Canada Geese and Cattails

Over the weekend, we stayed at a cabin overlooking Lake McPherson, and water problems aside, it was a nice place to stay and very quiet. Saturday afternoon, I went for a short walk and saw a flock of Canada Geese resting on the ice. I always marvel how they can stand on the ice or swim in the fridgid water without getting hypothermia.

I did a little research and found tht the veins and arteries in duck feet run very close together. As the cooler blood in a duck’s veins runs up the duck’s leg, it gathers heat from the warmer arterial blood, and so by the time the arterial blood gets to a duck’s feet, it is cooled down. This causes a duck’s feet to run cooler in temperature, and not lose as much heat and you or I would in cold water.  Also, a duck has soft downy feathers close to its skin that hold in a layer if heated air. Ducks also have a special oil gland and when they preen, they spread that oil evenly over their outer feathers, making them virtually waterproof. So having cold feet and wearing waterproof raincoats is their secret to staying warm on the ice.

And while Canada Geese look kinda clumsy on the ground or ice, they are beautiful in flight.

While at the lake, I also saw some fluffy cattails.

When I was a kid, I used to pull off the fluff and watch it fly away on the breeze.

Native Americans had a better use for the fluff by using it to stuff bedding and as a burn dressing. They also used the roots as a food source,  in a poultice to dress wounds, and in treatments of kidney stones. The leaves and stalks were used to make mats and baskets and served as a roofing material.

All this thriftiness puts my wasteful childhood fluff-flying to shame.

But it sure was fun.

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As I peered through the lens of my camera at the geese, I noticed one of the geese didn’t look quite right. You remember those exercises from grammar school where you had to point out which object in a group didn’t belong with the others? Well, look  just to the right of center in the pic below.

 See the large white bird with the grey head?  That’s not a Canada Goose. In fact, it’s not a goose at all. It’s a Tundra Swan, and boy is he lost. Check out the migration path (in yellow) on this map. Hopefully he’ll stay with the Canada Geese and meet up with other Tundra Swans on the trip back to northern Canada in the spring.

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