April 27, 2014

Ducks in trees.

I'm just sitting here, drinking coffee, doing my morning blogging, facing the computer screen and the big picture window beyond it that looks out over the backyard, and 2 ducks fly in and land in the big old oak tree. Are those ducks? Do ducks land in trees? Ducks in trees? I've never seen ducks in trees. Are those ducks in trees? I'm nattering lines like that while searching for my camera and fiddling with the zoom and the focus.





I get the photos into the computer and close in on the duck, which Meade calls a "mallard," and I resist. It's got that thing on the back of its head, that projection, like on a bike racer's helmet. And those white markings. Meade figures out it's a wood duck:
The Wood Duck is a medium-sized perching duck.... The adult male has distinctive multicoloured iridescent plumage and red eyes, with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colourful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.
Crested! That's the word. Perching duck! I never knew of such a thing as a perching duck.
Unlike most other ducks, the Wood Duck has sharp claws for perching in trees... After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 88 m (290 ft) without injury. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 140 m (460 ft) away from the shoreline. 
Up to 460 feet? We're close to Lake Mendota, but not that close, so I guess they are only passing through, perching on our tree, perhaps to look out — with red eyes — over where the trees are by the lake and future ducklings can safely plop.

ADDED: Those ducks remind me of my own parents. Site the nest well, and that's the help. You're being watched, but from the start, you have the sense that you are on your own, making your way entirely by the exercise of your own powers. Self-reliance, by parental design, supervision, and restraint.

39 comments:

betamax3000 said...

For the discerning eye, this was a 'Real Althouse' post.

garage mahal said...

Wood duck!

Carol said...

Wood ducks are awesome.

Bob said...

There is more in heaven and earth, Althouse, than is dreamt of if your law school.

Oso Negro said...

Maybe it isn't a real duck but a clever government drone, spying on Meadehouse. You allow free expression and encourage free thought in this blog. Consequences are eventually likely for you.

Diego de la Vega said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robt C said...

Here in the Austin area, we have a flock of Mexican Whistling Tree Ducks. Yep, they migrate up from Mexico, whistle instead of quack, and nest in trees. And they're beautiful to boot. We have about a dozen of 'em in our oak tree and it's awesome.

Fernandinande said...

Here's a vulture that was in our front yard a week ago
http://en.zimagez.com/zimage/bkg1680vulture2.php
About 5-6 feet across...

Saint Croix said...

you have the sense that you are on your own, making your way entirely by the exercise of your own powers. Self-reliance, by parental design, supervision, and restraint.

see also free will, and God...

there's an entire branch of jurisprudence that says law can be found from nature

(not sure I agree--I always think of nature as an exercise of power, the strong devouring the weak, hence my preference for the supernatural)

on the other hand, we can see design in nature, plans, organization, signs that this is not an accident...

Rusty said...

Woodies!

All your fly tying feathers in one place.
Tasty too.

Skyler said...

I'm pretty surprised that Meade, the nature lover, missed this easy identification.

Carnifex said...

wood duck. one of the prettiest in N. America. As chucks, they have to fall from a certain height to bump start the glands that produce the oils that make their feathers water repellent. If the fall isn't high enough, the chicks will die. Conversly, if it's TOO high, they will die.

Saint Croix said...

this is a cafe in a tree, right?

This morning we had a great discussion about Doubting Thomas, maybe my favorite disciple.

Picture the jury system as a reference to the 12 disciples of Jesus. You got to be unanimous!

Now imagine a jury that is locked, 11-1.

Thomas is like that 12th juror who will not conform. He will not go along with the crowd. All 11 are saying Jesus is back from the dead, and Thomas says, no way. I do not believe you.

He thinks for himself, independent.

I see a lot of myself in Thomas. Earthy, materialist, skeptical, a cynic. Wants to touch the wound, wants to put his hands on Jesus before he will say, okay, you are alive.

Thomas, not a big fan of the unseen. And this is a disciple of Jesus! He wants to see for himself. He does not trust these other 11 disciples. He is his own man.

And God knows this about him. God picked Thomas for a reason, picked all his disciples for a reason.

Meade said...

@Skyler: you're getting to know me!

The nature of my nature-loving isn't so much about me loving nature but of me loving nature loving me. I know — pretty narcissistic. Naturally.

rhhardin said...

Blessed are those who have seen but do not believe.

rhhardin said...

The first several Kliban duck images cover the duck ground.

Saint Croix said...

Blessed are those who have seen but do not believe.

We have an expression for that! "I don't believe my own eyes."

Imagine somebody like that, seeing Jesus alive after He was crucified.

You have no faith in God, obviously. And you don't believe what's right in front of you. You have lost your faith in the material world, in your five senses. You've lost your faith in yourself.

I think you would be truly lost, at that point. No faith in God, no faith in yourself, no faith in anything.

Michael said...

A great blue heron will land in a tree as will a quail.

Take a Wood Duck which you have shot and hold him breast up in your right hand. With your left thumb press under the breastbone until you have broken the skin and continue to force your thumb up and in to the duck until you separste the breast from the duck. With your left hand you can now literally push off the skin and feathers. Rinse the duck beast and wrap it in a single piece of bacon and grill.

Beautiful birds that are resident.

Michael said...

A great blue heron will land in a tree as will a quail.

Take a Wood Duck which you have shot and hold him breast up in your right hand. With your left thumb press under the breastbone until you have broken the skin and continue to force your thumb up and in to the duck until you separste the breast from the duck. With your left hand you can now literally push off the skin and feathers. Rinse the duck beast and wrap it in a single piece of bacon and grill.

