Sunday, December 18, 2011

Glory Be To God For Dappled Things

 Vermilion Fly Catcher

I love all God’s creatures!  Well, possibly with the exception of spiders and feral hogs; although I must admit that the little piglets are cute.

I love birds.  Every winter for the past five years it has been a source of delight for me that a lone Vermillion Fly-Catcher has returned to Rancho Milagro and taken up residence by the duck pond where he/she darts skyward to snare an insect repeatedly throughout the day. He is beautiful to see and fascinating to watch his aerial aerobatics.

I started the duck pond in 1997.  It is small, about 50 feet in diameter.  Water trickles into it by gravity flow from my well water storage tank; just enough flow to compensate for evaporation.  I built a fence around it to keep animals out, but, of course, the fence does not prevent owls and hawks from predation.

I started with four pair of Mallard ducklings I ordered from a hatchery.  Over the course of that first year one by one winged predators took their toll.  Finally I was left with only one male duck.  He hung around for several months and then one day he disappeared and I assumed that a hawk or an owl had taken him also.

But I was wrong!  He was gone about a month and then one day he reappeared with a wild female companion.  The pair seemed happily in permanent residence on the pond.  And then one day the male disappeared.  I can only assume that an owl or a hawk took him.  Then, even more amazing, the wild female remained on the pond even without a mate.

After a month of expecting the wild female to fly away I decided to buy her a mate.  I located a man who had ducks and I bought a domesticated male Mallard and introduced him to the pond.

I am happy to report that they produced eleven little ducklings and now there are 13 Mallards.  In addition, from time to time Teel, Black-bellied Mexican Whistling ducks and Coot drop in for a visit and stay for weeks at a time.

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

-  Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.

Pied Beauty

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