As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, our local park is not exactly the most idyllic place to view wildlife, but it’s better than nothing, especially if I want to conserve a limited weekly allotment of gas or don’t particularly want to drive for at least half an hour before reaching the next nearest sizeable body of water.
There are times when I see more wildlife in my garden than I do at the park but one thing, at least during the summer months, is certain; there is always a good chance that I’ll see a heron, egret or cormorant at the pond that is just a five, or on a slow day, ten minute walk from our house. It never ceases to surprise me that these birds would choose this rather dubious setting to while away their daylight hours when, if they traveled just a few miles further, they could settle for something a little more up-market. But for some inexplicable reason they have made our park their home.
You wouldn’t think there would be enough food there to sustain even one hungry heron but sure enough, when I arrive this morning there are three great blue heron, two cormorants and an egret not to mention numerous ducks, geese and sea gulls, all diving into or trawling about in the water, looking for some tasty morsel.
The first order of business is to find somewhere fairly close to the birds, with the sun behind me and where I’m not in danger of attack from the aggressive red-wing blackbirds that patrol the few trees that reach down to the water’s edge. I can hear their tinny shrill as I approach and note with some satisfaction that they are taking out their animosity on a heron that has waded too close to their territory. Better him than me! I’ll stay clear of that area.
I manage to creep down close to the tiny, almost non-existent island where another heron is sunning himself on a fallen tree limb. Up above him, miraculously clinging to a branch with webbed feet that seem ill-adapted for such a purpose, a cormorant surveys the pond (I’m still not sure what constitutes the difference between a lake and a pond just as I’m uncertain what qualifies a town to be a town and not a village.)
Fortunately the weather has cooled off from its recent 80 and 90 degree temperatures and there is a slight breeze blowing across the water making it slightly less noisome as the little waves lap gently over plastic bags, old socks and empty soda cans. What on earth do the birds find to eat in this murky brown liquid. It beats me how they can even see what’s in there.
I gaze down into the turbid waters and get quite excited when I think I see a fish which upon further inspection ends up being nothing more than a stick bobbing about. On the other hand, a dark blob that I take to be another uninteresting piece of flotsam turns out to be a turtle trying to haul himself out of the soup and onto a nearby rock, until he sees me fumbling about with the camera and plops back from whence he came. His place is taken by a dragonfly who doesn’t seem to mind having its picture taken.
The cormorant suddenly drops down into the water but comes up empty and flaps away to the other side of the pond while the heron, feeling that he has somehow had the last laugh, opens his beak and lets out a hoarse cry.
I’d like to get comfortable and sit down on the grass but it’s difficult to find a spot that isn’t littered with goose droppings and, looking about me, I can see that there are other items besides, that I would not care to sit beside; a fish skeleton for one thing.
Well, maybe it’s time to go home anyway. The planes from O’Hare Airport are beginning to roar overhead and the traffic is starting to hum along the nearby roadway. I’ll stop by again sometime to get another look at the birds before they fly off for the winter but for now I’ll leave today’s inhabitants of the pond to enjoy the rest of the day.