Saturday, September 26, 2015

Survey Says...

I took a little trip around the time the hummingbirds left to see what was happening at some of the locations I have been visiting this year. This was a week or so ago. There were still one or two hummingbirds around, but visits to the feeder were so infrequent that it was not worth the effort.

I had a keen personal interest in seeing what the spadderdock looked like at this late stage in it's growth cycle. I wouldn't have cared at all if I hadn't been observing them since early spring. If you follow my blog, you may remember that I was surprised six or eight weeks ago at how the plants seemed to have collapsed. Large numbers of them were brown and dead. So, I wasn't sure what I would find when I returned. Surprisingly, the fields of leaves appeared green and healthy. Most of the plants had grown new leaves, which weren't nearly as large as the first. This very much mirrored the growth cycle of a water lily my wife had in a fish pond on our back deck. It too was constantly rejuvenating it's leaves.

Early fall is a time of change in the bird kingdom also and I didn't expect to see many of the birds I had filmed earlier in the summer. I wasn't disappointed. At the large Depot Pond as it is known, there were only a few birds, most of which are year-round residents. The Mute Swan was there, a couple of Great Blue Herons, and a few Wood Ducks, and that was about it. Many birds had already begun their migration from the area, but few migrants from up north have shown up yet. Teal are the first of the waterfowl to arrive from parts north, and few have shown up yet from what I can gather in messages I have read on the Ducks Unlimited site. If you look carefully at the fallen tree just behind the spadderdock to the swan's right, you can see a couple of Wood Ducks.

I was surprised to see one bird, however. There was a Double-crested Cormorant, the first I have ever seen there, standing on a branch across the pond. The water in front of it is probably the deepest in the entire pond and I would be willing to bet it is not two feet deep. Cormorants swim below the surface to chase down fish and I wouldn't think the pond was deep enough to do that. If a fish darts into a shallower area, it would have a hard time following. I don't expect to see him there the next time I visit.

Here are four more Wood Ducks perched on a dead fall. I didn't see great numbers of woodies and I am pretty sure most of these are young-of-the-year. I don't have any idea where the adult ducks go after they discharge their family duties. I was surprised (from what I observed back in the summer) how early in their lives the females leave their chicks to fend for themselves.

Since there wasn't much going on there and I was so close to another pond, I decided to run over to Schoolhouse pond near the administrative building in Upper Marlboro. We're talking a mile as the crow flies, but twice that by road. If anything, there was even less going on. I was surprised to see another cormorant actively fishing in the middle of the pond but, bird wise, that was about it. Just a few Red-eared Sliders enjoying the warm sun on a shared log.

The following afternoon, I visited the marsh in North Beach. I saw exactly what I expected — not much. There was one lone young-of-the-year Osprey perched high in a tree over the marsh. His parents have already left to fly south and he is probably trying to figure out why he had this urge to do the same. I know it is a young bird because when I zoomed in, I could see the copper-colored feathers on the back of it's head which are indicative of a young bird.

There was a flock of about twenty Snowy Egrets and a Great Blue Heron gathered around the opening where the creek which connects with the Bay enters the marsh. There were a few Mallards around, including these three that were practicing water ballet routines. And that was about it. I think I am going to take a couple weeks off to attend to a few projects around the house. That would probably be a more profitable use of my time.

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