At the time I wrote the following passages, I was feeding bread to ice-bound ducks. I subsequently learned this can do more harm than good - even though I only bought the good stuff - multi-grain. The last excerpt was written the day I stopped.
The temperatures are yoyo-ing again. It’s 5C this morning and the several inches of snow of four days ago is now four inches of slush. Walking is a messy, tiring, wet affair and I just might take a pass on this evening’s venture.
Hilary is coming tomorrow and we were hoping to explore a new (to us) conservation area a few miles from here. The trail there is rated “difficult.” I was hoping to try it when the footing didn’t change the rating to “here comes another heart attack.”
The weather people are calling for a slightly cooler temperatures the next couple of days. We’ll see what Thursday brings.
Today brought hungry ducks, about three dozen of them - the number I’d considered normal for most of this winter. Squirrels abounded and there was lots of small bird activity as well. But to tell the truth, I was focused more on getting one more step closer to home.
Speaking of those steps - no - I’d best back up a little bit first.
As anyone familiar with Jack Russell terriers can attest, they have issues. They’re wound a wee bit tighter than most dogs and will “go off” now and then. Usually the going-off simply involves tearing around the house at supersonic speed, bouncing off the furniture all the while furiously mouthing some fuzzy toy or luckless article of clothing.
But sometimes it involves unusual behaviour.
Ben must bite shoveled snow. Every shovelful. When not actively biting the snow as it leaves the shovel, he is actively biting the shovel itself.
He is no longer allowed outside if anyone in the neighbourhood is shoveling snow.
Ben is also distressed by waves. Waves such as one might find at a lake. Ben has to bite each wave as it rolls into his territory. Each and every one.
Anyway, so today, a few minutes into our walk, I noticed that Ben was not on point and had not been for the last couple of minutes. The leash was slack and pointed slightly behind me. I peeked and understood immediately.
Each of the steps I was taking with my big, clodhopper winter boots was causing a slight splash in the slush.
Kind of like a wave. Or maybe like a wee shovelful of slush.
Benny was busy biting my wake. And we still had a long way to go. He’d be peeing for a week. (Excessive peeing is the price one pays for eating snow and waves.)
So, periodically, I’d stop. This served two purposes. I could rest briefly (and I needed a few of those this morning) and Ben would get bored with the lack of wave action, start sniffing, and inevitably find something to distract him for a bit.
Nice how things work out sometimes isn’t it?
While at Hilary’s yesterday morning, as we chatted over morning tea, (okay, she chatted - I smiled, nodded and made occasional noises) I noted that the birds seemed especially nervous. Normally, the sparrows didn’t react to every movement we made behind glass doors but this morning they were.
A few minutes later we understood why. Something drew our attention to the rearmost part of her yard. A hawk was standing on the snow, with something grasped in its talons. Hilary grabbed the binoculars and said it was a sparrow. She could see the poor, doomed creature’s beak moving. I said the little bird would be in shock and likely felt no pain. As she went to get her camera and I reached for the binoculars, the hawk left with its prey. I wished the sparrow a swift end as both disappeared.
After consulting the bird book, we tentatively identified the hawk as a Northern Harrier.
We were both, I think, appreciative of being witness to this drama and somewhat guilty in that it was our feeder that kept the sparrows nearby. A further reminder that there’s a consequence to every action and results aren’t always as intended.
On the way back, as Ben and I passed the pond, the ducks began to clamber upon the ice and waddle their way towards us - hopeful intent obvious in every stoic step.
I muttered and thought “No-no. Go back.” and waved them away with my free hand. Even more of them began to climb out of the water to join the waddle brigade.
“Dumb birds!” I thought and picked up my pace towards the cedars and out of their sight.
Then, with sudden clarity, I saw myself as the ducks saw me.
“Thunderfoot wave wing make food fly.”
Okay, I may have the syntax wrong but the meaning is clear. The arm motion of shooing them back looked the same to them as the one I make when throwing food.