Thursday, July 24, 2008

Night Herons

Many of these pretty, hungry waders live near the seabird pond. They come to beg for fish. They are elegant and interesting animals, but lately they have become sort of a nuisance. J isn't sure when or from where they came. Perhaps, she says, they are former patients. During the spring there are many baby night herons. They get released at Goleta Beach, but perhaps these same birds make their way back up the hill to the pond. They live in the palm trees around the yard. The squawk and fight and court. It is in J's nature to care for birds, and so she feeds them.

But their numbers are growing, and yesterday J caught two of them fighting over a baby duck. She worried that she would witness them tear the duck in half, but one of the herons let go and the other flew off with the limp duckling in its beak. The duckling had escaped from the hutch, and the herons pounced. J also says that when she comes in the shed, it sometimes seems as though things have been moved around. She is now convinced the night herons come in and disturb things as they look for fish. or ducklings.

And today, a night heron virtually pulled a Houdini. One moment he was in the seabird pond enclosure, nabbing fish from the mouths of starving pelicans, and then next moment he was outside the enclosure. I have no idea how her got in or out. It was like magic.

So finally, J and I captured two of the herons (out of about 15) so I could drive them out to a farther slough where there are many herons. It will be interesting to see if they come back. We've tried this before -- with another heron (pink band, #675) -- and he came back. So I wonder.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pelicans


The word "pelican" is an old English word, and it is probably related to the Greek word for axe:"pelekys." This is likely because of the shape of their beaks. Up close, I am always surprised by how the beaks are worn, how the layers of keratin shed, how the tip of the upper bill (the maxilla) is curved and sharp, and the entire anatomy of the beak reminds me most of a pair of tongs. I am most admiring of the elastic underpart of the beak -- the way it can hold fish, how it is thin and wrinkled, how the pelicans cool themselves by fluttering this thin skin.

I worked twice at the seabird pond yesterday; there are about 15 pelicans there; most of them are starved and weakened after flying over from Anacapa island. They are often covered with parasites: tiny brown lice that live in the feathers.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Home

We're back home. The fire is still flickering in the mountains, but now it's just a few smoky glows and not the gleaming lines that seemed open like a pair of glisten-jaws. Everything is ashed, but the skunk was out with her little white and black plume just like usual.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pyromancy



The mountain above our house is on fire. This morning it was a powdery smoke bloom among the chaparral; this afternoon it was darker, thicker. By nightfall the widened line was like an open horse shoe. At sunset, the ash in the air seemed to glitter; the sun light slid under the smoke. The sun seemed to outline the smoke-clouds in rainbows. It's a type of pretty that hurts. Tonight we are sleeping elsewhere.
is this real?