Monday, November 14, 2011

NHBPM Day 14 ~ How to be a duck, part 3

I'm traveling as of yesterday, so day 12's National Health Blog Post prompt (a tutorial on something you love to do or are particularly good at) took three sittings (and internet connections) to get down.  It also morphed from monitoring Harelequin ducks to being a Harlequin duck.  Which would be fabulous (they have impecable taste in mountain-stream-habitat).  It's cheesy and it may not be all that readable to the average patient, but it has definitely been cathardic for me.  I haven't seen some of these pictures in a long time, but have them on this hard drive.

Yesterday, we made to brood rearing, assuming you're a hen whose brood has not washed downstream (or been eaten).  You'll now start working your way from small streams to tributaries to rivers.  Your chicks will band together with other broods and you and you and the other hens will leave before your young are ready to come with you.  They now look like you and are almost as big as you (the boys look like you, too, until they are older, when they will take on the fantastic colors they are famous for).  You'll take off between the end of August and early to mid September, ahead of your young.

Abondonment aside (and occasional losing their yound downstream), Harlequins are very good at protecting their young.  Many (but not all) of the unsuccessful females also stick around to help with brood rearing.  They are secretive and careful, but they are also tricksters and artists in diversion.

The first hens I saw had up to three chicks with them when I first saw their heads on a sand bar.  They were off and into the water so quickly that I couldn't count.  I had to sneak through thick alder and get upstream of them to get a view (in an area also thick with grizzly bears where we would otherwise be making a lot of noise).  It still wasn't a good view, and the chicks were still quite small, so the hens were very skidish and rushed the chicks off in an instant. 

But....then they came right back.  They were so convincing with their, "what chicks? it was only us this whole time, just bobbing around in these ripples feeding" posturing.  Then they got out and loafed on rocks in plain sight of me.  They were so convincing I would have almost thought I imagined the brood, had I not accidentally captured photographic evidence with a split second shot of one of the heads before they were out of sight.  Since then, on two occasions, I've seen adult hens cross back and forth in plain view while one or more additional hens or a subadult brood tries to sneak across the stream farther up or down stream to get to cover.

These are darn cool birds that I deeply miss have the pleasure of monitoring.

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days:
I am also participating in my Bread and Roses Blog

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