Saturday, December 31, 2011

An excerpt from “A Walk on the Levee”

The Northern Shoveler is living proof that the design of living things has room for a sense of humor. It is a most unusual duck, a rare bird, with the green head of a mallard, but a beak that even from a distance appears to be twice the length of its head. ______________

After the hawk’s departure, it wasn’t long before we viewed a great disturbance on the water, far back in the wetland. Our binoculars revealed two male Northern Shovelers engaged in the ritual combat for territory. Shaped by thousands of years of success, and certain to continue for centuries into the future, this battle involved rushing at each other, attempting to push the other under water, and pushing each other, sumo-wrestler style, out to the edge of the pond.
Each round was followed by display, another ritual in which the males circled with heads held high and then began bobbing their heads as if in greeting. Almost like water ballet, this ritual showed both their willingness to enter the battle, and their intentions toward the smaller brown female bird, watching from nearby. Soon the battle was done, and she swam off with the victor in tow.
That was the appearance, but appearances can be deceiving. The vanquished male soon followed, and another round of display and combat ensued. It seems that the rites of spring were not quickly ended.
These observations would have made any day complete, but we had two more sightings waiting for us, perhaps the best of the day. As we continued out the levee, one of my companions pointed out red head ducks – bay ducks that dive for fish. I am not certain what they were doing in a seasonal wetland, where plants are the mainstay of duck diets. Red head ducks are not typically pond inhabitants, but there they were, perhaps resting and preparing to move on north.
Then we saw the blue winged teal, five altogether. These small ducks are cousins of the green wings we had been watching all day, but they never appear here in numbers. Possibly they were up from the bayou country on their early migration to northern marshes. Whatever brought them here, I was delighted to view such unusual creatures on their way north.

“A Walk on the Levee” began as a journal entry recording the events of a March 1 walk on the Brainerd Levee with two bird watching friends. Hellbender Press of Knoxville published the resulting article, the first of several I wrote for them. It led to a regular column.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seasons' Greetings

Last Night was the winter solstice, longest night of the year. With all the clouds there was no chance of seeing the Ursid Meteor Shower here in Chattanooga. By the way, Solstice is an ancient celebration of the return of light.

It is also the fourth day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Kwanza begins Monday.

May you all find joy at this time of year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Chickadee in tree
Sings protection from darkness.
Sun rises in East.

Monday, December 12, 2011



The dog runs ahead
Red band graces eastern sky
I shiver, walk on

Saturday, December 10, 2011



He was an outcast.
Unwelcome, they would shun him..
He was merciful.

Friday, December 9, 2011



No one trusted them
They performed the useful tasks
Angels sang to them

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Darkness covers land.
Chickens flying off to roost.
Sun races homeward.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Moon behind a cloud
Orion rises in East.
Cloud obscures all stars.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Green leaves gather light.
Sun sinks with each passing day.
Red leaves fall to earth.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Tree

Branch has lost its leaves.
Bare bark gathers winter sun.
Buds wait to uncurl.