy trough on which he now found himself. About the time he had decided to take his chances in the river, where he trusted there would be more solid ground, he spotted a curiosity upon the road ahead. There sat a fine hat forming an island in the middle of a very large puddle.  The puddle was right in the middle of the road.  Looking about, he saw no one near and wondered who might have dropped such a fine beaver felt chapeau. He hopped down and gingerly picked his way to the edge of the puddle and assessed his chances at retrieving the prize. 

  It was decided to break off an overhanging branch and tease it to shore.  Imagine then his horror when upon hooking the brim and tilting it up he saw that there was a head underneath it.  Imagine further the position of his heart within his throat when the head talked.  “Put my blasted hat back on,” it bellowed. “I’m sitting on a perfectly good horse & I don’t mean to move until I figure how to get him out.”

  I was reminded of this story when I inadvertently found myself on Saline River Road coming off of Bigelow.  Before I knew it, I was on one of those monsoon season tropical forest roads where the mud is axle deep and the puddles large enough to, well, swallow a horse.  Momentum was the only thing that propelled me up to Day Road where things got worse.

  The road closed sign to my left and the one way ahead was probably a good indicator of things to come inbetween.  The tire ruts were deceivingly deep, the mud slurry was churned to the consistency of partially melted chocolate ice cream, and I believe the only solid section was actually the roof of a car (a perfectly good one I suspect). Plank Road, and pavement, appeared within a few minutes and I was finally delivered to terra firma.

  It was no coincidence that Plank Road delivered me from the morass. Originally it was constructed of solid wood planks laid side to side – thus the name.  This early form of paving kept the road somewhat passable during spring rains. Hmmm, maybe the old ideas are not so bad afterall – there are a lot of trees along Day and Saline Road.

March 21, 2007

Out of the ORDinary

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 10:57 pm

Weds., Mar. 21, 2007
   Last night I was on a stake out.  I tried several times earlier to catch the suspects leaving their home. This time I was going to stick it out until sunset.  As the 7:30 pm hour passed, there was still no activity. The sun was dipping low in the west.  I eyed their door with my binoculars and spotted a movement off to the right.  False alarm, it was one of the little neighbors going for take out. 

  By 7:45 pm I was fighting boredom and beginning to think that the last night of winter would end up being a bust. I decided to leave when things got too dark- there are no streetlights here and I don’t have one of those fancy night vision things.  At 8:00 pm the sun had journeyed below the horizon and it was getting hard to see.  I glassed the entrance one more time and…there, a movement.  She was out in a flash and into the water before I could take in the scene.  She had a bunch of grass, or something in her mouth, but it all happened so quickly.  The water rippled and she was gone.

  My suspect, in this case was a female muskrat at a bank den along a nameless Monroe County ditch. I was trying to observe some of the family’s behavior.  But, this was all I observed.  Well, there was the Meadow Vole that scampered up the hill behind the den, but that was hardly front page news.

  I reached for the ignition but a faint sound prompted a pause.  It was a cooing sound from high above. I poked my head out the window and observed a flight of 16 Tundra Swans headed north. Their white bodies gleamed a ghostly white against the dark sky. They were arranged in a sloppy “V” and calling constantly.

  Our local Tundra Swans departed the region a week ago.  These large white birds come down from the high Arctic to spend their winters here on the Detroit River and further east on the Atlantic Coast.  The birds I now observed had to be migrants from the Chesapeake Bay area.  They follow a diagonal route across the Lower Peninsula and over to the Alberta prairies and then north to Alaska & the N.W. Territories.

  They were very high up, but I know that every one of the birds had exactly 20 tail feathers.  How do I know that? Well, I looked it up in Walter Barrow’s 1912 classic Michigan Bird Life.  It’s right there on page 121.  Although I knew it already, a little research confirmed that Adult Tundra Swans are solid white, with a prominent black bill with a yellow spot ahead of the eye.  They have a five and a half foot wingspan and weigh over 12 lbs or so. 

  Another thing worthy of mention is the scientific name – you know that fancy Latin thing right next to the common name.  In Barrow’s book, the scientific name of the Tundra Swan is given as Olor columbianus (Ord).  Since then, the first name (called the genus name) has been changed to Cygnus which is the familiar Latin for Swan.  The second name is the species name and the best translation of it means “of Columbus,” or something like that.  I don’t mean Columbus, Ohio but the guy.

  To find out why someone would name a bird after an explorer who never saw a Tundra Swan, you have to go to the third name in the parenthesis – Ord.  That stands for 19th century naturalist George Ord who was responsible for naming the species in 1815. Unfortunately, he never explained why he chose the columbianus , and he has been dead since 1866 so we can’t ask him. 

  How did Mr. Ord get the opportunity to name this bird, you ask (or not)?  He was one of the naturalists who examined the specimens brought back by Lewis and Clark and the Corps. of Discovery.  They had observed this bird, and the larger Trumpeter Swan, while on their journey. The pair recorded in their journals that this “smaller swan”  made a peculiar call that “began with a kind of whistling sound and terminates in a full round note which is rather louder than the whistling, or former part.”  Because of this, they coined it as the “Whistling Swan” and that is how it officially entered into the science texts.

  Now that I have you thoroughly confused, I need to say that the Whistling Swan name was changed many years ago into Tundra Swan.  And there you have it…mostly (I won’t go into why the name was changed). 

  By the way, George Ord was a busy little science bee when in 1815.  He presented a description of a whole host of new species in addition to the Tundra Swan – many from the L & C expedition.  He named seven other species, including the Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Pronghorn Antelope, Ring-billed Gull, and Microtus pennsylvanicus.  Microtus is the fancy name for Meadow Vole. 

  Although my intended purpose for the stakeout was thwarted, at least I was able to see two of Mr. Ord’s critters.





