Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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"Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly," and Ducks Gotta Swim, Too



About half the lake is covered with ice, but most of the snow is gone. I've never seen so many ducks of so many different species!

There a couple of nearby ponds that must be solid ice, and their birds are driven to the lake because of its open water. That water has been greatly reduced and many species now find themselves in juxtaposition (if not in proximity).

New Year's Day is a conventional time for a bird (and duck) inventory. I tend to ignore the songbirds, even though they are at hand by our multiple (5) feeders. I love ducks—I'm half duck myself.

Hence, Inventory, and I warn it is not complete because some species of ducks are inordinately shy. And, yes, today we have four such birds present that leave me in astonished delight.

Four green-winged teal! Paul Smoockler says about them that not only are they shy, they are secretive. I agree. It is not a fine distinction. But since the lake has less than half its ordinary component of water, even the teal are forced to be nearer to other ducks (not to mention humans, which I just did) than they would like to be.

Likewise the hooded mergansers, of which there are also two pair. Brilliant fore-striped ducks, they loom out of obscurity and announce their presence as though luminous. They are divers and feed on fish and crustaceans, while the teal are surface feeders and eat seeds and weeds.

A flock of 17 American widgeons (one of my most favorite ducks) flew in a few of days ago. First there were an even dozen, but were joined by a smaller flock a couple of days ago and quickly bonded, as species will do. They are evenly mixed as far as gender. Generally the females dominate and seek each other's company. They will not pair up until nearly spring.

A baker's dozen of mallards, looking huge in comparison with most other ducks; three pied-billed grebes (but I know there are more); a lonely-looking ring-necked duck; about 15 double-tufted cormorants, looking snooty.

A couple of gadwalls of each sex; and not today but yesterday, or the day before, a small flock of lesser scaups, plus resident winter buffleheads that practice female-gender hegemony. The couple of males are clear down at the other end of the lake.

I'm sure this is not all of the species present, but all were carefully surveyed while in my bathrobe, a cup of morning coffee in my hand.

Eat your heart our, Audubon. And a Happy New Year, all you Bloggers.

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Strabismus -- does the word mean
anything to you? Does to me



"Strabismus" is the condition of having a "lazy" eye, or one that turns in, as does this attractive young woman. Or two of them. (The opposite condition, when the eyes turn outward, is rare, and is called "walleyedness."

Cross-eyedness is another word for it. I just learned (at my advanced age) the word. I'd never heard it before. And that is funny, because I've been afflicted by the medical condition almost all my life. In fact, back in high school, I had two eye operations for it. They helped but did not cure the condition. To make it worse, I went without my glasses, except for reading, because I believed glasses made me less than handsome.

And—O!—how I wanted to be attractive to girls and women.

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I say there is a God! Also, an Afterlife.

How else to explain these Sunday comic strips, long after Charles Schultz has been declared dead?
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In the West they have a saying (or so I'm told) that a man, when asked about another man, will say, "We've howdyd, but we never shook." It indicates minimal human contact.

Similarly, a man driving along in his pickup truck may raise his uppermost hand off the steering wheel in an open-faced wave, but not accompany the encounter with a smile. He is acknowledging the other's existence, but not extending anything much in way of recognition or camaraderie. It is akin to saying, "I see you there." It is next to nothing, but something more than total lack of acknowledgement.

Now, there are degrees of smile, but we won't go into them here. (Too complex for a simple blog.)

Living in the country, as I do, or in a ruralized area, our customs are more country than city. Many men drive pickup trucks, and so do some women. If not, a version of a SUV, the manners of which are very much like truckers.

In some parts of the country—such as around Lake Ketchum—it is a sign of social exclusion not to admit to recognizing someone, even someone to whom you have never spoken so much as a single word. So you wave in true minimal fashion; to push the boundaries of sociability farther would be a major gaffe. So we let it go at that.

Years pass by. Some such person is reported as having died. True, it is not as though you'd lost a friend. But something has been taken out of your life.

What is it? Only some small thing. It is like the fall of the proverbial sparrow.

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