Special Little Ducks

On honeymoon in America in 1988 we saw lots of ducks! America has so much water; In the Everglades, Yosemite, the Puget Sound, Wyoming and Cape Cod we went looking for water – rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds, islands and sea inlets – and saw plenty of waterbirds, including thirty species of swans, geese and ducks. Being from Africa, the specials I was really looking out for were the swans – we saw Trumpeter and Mute – and the eider ducks – we saw the Common Eider.

But there was another special duck we really wanted to see! As huge fans of the Pygmy Goose in Africa, we noticed it had a rival: The Harlequin Duck. What fabulous little birds:

– African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus & Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus

I was reminded of this by a great post on DailyKos, where I learnt (a lot) more about the Harlequin Duck:

“I remain in awe of this plucky little duck and its amazing life history. I think of Harlequins as “feathered salmon” — making these epic lateral migrations from the ocean to inland freshwater streams to breed, similar to the upstream migration of salmon to freshwater spawning habitats. After pair-bonding at the coast, the male Harlequin follows the female inland to her natal stream, just as adult salmon home to the stream of their birth. Along whitewater streams within old-growth forests, the female selects a well-concealed nest site in a tree cavity, on a stump, or on a small cliff. Once she lays her clutch of 5-6 eggs, the male departs for molting grounds on the coast, leaving the female to incubate and raise the brood alone. In late summer, the female and her brood migrate together to the coast to ride out the storms of winter. What a life!”

We saw our Harlequin Ducks off beautiful Orcas Island while lurking naked in a hot tub overlooking an inlet to the Puget Sound.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Pygmy Goose pics by By Derek Keats on wikipedia and Harlequin Duck pics by giddy thing on DailyKos and By Peter Massas on wikipedia – Thank You!

Ohio Honeymoon

Honeymoon OhioThe sixth week of our honeymoon in 1988 was an eagerly awaited visit to good friend Larry Wingert. He’d been a Rotary exchange student to Harrismith in South Africa back in 1969-1970.

We flew out of Lawton Oklahoma to Dallas/Fort Worth, on to Little Rock, to Cincinatti and on to our destination: Akron, Ohio. Friday 8 April. Larry’s friend Dave “Zee” picked us up at the airport, took us to his condominium and fed us. The first meal of what turned out to be a major good food week! Later, Larry fetched us in his Subaru – our third all-wheel drive vehicle this trip, and this one free! – and took us to his beautiful old home on North Portage Path. At home it was all wine, one woman and song, with Aitch and Larry bashing the piano and asking me to please stop singing.

On our arrival in the States some weeks before, we received a letter saying “Please accept these portraits of old American Presidents and USE this plastic card!” Various denomination dollar bills and a credit card for gas (or petrol)! How’s that for a wedding present!? In Larry We Trusted!

I love the canoeing connection with his home: North Portage Path is an 8000 year old path along which native Americans portaged their canoes from the Cuyahoga river out of lake Erie, across a mere eight miles to the Tuscarawas River from where it flows into the Muskingum river, then into the Ohio and on to the Mississippi. Thus they could paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Of Mexico with only one eight mile portage, something any Dusi paddler would do without a second thought! The amazing thing: You can still paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico today, unbroken except for one short section – and while trudging along that section you could pop in to Larry’s place for tea. Or ‘tea’! America’s waterways are astonishing.

Larry indulged us lavishly. There was no tea. Only the good stuff. He indulged Aitch’s joy in shopping, especially deli shopping at the best places. And Larry knows his delis!

Followed by a big cook-up at home . .

– when a man is cooking you a steak you can pretend to love his cat . . –

. . and music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!

Then he took us to parks and nature resorts for me to indulge in my birding passion. When he wasn’t able to join us, he handed over the keys to his all-wheel-drive Subaru. Above and beyond . . One morning we visited Cuyahoga River State Park quarry area. Our favourite bird in Ohio was probably the Northern Flicker.

Afterwards we went shopping at another rather special deli – its obvious Larry is GOOD at this! For supper he cooked us some great steaks on his portable barbeque outside his kitchen door. We ate like kings. After supper there was music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!

A visit to Kendall Lake; Later to Cleveland’s Old Arcade Centre and a look at Lake Erie. Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; He had already spoiled us generously, now this.

Suitably fortified, we moved back home to liquers and piano and song! No tea. By this time my good friend and my good wife had formed an excellent working and jolling relationship. They shoved me aside and asked me to please stop singing. To bed at 2am, rising at 5.30am;

Off to Boston 13 April 1988. In consultation with Larry, we decided Cape Cod was next . . .