March 20, 2007

Why did the muskrat cross the road?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 11:06 am

March 19, 2007
 I have always been a road kill observer.  As such, it is not uncommon for me to pull off to the side of the road or execute a U-turn to re-examine a hastily viewed carcass.  This habit began from the day I could drive and continues to the present day.  My wife will tell you how I pulled over, while dating her many years ago, to retrieve the body of a cardinal (aside from being dead, it was in perfect condition, by the way).  Possibly with the hope that this behavior would stop, she married me and we had three kids.  Well, my kids will tell you about the times we pulled over to examine a fly ridden moose corpse in Canada, or stopped to collect quills from a long dead Porcupine, or examined a potential rattlesnake in Pennsylvania.  She is still my wife, by the way.

  Please understand that the pavement specimens in question are always assessed for their educational value.  Some are frozen for later taxidermy work, others are only good for, shall we say – “parts”, while others make me sorry that I stopped at all once the breeze shifted (the Pennsylvania rattlesnake, for instance). Most serve as population assessment tools.  I’ve always been a natural history educator, even before I actually was one, so the opportunity to examine road kill is a natural thing. 

  Whether they mention it in proper company or not, everyone notices road kills.  You swerve around them and pinch your nose when passing the black and white ones. It is as a public service, therefore, that I feel the need to point out some recent road kill trends and what they mean. 

  That Raccoons and Opossums are not born dead along the side of the road, may be a surprise to some.  Within the last month, the raccoons have far outdone the opossums and rather put them to shame.  Both of these creatures become especially active in late winter – especially after the end of this bitter cold February.  Neither animal hibernates, but they do hole up for extended periods.  Both emerge hungry and find carrion much to their liking.  Put the two facts together and you have the Ted Nugent scenario of “Whack ‘em and stack ‘em” as they seek carrion in the form of fresh road kills and are whacked by automobiles.  This is why roadkills are often in “sets.” There’s a lot more to say about these beasts, but I’ll save it for another time.

  Within the last week or so, Muskrats have made their appearance as roadside décor.  Although I am tempted to say that they were just trying to show the ‘possums and ‘coons how to properly cross the road, that would be an unscientific observation.  With their huge hind feet and tiny front paws, muskrats are ill suited for land travel and can only manage an accelerated waddle while on land (or tarmac).  They are water creatures fit for swimming.  So, why would they “try to cross the road?”  The answer – “to get to the other side.”

  Muskrats turn their thoughts to making little muskrats in late winter.  The males begin to compete for the attentions of the females and the females become territorial.  Biting fights frequently result and the young, weak, or inexperienced muskrats are forced to seek greener pastures.  They pack up their musk glands and spread out from their home range.  The lucky ones find habitable marsh space only a short swim away, but the unlucky ones are forced to wander far and wide. Many become victims of coyotes, fox, mink and hawks while others are sent to their maker by the likes of a Lincoln, Land Rover or a Lexus. Major roadways like I-75 or Telegraph have to be crossed by these hapless refugees in order to reach fresh habitat on the other side. Most of them make it, but many don’t.

  Locally the muskrat population is at high point, so there is the expectation that there will be a lot more little muskrat carpets to be seen this year before spring settles down.  The period is relatively brief and the raccoons, ‘possums and rabbits will soon return to sole ownership of the centerline and the muskrats will stick to their marsh.

  There are two things to draw from this discussion.  First of all, you can now consider muskrat road kill as a sure sign of spring.  Perhaps you can mark it on your calendar next year (remember, its right around the time the muskrat meals are advertised).  Secondly, use this as a memory trick to remember the Algonquin Native name for the Muskrat.  In that tongue he is called “Musquash.”

Breath of Spring

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 11:05 am

March 18, 2007

  The advent of spring has nothing to do with the weather or with the calendar really. This morning it was bone-chilling cold, although the equinox is very near. A fresh layer of clear ice covered the open water of the marsh.  It was just a few days ago that the old winter ice had finally retreated to the cat-tail edge.  The new pane of ice was just enough to support the weight of a large male mink as he gingerly picked his way across the surface. He had announced himself moments ago as he crashed through a patch of paper thin shelf ice. The brief dunking sent him back up onto the firmer surface to continue his journey.   As he disappeared among the cat-tail stems, a curious Red-wing Black bird watched from above, but showed no alarm.

  The Red-wing wasn’t terribly worried about the potential predator.  He was far more concerned with the matter of fence building. The male red-wings had arrived around the first of March. They were now laying out territories in preparation for the arrival of the females. The birds vie for space by calling and displaying to rival males.  His song, therefore, is more akin to a stream of profanity and threats rather than a bubbly font of joy. He let out a distinctive “Ook-ka-leah-a” call (expletive deleted) and winged his way to my side of the marsh. Other males responded in kind.

  Upon arriving at a cat-tail stem positioned between me and the bright rising sun, he ignored me as thoroughly as he had the mink.  Puffing up his rich black feathers, and flaring his wings to flash his bright red epaulettes, he opened his mouth for another measure of “Ook-ka-leeeeeeeeeah-a.”  At the point of reaching the “leah-a” part, the sun highlighted a puff of steam coming out of his throat.  It was a sinuous feathery puff that dissipated as quickly as it was issued.  Several times in succession the scene was repeated – each time with the puff to accent the last half of the declaration.  Then he left for another portion of the marsh.

  As many times as I’ve heard the call of this marshland bird, I’ve never been treated to this sight.  Seeing a bird’s breath is a rare and fleeting thing, and up until now not something that I ever thought of. My breath vapor formed a thick mammalian cloud in the crisp air, while his was as light and airy as the feathers that covered his body. I had seen a breath of spring.

March 19, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:24 am


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