Beyond the BackyardLake Morton

Small Things to Make You Smile (Lake Morton)

This weekend I met my dad at one of my favorite summertime locations: Lake Morton.  It’s an easy walk and you’re never far from your car, which is great on a hot August morning!  I had read that this year’s Mute Swan cygnets, now teenagers, were starting to be returned to the lake.  Father Goose also has a new group of young Muscovy ducks to look after.  So we headed to the lake to say hello to our feathered friends.  I’ll share some of my favorite shots, some small things to make you smile…

When I first arrived, I noticed some movement in the grass.  It was five or six teeny tiny turtles.  I wondered if they had just hatched, and were making their way to the lake for the first time.  Mindful of Rich’s dislike of Limpkins (ever since I saw one eating a baby turtle at Circle B), I glanced around to see if my little turtles were safe.  Sure enough, a Limpkin stood nearby, eying my little buddies as an easy breakfast.  Well, not today!  I stood there protecting the turtles until they all made it to cover.  The Limpkin had to go find an apple snail for breakfast instead!

A little while later, I heard the distinct wheezy sound of baby Limpkins.  I stood patiently waiting while Mom and Dad fed their young brood.  The chicks couldn’t have been more than a day or two old.  I begged them to come out into the open, but they did not oblige.  The following was the best shot I got of a youngster.

Limpkin Feeding Her Tiny Chicks (Look Closely at the Bottom Right)
Limpkin Feeding Her Tiny Chicks (Look Closely at the Bottom Right)

As the sun rose, it gave a gorgeous backlight to a preening white duck.  I loved her pose as she peered at me while cleaning her wing.  So sweet and innocent in the summer sunshine…

Wake Up and Preen
Wake Up and Preen

Juvenile Wood Ducks seemed to be all over the lake.  Wood Ducks are generally very secretive birds, but even they have grown used to the people at Lake Morton.  They won’t let you walk right up to them, but they swim relatively close to shore, allowing for good pictures.  I smiled as I watched Mom preen one of her almost-grown little boys.  Then he returned the favor and preened her, too!

Mama Wood Duck Preening Her Young
Mama Wood Duck Preening Her Young
Juvie Returns the Favor!
Juvie Returns the Favor!

Then we spotted a Common Gallinule with two chicks.  The gallinules are a little unusual in that the early spring babies stick around to help care for the babies that are born in later clutches.  The older chick hovered in the background while the younger chick begged for food, and got it, too!  Mmm…bugs for breakfast…

Common Gallinule and Chick
Common Gallinule and Chick

Halfway around the lake we came across the first young Mute Swan.  She stood all by herself, totally unconcerned as we walked past her.  She eyed me curiously as I took her picture.  Then she meandered down to the water and swam for me.  The swans are such beautiful birds, and I never tire of watching them.

Juvenile Mute Swan
Juvenile Mute Swan
Juvie Mute Swan Head Shot
Juvie Mute Swan Head Shot

We found Father Goose happily tending to a brood of nine or ten Muscovy ducklings.  They ate grass, chased bugs (or tried to), and meandered in the dewy grass while their “father” looked on.  When a Black Swan came too close, Father Goose honked and flapped his wings to chase her away.  He’s just incredible to watch year after year as he befriends the Muscovy families.  Nature really makes me smile!

Muscovy Duckling - One of Father Goose's Charges
Muscovy Duckling – One of Father Goose’s Charges

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