Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dabbling!


It's August and new shallows and riffles have opened up downstream from the island. It seems like perfect habitat for the dabbling mallards. Here is what mallards do: preen, fight, dabble, sleep, work on their tans, and dabble some more. Some are very leisurely at their dabbling. Others are quite vigorous; it's like they're digging pernicious weeds out of hard ground.

Here's an old drawing showing geese on top of the dam.
It's a short drop.
Because the water level has been steadily dropping, riffles and chutes are opening up all over the place. The ducks and young ducklings line themselves up, several abreast, bills into the current. They then move like farmers' combines across the breadth of the small currents and dabble furiously at any bit of passing tasty things.
In this sketch I tried to capture the agitation of the water's surface and the position of the ducks.

One of the more interesting dabbling spots is up on the top of the dam. I wish I had a sketch for you; maybe I'll do one tomorrow. What's funny about it is that with the lazy flow of water, the ducks get quite bold (or careless) in their walking down the concrete face of the dam. All the while their bills are sifting the flowing water for something of nutritional value. Once in a while, they go too far and fall down. Sometimes they scramble (flapping as gracefully as they can) back to the top but other times they just wind up getting boiled in the white water at the foot of the dam. Then they waddle out of the spin cycle and start to preen again.

I think it's funny. We've always wondered what happens because geese and ducks are up there all the time.
The birds could probably care less!

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