Vermilion Fly Catcher
I love all God’s creatures! Well, possibly with the exception of spiders and feral hogs; although I must admit that the little piglets are cute.
I love birds. Every winter for the past five years it has been a source of delight for me that a lone Vermillion Fly-Catcher has returned to Rancho Milagro and taken up residence by the duck pond where he/she darts skyward to snare an insect repeatedly throughout the day. He is beautiful to see and fascinating to watch his aerial aerobatics.
I started the duck pond in 1997. It is small, about 50 feet in diameter. Water trickles into it by gravity flow from my well water storage tank; just enough flow to compensate for evaporation. I built a fence around it to keep animals out, but, of course, the fence does not prevent owls and hawks from predation.
I started with four pair of Mallard ducklings I ordered from a hatchery. Over the course of that first year one by one winged predators took their toll. Finally I was left with only one male duck. He hung around for several months and then one day he disappeared and I assumed that a hawk or an owl had taken him also.
But I was wrong! He was gone about a month and then one day he reappeared with a wild female companion. The pair seemed happily in permanent residence on the pond. And then one day the male disappeared. I can only assume that an owl or a hawk took him. Then, even more amazing, the wild female remained on the pond even without a mate.
After a month of expecting the wild female to fly away I decided to buy her a mate. I located a man who had ducks and I bought a domesticated male Mallard and introduced him to the pond.
I am happy to report that they produced eleven little ducklings and now there are 13 Mallards. In addition, from time to time Teel, Black-bellied Mexican Whistling ducks and Coot drop in for a visit and stay for weeks at a time.
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
– Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.