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Walk to the Locks - Luke McGuff

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March 25th, 2011


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09:35 pm - Walk to the Locks
During which we saw:

Two crows, both perched on a wire, then one flew into a conifer. You don't usually see crows fly into trees, they're much more likely to perch at the very top. We looked closely at this one and it had two sticks in its beak. We stood there long enough that the crow on the wire began giving an alarm call -- either telling us to beat it, or its partner that it had been spotted, or both.

Numerous sparrows in various hedges. One set of hedges as we approaches practically sounded like a convention. Then we came up next to the hedge and all the birds fell silent. When I stand next to a hedge full of invisible sparrows, all talking to each other in that single chirp, yet collectively making quite a racket, I think of one of two things. The Barbies of John Varley's The Barbie Murders, all telling each other their day so they'd remain as identical as possible. Or the birds as a distributed processor, and each chirp is one bit of information. So, 16 birds would equal a 16 bit processor. Not much, really, but how much does a "little brown job" bird need to know?

In the waters at the locks: Buffleheads, goldeneyes (Barrow's & common), mergansers, a large sea lion, and a belted kingfisher. The tide was pretty low, and in the mussels on the Magnolia side of the park, a large group of crows was foraging. More than forty, just walking about and pecking away. Occasionally another five or six would land, and they and the ones they landed closest to would all caw at each other for a bit. Then they'd all resume foraging.

Three smolt in the fish ladder, small, medium, and large. Silvery below, dark above, facing downstream and gulping. Also, two young women, one inside the fish ladder observation room, with a radio; the other outside on the working platform, with a very long-handled broom. The woman with the radio was directing the outside woman on wiping the algae off the window. They clean the windows weekly in fall, winter, and spring, and twice weekly in the summer. The algae was so fine it was nearly invisible, but once removed the difference was impressive.

Several herons, building a rookery. They were west of the fishladder, in Commodore Park, on the Magnolia side of the locks. It was amusing to see a heron use the same slow deliberate approach, then lightning strike, to grab a stick off a tree that it would have used to hunt a fish. One heron remained at the nest, the other heron bringing sticks to it. Then the heron at the nest would place the sticks to its satisfaction, the first heron watching. Then they would silently confer. Then the stick-gathering heron would fly off again. It looked like there were a few nests in process, some further along than others.

No sign of the osprey nest at the top of the railroad bridge being occupied again.

We also saw a one year old double-crested cormorant. They have white bellies, and are paler overall than mature adults.

And, of course, hominids of all shapes and sizes and ages and groupings.

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