Dabble pits


Dabbling mallards stick their tails in the air as
their bills sweep the shallows for things to eat.

 

Waterfowl adopt one of two different foraging techniques: diving or dabbling. 

Divers, such as loons, grebes, mergansers, might be seen anywhere on the Lake, but are often found far from shore.

Dabblers, such as mallards, geese, and swans, generally forage in the shallows close to shore so their bills can sweep the bottom for things to eat. Little pits are left where the bills have probed. These pits are revealed during the low water of late winter and early spring.

Dabble pits are revealed during low water.

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Ice extrusions

 

Myriad small columns of ice rise out of the ground. These are ice extrusions.

Typically, these are seen when the daytime temperature is above 0C and the nighttime temperature is below. During daytime, water drains into the cavities within a porous soil; during nighttime, the freezing water expands forcing little columns of ice up through the ground. Those of us who remember the home delivery of milk to a cold doorstep in the winter are already familiar with the process whereby the cap of the milk bottle was lifted atop a column of frozen cream.

Sometimes an extrusion is long enough to bend and droop like a petal under its own weight. This sinuous form prompts some to call them ice flowers, but they, despite that descriptor, should not be confused with frost flowers.

Although an ice extrusion and a frost flower both appear as small frozen structures above the ground surface, each is distinctly different in origin. The ice extrusion arises from the freezing of what was initially liquid water in the ground; the frost flower arises from the condensation of what was initially water vapour above the ground.

Myriad ice extrusions arise from the ground.

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Coyote season

 

As I watched two coyotes this morning, I sensed a pattern. So, I looked through all my (dated) coyote pictures for a decade and the pattern became clear: I only see coyotes hunting from December through April. Now, I live at the valley bottom. I am sure that the general coyote absence during the summer is merely a consequence of their having moved higher in the mountains as the snow recedes. 

Two coyotes emerged from the brush alongside a tertiary road. 

They ignored me standing nearby, but soon drifted across the road and into the woods on the other side. 

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Heron flyby

 

This morning, a Great Blue Heron flew by.

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Bird passport photos

 

I was sitting by my doorway when some yard birds asked if I would help them with their passport photos. These are notoriously head-on shots without a smile. 

Black-capped Chickadee: “I don’t like it; you made me look like an egg with feet.”

Steller’s Jay: “I never cross the border, so why, when close, do I get bills for use of another country’s data plan?”

Red-breasted Nuthatch: “I must fly to live, but I fear that my black bandit mask might get me on a no-fly list.”

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First swans

 

I saw my first swans of the year this morning: two Trumpeters. Mind you, I discovered later that I had not been the first to spot them, but that did not diminish the delight in seeing them once again.

Both Trumpeter and Tundra Swans migrate through our region in the spring and sometimes in the fall. Many people watch for their passage.

Two pictures of this morning’s Trumpeter Swans are below.

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Wandering creek

 

There are ponds and marshes on the west side of Kokanee Creek Park. They offer a superb area for observing birds and dragonflies. While wandering through them, I never gave much thought to how they might have formed. That is until Derek Kite pointed out the obvious in his comment to my recent posting, bank slump. They are earlier channels of the ever-changing creek, albeit now modified by beaver dams. 

A shot of the ponds and marshes shows how they trace older paths of the creek.

A view from a greater height shows the present path of the creek in the background. In a few years, it will break through at a bend and provide even more ponds for the birds.

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Wood Duck of winter

 

Wood Ducks go unreported around Kootenay Lake in the winter months of December, January, and February. Occasionally one has been seen in the larger region in February, but that is rare. So, I hadn’t expected to see a female along the shore this morning. When I showed the picture to Derek Kite, he said, “I wonder if it is the same one I saw this January. Maybe we have had a Wood Duck here all winter.”

A Wood Duck stands in the snow in Derek Kite’s picture of January 11th.

This is possibly the same duck, now seen on February 13th.

Derek Kite’s picture is used with permission.

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Bank slump

 

Creeks are brimming with water after days of warm rain and snowmelt. A few have burst banks while others merely cut into a bank that will give way on another occasion.

When a creek takes a serpentine course, the outside of the bend erodes and that material is transported to the inside of the bend or forms islands in the middle.

Near the top right of this picture, Kokanee Creek flows into Kootenay Lake. Slightly upstream (on a line from the lower left to the middle) is a long bank that is collapsing as it is undercut by the creek. After awhile the undercut topsoil slumps into the creek. Ultimately, the creek will break right through and reach the lake along a new path.

Despite both the physical evidence of bank slump, and Park signs that warn people to stay clear of the edge, visitors often stand on spots about to collapse.

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Hawk eats duck

 

Note: the text originally called the predator a Cooper’s Hawk, but it was pointed out that it looks more like a Northern Goshawk, so the text was amended.

Dan Reibin watched the drama unfold in the rain: An juvenile Northern Goshawk captured and ate a female Mallard Duck (three pictures, below).

 


Dan Reibin’s pictures are used with permission.

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