Monday, August 13, 2012

On August 13th, 2012, the 55th days of summer, we had overcast skies that will block viewing of the Pleiades meteors tonight. On the day of the Wood Duck, take a stand for nature in the next 39 summer days.

I just made the calculation. August is approaching the Ides of August, and we have three full weeks of action remaining to this summer, including the week leading up to Labor Day. I am making a bucket list for summer. As for September, the month is mumbled in my mind by songs from at least three different generations. Wake me up when September ends. See Green Day. There's the girl who killed September. See Garrison Starr.  I'll see you in September. See the Lettermen. And the phrase about September that I really despise, "this will be a September to remember". See any new age church. I would like an August that stays longest, please. See Wandering Wilbo.
Muskegon has a natural area that hasn't been declared a natural area, but I bike through this mix of meadow and old hardwood daily now. I was even biking beside the train making its way back from Cannon Muskegon, the custom foundry in the dunes east of Lincoln, near the sand pits. Full of water, eventually all that sand pit water will have to go to the Muskegon Wastewater facility because the approval to feed the collected waters through a tube to the big lake will be bitterly fought by the people pushing back against scrap yard plans at the Melching site. Melching has renamed the Sappi Paper Mill site. It hasn't fooled the people who want to turn Lake Muskegon and its watershed into a place for boating and wildlife recreation.  I hope I can convince those pushers, a blend of citizens of Bluffton and Occupy Muskegon types, to push to make this piece of paradise a public nature area. Starting at the Textron foundry, and going west all the way to Estes Street, and reaching as far south as Bonneville, Garrison or Broadway streets, I have found a surprising number of animal families making their summer home in this expanse of forest. Part of the preserve holds ash ponds for the Textron Foundry, and we're talking about ashes from the turn of the 19th Century.
I have written about the Killdeer in these meadows, which I haven't see lately. This morning, I surprised a family of deer, with the stag wearing a crown of ten points, all in velvet. I have seen the stags rutting but I haven't seen a stag in velvet before. His harem, six does, three of adult size and six of smaller stature, all looked through the eighteen foot tall chain link fence bounding an empty field. I assume he will not have to rut for the attention of the six. I've noticed the family inside the chain link enclosure a few weeks back, a chain link fence that would have to go if we can naturalize the site. Nearby, the industrial site at Temple and Broadway already has a new chain link fence around its reclaimed, rehabilitated land. A land broker has already placed his for sale sign on that fence, lucky enough to get the listing after all that demolition. How did that broker land that lap bird? The mourning doves love the field of wild grasses and prairie plants inside that fence, and wing-whistle when scared off the fence by my passing bike. If I am reading my map correctly, the north end of that field has already listed on the map as West Heights Park.
But back to my nature preserve, which I'll call the Roosevelt Reserve for now. Thursday night of last week, I startled four hen turkeys as I hit the sand two track from the west. I wondered if I could catch up with them by riding my dirt bike after them, and I dismissed the thought as beneath myself. I didn't see the Tom turkey until I reached Glenside, and there he strutted under a mature sugar maple with a thick trunk and tired limbs. Some of the limbs were dead. Once those dead limbs fall, the remainder of the limb can rot into the interior of the trunk. Which makes a perfect cavity for an owl or wood duck. It took all of my life, but I actually saw the process of rotting become a hole in a tree in my parent's front yard, which leaked sap every spring. I have seen how the trunk has sealed over the hole with bark and living tree. I would love to harvest the burl that resulted. Speaking about wood ducks, I looked up at the pole in the center of the yard fenced off from every direction. I noticed the pole had speakers on it, not lights, speakers that no longer announced messages. Where I saw a Red Tail Hawk a week or two back, I saw a dark silhouette with a duck like breast. Since wood ducks like to perch in trees and are perching ducks, I am going to say it was a wood duck.
My mother knew to look for the wood ducks in the trees. On May 2, 2011, she wrote to me, "Wood Duck has been around the last two days". I'm thinking that meant the last day of April and the first day of May. Wood ducks have a similar story of arising from the great bird die-off at the turn of the century, returning from obscurity around 1920, thanks to better hunting laws. The species has now a listing of Least Concern, but the comeback has its cause in all the people who have built wood duck houses for what is known as the most colorful duck, male gender more colorful than the female. I often have driven along county roads between Muskegon and Battle Creek, and the road commissions trim branches away from roads by snapping them with a machine that leaves a shattered end of sharp toothpicks. I am wondering if that device could snap off the branch closer to the trunk so a wood duck hole rots into the trunk? That would be too much work because a coating would be required to protect the interior wood from the rot, preventing the premature death of the tree. While we wait for county road commissions to make that happen, I have included Wood Duck house plans from several state departments of natural resources. Have fun building them and cleaning them out yearly with your children. I would like to know how a duck can enter a nest that has a oval hole, four inches wide by three inches high. I guess the ducks are slippery while wet.
Wood Ducks Forever
Fulda, Minnesota has an annual Wood Duck Festival
Fulda, Minnesota can be found in Murray County
The annual logo for the Fulda Wood Duck festival is chosen from a number of entries.
Photography Credits:
Wood Ducks in St James's Park, London, England.
Date 11 April 2012(2012-04-11)
Author Diliff
Photographs by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0  
Description Aix sponsa
English: A female Wood Duck at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregan, USA.
Date 29 January 2011
Author kat+sam from Beaverton OR, USA

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