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Montezuma Refuge in the Wind

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ithaca was windy, skeins of Canada geese beating their way through the turbulent skies,

 ring-billed gulls blowing about like memo paper, lifting off

then landing again

but Montezuma Refuge was being beaten about the head by a gale. There's not much to stop the wind that far north along Lake Cayuga. Yes, I went into this pronouncing it Ky-Yoo-Ga. Say it "Kew-ga" and people will think you're a native. It was clear that it wasn't only my doofy pronunciation that made me stick out like a sore thumb. A woman in the natural foods co-op stopped dead, stared at me and commented on my all-over tan, which by my standards has faded completely away. Tan? What tan?
I realized that Ithacans are a pallid people, living as they do under a nearly year-round cloud cover. When the sun did come out they almost danced for joy. I thought about starting up a happy light/greenhouse business in this beautiful city, then decided it was a dream for another person. I do like it there, very much, but I think that longterm I'd be starved for sun.

Montezuma was sunny, thanks to the gale that blew the clouds away. The soup du jour was Pintail/Greenwing, served on a bed of organic duckweed. See the brilliant green speculum on the little duck on the left? This is three pintail hens and two green-winged teal.

Teal burst out of the water, straight up, mostly because they can. No pattering on the surface for them! These are all green-wings.

This teal's flying over one of the 61,000 muskrat lodges at Montezuma. Man, do they have the mushmice there.

I love this shot. You can see the duckweed clinging all over his bill and neck. I say "his" because he has a telltail line of bright chestnut-buff undertail coverts coming in, telling me he's a young drake, born this spring. Well, that's an interesting typo. Going to leave it. 

It's always fun to scan big flocks of Canada geese, looking for the oddballs. There were a few smaller, darker geese that were probably cackling geese from the Aleutian islands. 

There was an oddball, bigger than the rest, which looked to be a Canada x domestic greylag hybrid. See the flesh legs, orangeish bill and white chin patch, the bulky body and scaled gray flanks?

He is a mutt.

I scanned some more with my spotting scope, my appetite for the unusual whetted after having added vegetarian tuna to my life eat list. And I found another oddball goose.

It was of slender build, and had almost no white on it at all (don't be fooled by the undertail coverts of the Canada standing behind it). 

I was taken by the satiny dusky gray-brown plumage. What was this bird?

 It scratched and preened, and when it finally went to stretch and turned its head just so I caught the faintest outline of a chin strap.

I concluded that this was a melanistic Canada goose, lacking any white feathering. But a Canada goose. I hope some normally plumaged Canada finds it attractive. I certainly did. I showed it to a lovely gentleman working in the refuge visitor's center. We combed the books to make sure it wasn't some Eurasian stray, some charcoal bean goose or whatever. Nope. There's nothing out there without any white on it.

While there I noticed that they had The Bluebird Effect on their shelves for sale. That was really nice.

 Way up at the top of the refuge there's an impoundment with long fingers stretching into marshy fields. And here there were nine sandhill cranes hunkered down in the wind, too far away to photograph, but there, and we could make out their velvety red crowns in the scope. Here, too, were a pair of American avocets, well out of range, and a great blue heron lying on its belly to get out of the wind. Things I hadn't expected to see, things that made me smile. The colors alone made me smile

 as did the living leaves on this starling tree. The whole tree was singing, peals of squeals and whistles, the ever-changing evocative shortwave of Sturnus vulgaris.

Speaking of vulgar...I'm not sure how this bit of camp art has stood up to the strong feminist wind that blows through Ithaca. How bizarre. You see things...sometimes you never find out what they mean.


I love Montezuma! We only get there once every five years or so, but it is an amazing place. Even the farm fields nearby abound with phenomenal birds during migration. I would be downright thrilled if those Sandhill Cranes happened to fly over us some day.

HA! I took a couple of photos of a Starling Tree on Assateague back in September.

I love Montezuma, too. My brother, whom I was supposed to visit this weekend, lives about an hour south of there, so I get to visit at least once a year. Margaret

Posted by Anonymous October 26, 2014 at 5:57 AM

When I first saw the heading, I thought it said "Montezuma's Revenge in the Wild", and I thought, "Isn't that something that Murr usually covers?" LOL. (It was early. What can I say?) Then, going over to Murrmurrs, I see that she is posting about cloud formations and beetles. Have you two had one of those Freaky Friday things where your consciousness switches bodies? ;-)

Wait a minute....
So all those ducks on my pond are Kew-ga ducks?
I guess they're polite ducks, as they've never commented on my mispronunciation. I'll pass along my apologies along with an extra helping of pressed apple bits (from cider making) at this evening's feeding.
Hopefully the knowledgeable Kew-ga ducks aren't reciprocally mispronouncing Washington as Warshington. Call a mediator, STAT! We have a nationwide issue!

Posted by Anonymous October 27, 2014 at 11:52 AM

I like the first photo of the stormy skies, it has a dark beauty, and all your bird photos turned out good.

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