Get Out: August Days and Nights

Glen Spurrell

As the days march inexorably on and our wonderfully long days grow quickly and dismayingly shorter, there is so much to see and so much to tell you about!

The fields and wild areas are rapidly reminding us that August is more than half through! The goldenrod that was practically unnoticeable as a mere green plant is now awash in bright yellow bloom. And the Joe Pye Weed that earlier was simply impressive by its size is now stunning as it sports heads of fluffy pink blossoms. On a walk this morning while the air was still heavy with moisture and every plant was covered in dew, I saw a plant combination worthy of a gardening genius. Along one of the boardwalks near Baxter Creek a grouping of cranberry and the seed heads of Old Man’s Beard looked like they were staged. The fruit of our native Cranberry Viburnum or Highbush Cranberry is just beginning to colour. And the seed heads of our native clematis are expanding but not yet “beardy”. The combination of both in one spot was extremely attractive–especially spangled with dew. I felt privileged to have been there to enjoy it.

Photo: Supplied.

Photo: Supplied.

On another morning heavy with dew (have any NOT been?!) I was at the Community Orchard and Garden and I spot a duck on the grass. Why here? And then this duck started doing something very strange: sculling with its wings across the grass. At first I thought she was injured and then I realized this was just another example of “the broken wing routine”. Only after I realized this did I spot one of her brood in amongst the bushes: the mother was valiantly diverting attention from her chick. Interestingly this duck was a Wood Duck and this year is the first year I have seen a brood on the millpond. Around the middle of July I was surprised to see a new brood of ducks on the millpond. The first day I was only mildly surprised because ducks do nest much later than the geese; but upon my second encounter I realized that this mother was not the usual mallard: much smaller and she “honked” continually in an odd way. Thank heavens for binoculars because they revealed a crest and interesting markings around the eye. My bird books informed me that here was the female Wood Duck. This beautiful species was once much more common, while recently I have only seen the occasional pair during the spring migration.  The mallard and many other ducks nest just like the Canada Goose on the ground. The Wood Duck is a “cavity nester”, meaning (like woodpeckers) they nest in holes in trees, or nowadays in nesting boxes. How I would have loved to have seen the nest…

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