Mallards

moon phase Week of 06/16/2002 Favorable days to plant flowers

Mallards

The neighbor's roadside pond is surrounded by acres of tall grass and several red-winged blackbirds have staked out territories. A Canada goose is nestled down on her nest on top of a muskrat house at the far end of the pond.

When I pull the car over to stop for a better look, four of the blackbirds flew up to the high line and started scolding me. With my binoculars I scan the pond. Along the cattails near the far edge there is an old log, partially submerged in the water. A family of wild mallard ducks covers the top of the log. The mother duck stands watch as her downy yellow ducklings sleep in the sunshine. How wonderful it must be for the little ducks, growing up in the watery green world of the pond. Swimming about in the reflections of blue skies and fluffy white clouds. So many other singing birds, busy muskrats, curious frogs, snakes, turtles and buzzing insects everywhere.

Like chicks to a hen, the ducklings will stay close to their protective mothers even after their flight feathers have grown and they can fly next to her.

Even under mother's watchful eye it's likely only half of the duckling will grow large enough to be airborne. There are lots of predators around the pond and nature provides for all.

Each summer I spend a few days setting back invasive plants. The grasslands here are an important part of the natural environment. I try to keep aggressive alien plants from invading the natural areas. The latest threat to these areas is wild parsnips. Growing 3 to 4 feet tall, it develops large clusters of bright yellow flowers which all will turn to seed. The seeds will quickly spread everywhere and change the diversity of the grasslands.

With a sharp spade, I cut them off at the ground just before they bloom. If I can do this for 3 or 4 summers, I can keep this invasion from happening.

It's hard to fix a problem like this. First examine the source. Much of the problem comes from the tractor / mowers the county uses for mowing grass along the roadsides. Much of the mowing is done after the parsnips and other noxious weeds have gone to seed. These seeds stick to the mower and are given a free ride to who knows where.

It's a good idea to take caution when dealing with wild parsnips. Wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants and gloves. Don't let the plants touch you. The sunshine makes these plants very aggressive if they touch your skin & they could leave some nasty blisters.

The best time to cut them is early morning or evening when it's a cloudy, rainy day. Or take a flashlight and go out after dark.

At the edge of the driveway the nest of killdeers have finally hatched. The four downy young scramble around close to mom and dad. It will be several weeks before they can fly, so for now they follow the adults around the pasture searching for bugs.

The pair of young red tailed hawks beg from their large stick nest high up in a big oak tree. Their hungry calls don't stop until the parents bring them something to eat. The young hawks' breakfast may be a fat vole or chipmunk or maybe a frog, salamander or snake.

Soon the young hawks will take wing and will follow the adults around for most of the summer begging for food.

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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