Nature Notes: The Sound of Music

<I>MARSHA SPARKS photo</I><BR>An osprey comes in for a landing at Goose Lake.

It's 5:45 a.m. - Goose Lake. The sky is a layer cake of cloud levels, each moving at a slightly different speed, creating a spectacular display of free-flowing veil-like lenticular clouds. With a very chilly breeze laying in from the north, the surface of Goose Lake, which normally is mirror calm at this time, is now rippled and tipped with flashing jewels of the imminent sunrise and splashes peacefully against the wooden pilings of the dock.

The red-winged blackbirds are in full display mode. Their watery trilling songs match the resonance of the lake's wind waves, while the mallard ducks chase each other across the sky and back again, over and over, furiously fanning their wings and quacking themselves across the red morning.

The big Canada geese are generally slow risers and they honk noisily about the pond for a few minutes, preening and talking and paddling idly about, waiting for everyone in their group to be flight ready. Then, with a rapid and noticeable increase in the "honk factor," they launch to the air and fly close to the surface of the lake, staying in "ground effect" as they increase airspeed. Slowly they begin the climb-out to clear the surrounding trees and on to the horizon, "honk-talking" to one another as they go.

A thin layer of pond fog back-lit by the morning sun rises from the lake and as it is gently whirled and stirred into infinite chaos whorls by the morning wind, itself a whorl of light and ripples, while small ducks partially obscured by these early mists dive and surface and dive again, quietly fishing for breakfast. The whole wonderful perfect scene is watched over by a pair of magnificent bald eagles perched high above the lake in an old tree snag, waiting for the sun to heat the morning's air into rising, bubbling columns of lift.

A pair of ospreys who have been on station at their nest for several weeks now are taking turns guarding their nest as they go searching out over the lake for fish. Within a stone's throw to the osprey nest, a pair of bald eagles have set up treetop housekeeping, and the ospreys are a stubborn and proud species having little or no notion of keeping up with their neighbors. So it remains to be seen how this cozy arrangement will pan out. As the eagle breeding begins to heat up, the ospreys may face a challenge for the airspace around their nest site, but ospreys can occasionally be tolerant. We'll stand our daily watch and keep everyone posted as to how all this works out.

The quiet morning gray sky is already long in the tooth, and as the sun rises behind stunning red and gold clouds, a chorus of robins sing and sing some more. What a musical treat! The original Sound of Music is now playing at a lake near you! Check it out!

• Check out our new weekly nature movie at: http://home.pacifier.com/~sparks/wildlife!!.html

• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

• Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 665-3595 or send an e-mail to: sparks@pacifier.com.

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