Monday, December 24, 2018

Wood Ducks
(Aix sponsa)

Wood ducks are the most beautiful ducks in North America. The males are vibrant! I first saw a wood duck at my favorite pond 7 years ago. It was a moment that made me return to the pond time and time again. How I love the female wood duck. It always seems as if she's smiling and, when she has ducklings to care for, she is very protective. Wood ducks are 18.5 inches long and the length between their wings is 30 inches. It's one of the smaller ducks but oh such a beauty.

Did you know that the male wood duck is in his colorful state only during mating season? The mating season is from March through mid-July. The wood ducks return to Wisconsin in April or May and immediately start their family. I watch them in wonder as two or three males go after a female. They mate for the season.

The pond where I go has three or four wood duck boxes where the female goes inside and has her ducklings while the male sits on top and protects them. Then, when the ducklings are hatched, they jump one by one into the pond. It's a sight I have yet to see.

The male and female have a different song. I love hearing them. The female's song is higher pitched than the males. Visiting the pond where they are means that you will hear their song.

I often wondered about their name. Turns out they get their name from their surroundings as they live in marshy areas and have the ability to perch in trees. I have yet to see a wood duck in a tree at my favorite pond. I keep my eyes open whenever I'm there.

Their scientific name (Aix sponsa),  is greek from the work "aiks" which means water bird and latin "sponsa" speaks of the beautiful plumage.It is believed to be so beautiful that the duck is "dressed for a wedding" (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).

What do wood ducks eat? They are dabblers in that they take short dives to capture their food. 80% of what they eat is in the water they live by.  The grasses and water lilies are also on their diet. They also enjoy wild berries, water plant seeds as well as insects, acorns and other nuts they may find. I have watched in wonder as the family of wood ducks live in the waters where the lily pads and water lilies grow. The pond I go to has more lily pads and water lilies than I can count. It's a sight to behold! The lily pads and water lilies also help protect them as they hide there.

It's fun to see them fly. They can fly 30 mph which is really fast when you're standing by the small pond. It takes no time at all for them to go from one end to the other.

Just like us, they need their vitamin D. You will find them sitting on the bank of a pond or sitting on rocks at the shore. There was a time when I saw five or more sitting on the rocks. They are nervous ducks and in that, if you get too close to them, they will swim away.

Have you watched them swim? They put their heads forward and use their webbed feet to swim. They are fast swimmers! They also have claws so that they can hold onto a tree where they sometimes nest.

There is, of course, lots more to learn about the wood ducks. This is a window to my favorite ducks.

The next time you visit your local pond, look out for the beauties. Also watch in May for the babies to jump out and immediately swim with their parents. Both the mother and father take care of the babies. He is very protective of the mom. It's a wonder to see.

Thank you for visiting! If you are interested in any of the photos, let me know. I post them here to show you what I see. I'm a photographer and love sharing my work. Hope you enjoy the view.

Coming next week: learn about grasshoppers.



Alderferer, J. (2013). National Geographic Kids: Bird Guide to North America.

Kaufman, K. (1997). Lives of North American Birds.

Lawrence, E. (2017). Wood Duck.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services. Chesapeake Bay Field Office. Definitely a Bird of a Different Color.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

(Cyclamen persicum)
Each year starting in November, we see the cyclamen at our local greenhouses. They may be there earlier. I saw them in their glory in November. What a sight to behold! The colors and textures were more beautiful than I had ever seen. Cyclamen are fascinating flowers, aren't they? How they stand up from their stalk and show us their petals is unusual. This is why I think they are fascinating.

When I look at a cyclamen, I look at the buds that are swirled around and the flowers that bend over. They bend 180 degrees!  Their leaves are heart shaped. So, it's known as a love flower. 

Some believe that the cyclamen can be used for the holidays instead of a pointsettia or Christmas cactus. What do you think?

Their leaves are heart shaped. In Renaissance time, the plant was used to treat ear infections because it was believed that the leaves were shaped like ears.

They came from Europe, north and west Africa. 

The stems grow straight out of a tuber. Do you remember what a tuber is? A tuber is the bulb of the plant. It holds the nutrients. There is some bad to the cyclamen in that it contains toxins.

The cyclamen were first seen in England in 1650. They are very common now all over the world. These days they are grown in greenhouses. There was a time when the cyclamen was known for curing baldness. Maybe we should try theory.

 Have you ever looked down at one? This photo to the right is what  it looks like from above. Bright leaves standing up and curling. Just another view to enjoy.

It's beauty will live in your home or office for as long as a few months and, yes, it can be forced to flower a second time. I don't have a green thumb and so I have not tried this.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season. Color your world with what you love best.

Thank you for visiting!

Next week: learn about wood ducks.


Wells, D. (1997). 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Great Blue Heron
(Ardea herodias)

It wasn't until I started visiting Stricker and Tiedeman Ponds that I saw these majestic birds. How beautiful they are! Watching them fly is fascinating because it's as if they float across the sky. They are so big that they bend their heads into their shoulders as they watch for their next meal or a place to land high up in a tree.

Great Blue Herons are the biggest heron in North America. They stand 3 to 4.5 feet high and have a wingspan of 6 feet. The male and female have the same coloring. From afar, the males and females look alike. However, once they are closer, you will notice that the male is larger and has a larger bill than the female. You can find them all over North America and Canada. A pair will mate for the season.

Have you watched a Great Blue Heron fish? It's amazing how much patience they have as they stand in the water. They will move their head in different directions and even straight out. Then, when they see the fish, they will quickly move their head and grab onto the fish. I have watched a heron bring the fish to land before enjoying it. It eats it whole.

They love fish but also eat frogs, turtles, some small animals, bugs and other small birds. I have only seen them eat fish.Their vision is so good that they can fish day and night.

Did you know that Great Blue Herons live for 15 years? Wow. That's amazing. Whenever I see them, a smile spreads across my face. They are so much fun to watch. I love how they walk in the water and how they fly overhead. Visiting my favorite ponds has shown me both. The photo just below is a photo of one in flight as it changes direction. I had never seen one from t his angle. What a treat!

They have no preening gland and no oil means that they have another way of cleaning their feathers. Their feathers break apart so that they can clean themselves.

Why are the herons such an important part of our world? They control the fish and insect populations.

This is just a window to the world of Great Blue Herons. I hope you enjoyed the view.

Coming next week: learn about cyclamen.

Yes, prints of these photos are available.

By the way, have you ever seen a red-tailed hawk from behind with its head turned 180 degrees? There is a photo of one on the red-tailed hawk's post. Check it out. 

Thank you for visiting!



Alderfer, J. (2013). National Geographic Kids: Bird Guide of North America.
Kaufman, K. (1996). Lives of North American Birds.