Saturday, August 31, 2013

Water Fowl Convention

Someduck must have called for a convention in the cove end of Kittatinny Lake for Labor Day weekend, because all the water fowl of the lake seem to be congregating down this end.

 Usually we see a group of six to nine mallard ducks. They like to sun on the dock across from us, come up on land at our neighbor’s beach.  Other ducks frequent places further down the lake. I haven’t seen more than a dozen together all summer. 
The swan couple lives at the shallow south end, by the dense patches of water lilies.  They rarely sail up to the cove, although two summers ago, one of the pair regularly came up to beg for handouts of bread.  Neighbors at the south end tell me that the swans lay eggs each summer and attempt to raise their cygnets to adulthood. Apparently predators often deplete their brood. I suppose those that survive then relocate to their own lake, because we have only one couple in residence.

This weekend is different. The swans and 23 mallard ducks—only females and young adults, no mature males—are all hanging out in the cove. No bird produced a barbeque grill nor did any uncover a bowl of potato salad, so I can’t imagine what brought them all down here.  We offered crackers to the swans but they were not interested. Obviously they had somehow gotten plenty to eat at this party.

Could it be the current?  There is usually a mild current from south to north.  This weekend a steady wind has blown across the lake from the south making the current stronger than usual. But there have been stronger currents –days when I’ve tried to canoe out of the cove and have been continually turned back –and the birds have not been there.  

No. I’m convinced that somefowl has called an end of summer party in the cove. And we get to enjoy the gracious condescension of a swan visit. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chicks and ducks and geese – We scurried around the county fair.

          Every variety of chicken, duck and rabbit was represented at the Sussex County Fair. Love the chickens so covered in fluffy feathers that it looks like fur!  And, during out morning visit on Tuesday, we also saw geese, sheep, alpacas – what beautiful faces they have, pigs –all sleeping, goats, cows, horses and oxen.  The 4-H clubs were much represented; many of the animals had been raised by youngsters, who proudly fed, combed and even sheered them. 
A chicken - believe it or not!


Sheering his sheep
                There was also a quilt exhibit hanging from the ceiling of one hall. I walked around with arched neck the entire time admiring the colors here and the needlework there. I tried to quilt once, so I was also in awe, knowing the patience and precision it took to make such beautiful works of art. The fair ends on Sunday.

Back home we have plenty of wildlife of our own. The groundhogs—now there are two of them, one large, one small—have made an arrangement with a thieving squirrel.  Each day the squirrel climbs our pear tree, chooses a pear, takes one or two bites, and drops it to the ground. Then a groundhog comes and finishes them off. They do look cute sitting up on their haunches, munching our fruit. But thanks to those groundhogs, our garden is the worst it’s been in years. 

                And they seem to have gotten wise about the trap. Set at the garden’s entrance it only attracted a woebegone opossum.  Poor thing scrunched way back in the trap while I opened it. I let him play possum and left. He only left the trap when I was out of sight. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August Showers Bring Mushrooms

               I’ve known for years that mushrooms grow in the rain. I’ve enjoyed looking for them—their  different forms and colors and their unpredictable appearance.  At one time, I used to pick up mushrooms samples when I hiked through woods in late summer and early fall. I’d categorize them with The Mushroom Handbook, dried the ones that cooperated, and placed them, with moss, into little arrangements in jars.  Even when I’ve been 99 percent certain that no poisonous mushroom resembled what I picked up, I never ate any. I’m not that daring.
                Two days ago, thing one and thing two poked their tiny caps up from the soil between the street and sidewalk in front of my next door neighbor’s house.  Then it rained.  And they grew, and grew. Now it’s impossible to walk by without noticing them—graceful and creamy white, with a little frill on their stems. Their mushroom caps measure a glorious 10 inches—dinner plate size!

                But these beauties should never find their way onto a dinner place.  Consulting the MycoKey fungus identifier,  (isn’t it fantastic how much you can find out on the Internet?) I confirmed suspicions gleaned from my trusty Mushroom Handbook. My neighbor’s mushroom are indeed amanitas.  In fact, they are Warted Amanitas (Amanita Strobiliformis) and most likely poisonous. But don’t they make a pretty picture?