Thursday, May 5, 2011

So While I Was Out Birding ...

How many times has this happened to you? You're out birding, and you see something else . . .  a flower,  a cloud formation, some mushrooms, maybe a squirrel or a snake . . . and you experience that amazing "wow" nature moment.

Boy, did that ever happen to me today! Check this out:

See that? Maybe not. Look a little closer. Wow! Look at those FISH!

Here I am, wandering along a path at one of my favorite birding locales at the Las Gallinas Ponds in Marin County, and the sound of these behemoths is what made me turn around and say, "What in the heck is making all that racket in the water?" I thought it must be river otters, which I've seen here before. But this was LOUD. Like a three-year-old in a bathtub loud! So look now at what I saw:

Do you believe this? These fish were HUGE! Like two-feet-long huge! And they thrashed and splashed and crashed to beat the band!

They practically climbed up on the rocks. I've never seen anything like it!

But now that I've done a little bit of research, I know that these are spawning carp, just one of a gazillion aquatic species who reproduce this way. Says Wikipedia: Most fish reproduce by spawning, and so do most other aquatic animals, including crustaceans such as crabs and shrimps,molluscs such as oysters and squid, echinoderms such as sea urchins and sea cucumbers, amphibious animals such as frogs and turtles, aquatic insects such as mayflies and mosquitoes, and corals (which are small aquatic animals and not plants).

I knew about spawning, but have certainly never witnessed it. Are they all this vigorous? Beats me.

I'm amazed at how these enormous fish -- I'd estimate these at about two feet in length -- come almost completely out of the water to broadcast their eggs/sperm. You can't tell the males from the females, but there's obviously some benefit from being close to shore when it comes to reproductive success. 

These creatures look almost prehistoric, don't they? For these shots, I'd climbed down among the rocks and was practically on top of them. You would not believe how loud their thrashing and splashing was. It was like a high school water polo match, but these guys weren't in Speedos.

I went on to enjoy some excellent birding on this day, but that's another post. For now, I'm just going to leave you with a couple more pictures of this amazing sight that I never imagined I'd see as I set out birding yesterday. Just goes to show you, nature rules, as always.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ooh, Baby, Baby!

Yep, it's that time of year when my local waterways and tidal marshes abound with fuzzy babies in the form of Mallard and Canada Goose chicks. So to give your "ooh" and "awww" vocal chords a bit of a workout, here is the first of two posts devoted to the babies. This one features the Mallard chicks. My next post will feature the Canada Goose chicks, so stay tuned. Hard to say which are cuter, so you'll have to decide for yourself.

I'm pretty sure I'm cuter than my brothers & sisters.

Hey, stop pushing & shoving! I'm telling Mom!

But I didn't do anything, Mom! They started it!

Nanner, nanner, nanner, you got in trouble!

Now I'm going to show you how I dance.

You put your left foot in . . .

You take your right foot out . . .

And that's how we do the Hokey Pokey!