Friday, November 9, 2012

Joe Neal says, 'Bring on the ducks' and the hawk may also be hoping for migrating birds with the coming weather change, but rabbits and squirrels and smaller creatures are much easier to spot on Nov. 9, 2012

Please click on images to enlarge.

Red-shouldered hawk at World Peace Wetland Prairie 9 Nov. 2012

Photos by Aubrey James Shepherd

    Yesterday, Highway 102 exit off I-540, at a 10-acre storm water retention structure associated with Moberly Manor apartments in Bentonville, there were something like 62 Canada Geese, honks louder than the freeway. They skied and splashed into a raft including, Gadwalls (25), Mallards (10), Canvasbacks (4, female type plumage), Redheads (2), Ring-necked Ducks (20), Lesser Scaups (2), Buffleheads (2), Ruddy Duck (1), Pied-billed Grebes (10), American Coots (60).
    Today is fall beautiful, warm, blue sky, but weather people promise a cold front. Bring on the ducks!
    Funny how our brains work in mysterious ways. Seeing Canvasbacks at Moberly simultaneously recalled a chance encounter 40 years ago. Looking through my bins I see Cans and amazingly, the green cloth cover and gold letters of The Canvasback on a Prairie Marsh, by H. Albert Hochbaum (1944).
    This book found me in the early 1970s shortly after I'd been metaphorically swept off my feet by The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Sand was the first book after the Holy Bible of my youth that successfully placed my world in logical and spiritual order. Canvasbacks continued me on the journey.
    This morning early, before birding, I hiked up to Mullins Library on the UA campus and checked out Canvasback. The library copy looks and feels in my hand like the book I read 40 years ago.
    Yes, I'm off on a nostalgia trip.
    I see written inside "Department of Entomology."  This is a reminder that ornithology was once mainly a branch of agriculture. Prior to Doug James' arrival in 1953 at UA-Fayetteville, ornithology was the domain of Dr William Baerg, noted tarantula expert, who taught ornithology and published state bird books in 1931 and 1951.
    Then there is the Foreword written by Alexander Wetmore, avian paleontologist at the Smithsonian. "To those who live near marshlands and waterways the fall and spring flights of ducks are as current topics of conversation as the weather… " Amen.
    Finally, I'm to the title page and Hochbaum's  evocative pen and ink drawings. They remind me of other, classic books, full of drawings that pull you into the facts, ideas, and reflections. But right now, I need to put the book down.
    I feel the urge that started 40 years ago. I'm off to Arkansas Game and Fish’s Bob Kidd Lake out past Prairie Grove. You know why.

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