Plants and birds

Swan Storms and Bird Friends

Dear readers, I’d like to present Part Two of the account of my trip to Mattamuskeet.  I know it’s a little behind the times, but I believe that birds are always relevant, no matter how long ago you looked at them.

Chapter 3: Swan Storms

In the afternoon of our trip to the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, we wandered around the other side of the lake, and to several impoundments bordering the lake.

Littering sign
Even Mattamuskeet needs to remind people not to litter.

It was a a beautiful day for photos, and I felt lucky to have the time to explore the outdoors with other Nic School students.

Scott Winton, our leader and avid birder, stopped by some of his research equipment to change the batteries. Through his research, he’s able to actually record the birds’ comings and goings.

Scott in water
Scott Winton working on one of his recorders.

As we walked along the sides of the impoundment on which Scott does some of his research, I found all sorts of cool animal prints and bones!  There were raccoon prints, duck prints (of course), lots of feathers, and the awesome bone below.  What animal does this bone belong to?  I have no idea.  Someone please comment on this post and tell me.

A cool bone that we found while walking by the impoundment.

Then, while walking along the impoundment, I spotted a whole treasure trove of swans, tucked into a tiny swan alcove.  They looked so happy and pleasant.  I knew it was time for me to disturb the peace of nature.  I really am such a great environmentalist.

Peaceful swans
Some innocent swans, enjoying their peace before I disturbed them.

Being a caring nature-lover, I figured it would be a good idea to sneak up on the swans and scare them.  It doesn’t take much to scare a bunch of swans– all I had to do was walk near them.  I can’t help it that they scare easily!  See what happened next:

The moment after I accidentally scared up a swan storm.
The moment after I scared up a swan storm (accidentally, of course).
Swan storm
Swan storm!
Swan Storm 4
The swans dispersing after the storm.

It was lovely to watch the swans swirling and to hear their squawking all around the water.

Chapter 4: Diary of the Timberdoodle

With the end of the day nearing, we took some time to grab some last photographs of the lake.

Plants and birds
Trying to sneak in a picture of all the swans on the lake, off in the distance.

After that, we headed to the nearby Pungo Lake to watch the snow geese arrive at sunset to roost.

Sunset water
Sunset on the lake where we watched the snow geese come to roost.

I couldn’t get any pictures of the geese because they were too far away, but I did watch them through binoculars.  They looked like swirling bird clouds, and they were so peaceful as they landed on the lake.

Then, we met one of my new best friends.  It was a male American woodcock, otherwise known as the Timberdoodle or the Bogsucker.  Yes, it had all those names and more.

The bird was showing us his territorial display.  He would sit in his territory, making a “peeeent” sound at us, and then would take off into flight in a circle above his territory.  Finally, he would land back on the ground and start all over again.

The spot where the American woodcock was defending his territory.

I found a great video online that captures this display pretty thoroughly.  My favorite part about the American woodcock was the whirring noise that his wings made as he took flight.

This trip was a prime example of the interplay between water and life.

I came to grad school to learn more about the physical flow and availability of water.  I wasn’t really interested in ecology or ecosystem management.  But, the more I learn at the Nic School, the more I realize that we cannot disconnect water from living things.

Just as living beings need water to survive, the water does not exist in a solitary state.  Water forms the basis of ecosystems, of habitats, and of relationships.  The ways that humans and all living organisms interact are interconnected with water’s presence and flow.

“The river is moving./ The blackbird must be flying.”

– Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

One thought on “Swan Storms and Bird Friends

  1. Loved your multi-part Mattamuskeet account, Meagan. Those poor swans didn’t know what was coming when your van pulled up. But it made for some great photos!

    Also, this:

    “The ways that humans and all living organisms interact are interconnected with water’s presence and flow.”

    Lovely. And very true.

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