Beautiful birds that are resident.

Larry Day said...

You haven't seen much, until you've seen a Canada goose land in the very top of a tall cottonwood tree, it's huge webbed feet clutching clumsily to the tiny branch, it's considerable bulk swaying in a desperate balancing act. I've seen it and it was pretty darned amusing.

Big Mike said...

I saw a show on PBS where the baby wood ducks were lured out of the hollow up in the tree and then lured to leap down. The ducklings weren't fledged yet, so the only thing between them and turning into pancakes was their super light weight and piles of leaves.

Here and here are a couple more clips of the baby ducklings leaping down.

@Diego, your link took me to a clip of the Rolling Stones.

betamax3000 said...

Ducks?

Ducking the questions, perhaps.

Silence in the House of Althouse

Rockport Conservative said...

We have lots of those ducks here in this little birding capital of South Texas. They also perch on rooftops, (messy) and power lines. I think they are like harlequin, beautiful and funny.

policraticus said...

Fun to hunt. Good eating. Listen for their very haunting call.

Freeman Hunt said...

Very informative. I was not aware of perching ducks.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

Small world! I just Googled "duck claws" a couple of days ago, and came up with wood ducks.

Saint Croix said...

Hey, kids!

Spider-Man teams up with Planned Parenthood to teach us all to use birth control (and don't listen to that nasty alien who wants you to have babies).

It's from the 1970's, that wonderful decade when Maude had an abortion.

"The funny thing is that initially we weren`t even thinking abortion," Rod Parker, producer of Maude said in an interview. "The group Zero Population Growth announced they were giving a $10,000 prize for comedies that had something to do with controlling population, so everyone came in with ideas for vasectomies."

By the way, Spider-Man stops the pro-reproduction alien from speaking to the young by shooting webbing down his throat. Yay, censorship!

rhhardin said...

I'll have the canard.

rhhardin said...

Nobody loves the females for their minds, when it comes to ducks.

from rec.birds, long ago

>>The other day I noticed a female mallard hit by a car in the
>>middle median in the road. 2 males were standing by her, one was
>>frantically trying to nudge her to get her to move. I never
>>knew ducks had "emotional" ties to their mates. I've heard that
>>Canada Geese mate for life. Do mallards do the same?
>>(Before I could turn around and move the body to the grass on the
>>side of the road, so the two doting males didn't get hit, someone
>>else moved her.)

>I hate to burst your bubble, but they were trying to mate with her.
>Ducks only mate for one season (they pair up in winter with the
>drake following the hen back to her natal site). Once the hen is on
>eggs the drake is free to seek other copulations. You frequently
>see several drakes chasing a hapless female in hopes of a
>copulation. The drakes you saw were trying to seek more ova
>to be joined with their sperm and the fact that she was dead
>probably escaped their attention.--

pm317 said...

Saw this interesting post, (yeah, who had heard of perching ducks) and went for a hike in Great Falls and what do I see? This.

Big Mike.. thanks for the links. Awesome.

LuAnn Zieman said...

We've had one female wood duck nest in the crotch of a huge old maple in our front yard. Three years in a row I found her broken eggs and downy feathers with which she had lined the nest lying at the base of the tree. Raccoons. The next year she and her mate perched in the same tree, but left. Perhaps he observed the pointlessness of nesting there. However, two years ago a female wood duck once again nested in one of the two old, hollow maples, and this time a dozen babies resulted. I herded them around the corner of the barn, hoping she would make it safely to the creek. One of the ducklings fell behind and I scooped him up and put him back at the end of the line. The really odd thing was that there was a mother raccoon residing in the next door maple with her three young. The two trees are now referred to as our maple condominiums, as they also house two squirrel families.

Ann Althouse said...

"You haven't seen much, until you've seen a Canada goose land in the very top of a tall cottonwood tree…"

I would prefer never to see a Canada goose.

avwh said...

The wood duck is the only North American duck that nests/roosts in trees.

The male is beautiful:

http://allenh.zenfolio.com/p1017334050

Larry Day said...

Seen too many already I suppose. Funny how so many people call them Canadian geese.

Ann Althouse said...

In our world, Canada goose is synonymous with poop.

rhhardin said...

Canada geese seem family oriented.

I see occasional pairs sunning on one of my bike commutes, I assume a M-F pair.

If I stop to watch, one of them stands up. Probably the male.

They are not planning trips and outings but just enjoying each other's company.

I don't know how ducklings or whatever they have change things, but it's all peace at the moment.

Larry Day said...

I figured that's why you've seen more than enough of them. Canada geese are too often the scourge of city parks and golf courses. My last significant encounter with a Canada goose was while sitting on the summit of Sacajawea peak, where I enjoyed a nice sandwich of smoked goose breast, sliced thin, on sourdough bread. A goose I had shot the previous season. Delicious.

Leslie Graves said...

We get a nesting pair of wood ducks in one of our old soft maples every so often, and we are about half-a-mile from the river. It's a treat when they are around.

I'm commenting partly to encourage the Real Althouse.

pm317 said...

In our world, Canada goose is synonymous with poop.

Where we live too, literally and figuratively.. DC is full of geese/poop, Canada or not, but I won't cast aspersions on the little guys, {see the mom and dad and the babies in my link -- they seem so lovable when they are few and far between}.