Monday, April 9, 2012

Ed and Zelda, Just Passing Through


This time of year the deepest part of our swale usually becomes a vernal pool, and Ed and Zelda visit the pool a few times a day for a swim and a meal. 

A vernal pool is ephemeral, much like many of the spring natives in our garden.  That is, it's temporary, lasting only a short time, and returning year after year.   They are low spots in the land where snow melt and spring rains collect, and they're usually dry, or mostly dry during summer and fall. 

Vernal pools usually contain no fish, making them mostly free of predators and allowing a place for amphibians like toads and frogs to visit and lay their eggs. With enough rain our vernal pool stays full long enough for tadpoles to fully develop into young adults able to walk,  hop, and breathe on land.  The years when we have toads in the garden are generally years when we've had a lot of snow, and a normal amount of spring rain, and our vernal pool lasts at least several weeks before going dry.  

This year so far, we've had neither a normal amount of snow, nor much in the way of rain.  As it was in much of the country, March was unusually warm and dry here.  So far, April has been more seasonal temperature-wise, but we're still very short on rain.  What this will mean, if anything, for the rest of the year remains to be seen.

For Ed and Zelda though, it has meant not much to eat in the swale.  They waltzed past the dry, deepest part of the swale to this area which is always moist.  They dipped their bills into the murky water a few times, and appeared to find something to eat. 

Since they wouldn't have seen water from air as they were flying over, the fact that they stopped here anyway makes me wonder.  I like to pretend Ed and Zelda are the same pair of mallards that return here to feed and swim every spring.  Maybe they really are, and maybe that's why they landed, expecting to find the usual vernal pool.  Or, maybe there's some instinctual behavior passed down through generations like our GPS navigators in our cars, so that even young birds who've never been here, somehow know their parents were.

There's been a lot of talk about global warming during the winter that wasn't and the record-high March temperatures.  Whatever the facts are, I felt a little sad for Ed and Zelda, and wonder what temperatures and how much rain this summer will bring. All I know right now is there was no place here to swim, and not much for them to eat.  This spring, as happy as I am to see them, Ed and Zelda are just passing through.

16 comments:

  1. Oh, I love ducks... but I never had them in my own garden. Hmm, sad for them, that it didn't work with the pool this year. I hope they found some where else a place to splash around and find some food.
    Have a nice week
    Alex

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    1. I love them too, Alex! The male mallards are so pretty. In a previous house, they used to come and swim in our swimming pool. I'm sure they're finding food and places to splash around, just not here this spring. Hope you have a good week too!

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  2. Aw, kind of sad their little vacation place is closed for the season. I hope next year the weather will be a little bit more usual, and that Ed and Zelda will have a long time to swim in your vernal pool.

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    1. I hope so too, Holley. And I hope April will soon be bringing plenty of its usual showers.

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  3. I hope we get some rain soon! I've already had to water emerging plants that were struggling.

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    1. I've had to water a few things too, Rose. I've never had to water in March or April before. I've never had to water vegetables this early in the season either, except the seedlings in the basement. The veggie beds are bone dry again this morning, and need resuscitation yet again. Hope we get the rain they're forecasting for the end of the week. It sure is needed.

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  4. Ed and Zelda are so sweet. I always marvel at the instincts of birds; whether these are truly Ed and Zelda or their progeny, it's amazing that they would remember your pool.

    The lack of rain is beginning to worry me, too; I'm thinking I may have to water the whole garden if it doesn't rain soon.

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    1. I'm always so happy to see them, Rose! I was equally happy George was headed towards the house as they flew in. If he sees them he breaks into a sprint, and his old hips don't need that kind of stress anymore. It's sport for him, but I like Ed and Zelda to feel safe here. As smart as he is, the instant he sees them, instinct wins every time - his instinct to chase, and theirs, to flee. He went inside without incident, and I went for the camera. :)

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  5. How wonderful that you have this type of wildlife near your gardens. It sure makes gardening more interesting.

    Eileen

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    1. It definitely makes gardening more interesting, Eileen, and frequently more challenging. With all the forest preserve around here, we get some pretty interesting critters in our yard. Over the weekend, a coyote waltzed through in the middle of the afternoon like he owned the place. He was the prettiest coyote I've ever seen. A lot of times they look pretty scruffy, but this guy was gorgeous. He had such a beautiful coat. George chased him away. I used to worry about his encounters with coyotes, but he's much bigger, and they're much faster! :)

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  6. My wife and I live behind a lake here in G├Âteborg Sweden. Every year we have these two Adult Canadian Geese which fly back to the lake and raise young ones. For the past 5 years we have counted about 7 goslings each time and the gang that flies back after winter is over increases each time. I have no idea where they winter at further south, but it's heck of alot warmer than here. We even take trips in January/February to Tenerife to get away from the cold.

    Our area is a far cry living here and having at best 4-5 good gardening days before it gets sucky again, as opposed to San Diego where I came from. Usually everything starts heading towards cold around September 1st, but last year it actually held off until October.

    I read the San Diego Union Tribune online each day and it seems like when you do get rain there it comes all at once with nice weather in between. I've enjoyed many of your posts but never commented before.

    Thanks, Kevin

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    1. Bet it's beautiful there on your lake, Timeless. Must be fun watching the geese and goslings. Canada geese stop traffic around here alot this time of year. The local nursery has a stream on the property, and it's a destination spot for local goose families. The place is on a busy street and they stop traffic there regularly. I'm glad people are watching out for them. It's fun watching a line of cars on both sides of the road stop and take time out from running here and there for a goose family crossing the street.

      Thanks for the comment! Glad you're here!

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  7. Every once in a while, we will have a visit from a pair of Mallards. Our next door neighbors have a pond and the ducks will just fly over the fence and dry off in our yard. I love it when they visit.
    Balisha

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    1. Glad you have your own Ed and Zelda, Balisha! :) They're so much fun to watch.

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  8. I just learned something I didn't know. I'm sorry this isn't a good year for the vernal pool.

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    1. Me too, Sue! Hopefully next spring will be better.

      It is kind of nice though, that George, our Lab mix, hasn't had muddy feet all spring!

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