Scoters, Scaups, and Scandal

March 3, 2008

Yesterday we went to the mouth of the river again. A bitter wind was up, so we stayed for only an hour this time. However, I managed to see my first-ever Scoter; this model is called a White-winged Scoter, even though the wings are mostly black. My partner got some good photos of it — oh look, here’s one now!


We had good views of other waterfowl as well: Scaups (Greaters, I think), Longtail Ducks (formerly known as “Oldsquaws”), Black Ducks, Mallards, Buffleheads, and Red-breasted Mergansers, as well as the ubiquitous Canada Geese and Mute Swans.

I also saw a stick floating in the bay — against the current. Hmm. Chestnut fur and a pair of eyes, that’s some stick all right! Still not sure which little gaffer I was viewing, a mink or a weasel or what. I was surprised that any mammal that small would be hanging out so close to the edge of Lake Ontario. A few minutes after I spied the furry Gollum thing, our Cardi started rolling luxuriously by a little hole in the snow; maybe he was dabbing a bit of mustelid cologne behind his shoulderblades.

We were home by 2 pm. At 5 pm I took the doggie with me for walkies over to feed the neighbours’ cats.

* * *

It’s important to be discreet when petsitting, so as not to trumpet the fact that the owners are away. But yesterday’s scenario might be entitled, “Discretion is the better part of vacuity.” Puppy and I popped into the house, called hello up to the caninophobic cats hiding on the third floor, threw some kibble in their dishes, and left.

Leaving is more complicated than — well — just leaving. You hit the remote to turn on the alarm, which starts the 60-second countdown. Then you open the door, pop the doorknob in to lock it, get yourself outside, close the door, and lock the other lock with a key. With this training, I’m ready to join a SWAT operation. Since my doggie is very well-behaved, I dropped his leash while performing the manouevers.

Turning away from the door, I found myself face-to-face with a smiling young couple and the parents of one of them. The young wife said they had just bought the house next door, and was I Robert’s wife? My eyes went blank; my jaw dropped; I replied: “Uhh… almost?”

Then, realizing that “almost Robert’s wife” may be construed in various ways, I stage-whispered that I was the catsitter, and didn’t want the whole street to know that the couple was away. Then the smiling new neighbours’ parents said, “Your dog’s over there.”

During the kerfuffle, my well-trained dog had decided to visit a Labrador Retriever across the street. When I left that yard, a woman and her young son were just exiting their home, and my friendly Cardi jumped up on her in muddy greeting.

Next time, I should just wear a neon-pink sandwich board with “Ace Petsitting” emblazoned on it.

Merganser Morning

March 2, 2008

Red-breasted Merganser (m)

Last Sunday we went to the mouth of the river. For three hours we tramped around in the decaying snow, each of us using her or his favourite instrument: binoculars for me, camera for my partner, nose for our dog.

Later on, we each processed our experiences in our own way. I gushed to my watercolour teacher, a fellow birder, about having seen all three species of merganser in one morning. My partner uploaded some photos to her Flickr site. And our Cardi curled up in the papasan to dream rich dreams of dried grass, goose droppings, foxes, voles, and muskrats.