March 18, 2013

Pulling up to the stockpond this morning–usually my first stop at “the office”–to see what might have arrived, I had to rub my eyes: floating on their mirror images was a pair of Bufflehead Duck, male and female in perfect, elegant spring plumage, natty, turned out as if they were going to the opera. Never been so close to any as this, and they let me look all I wanted, so desperate for a patch of water and rest did they seem. They were even diving and when I told Nancy that later, she said, “They must’ve got their bills and heads stuck!”

When I got out of “the blind” (the Ford Ranger) they both took off, but instead of beating away in the opposite direction as any teal always do from that pond, the birds came straight at me, and passed overhead only at about ten feet. I could even see the female’s pink toenail polish! (or was it the male’s?) They did a quick circle and came in like phantom jets and landed right back where they were, unconcerned that I was standing there.

Ralph W. told me later that he’d seen a pair like them on the beaver pond on 3-Links a year and a few days ago, and that that pond blew out in recent surges of the San Pedro. I guess the Buffleheads had nowhere else to go now, luckily for us. Luckily for them the Peregrine Falcon that had spent a lot of the winter clearing the ducks off the stockpond (I’d watched it take down a female Baldpate, e.g., while I was attending the irrigation just offstage) has apparently now moved on. There have been far fewer wintering ducks and shorebirds around the stockpond this winter, I suppose we’d traded them for the pleasure of the company of Lord Peregrine.

Cooper’s Hawk later blasting through the mesquites at the stockpond, picking off poor passerines for his potluck. Talk about being “afraid of the arrow that flieth by day”! Finally determined that it is this bird I’ve been hearing out in the bosque over a long time–a voice that is not quite kookaburra, not quite Gila Woodpecker, not quite Pygmy Owl, not quite Inca Dove, but with a flavor of all those.

A first Yellow Warbler came to sip at the edge of the mud.