Let’s Go for a Walk!

Female mallard with ducklings. Photo by M. Rivera / Wikimedia.

A couple weeks ago, contributor Karen Schmidt shared some interesting crow and eagle interactions she witnessed in Seattle’s University District in her debut blog post. She joins us again to take us on a peaceful and birdy lakeside walk near her home.

On May 1, I left my house to attempt a walk around Green Lake in North Seattle. It is a beautiful lake in a residential and urban area. There is a 3.2-mile path around the lake. I have decided to undertake this walk two or three times a week to keep in shape during this period of virus inertia.

American crows. Photo by Cuatrok77 / Wikimedia.

I stepped out my front door to go to my car when I noticed a huge crow disturbance. About four or five houses to the south, about 20 or 25 crows were wheeling and cawing madly, about 40 or 50 feet up in the air. Sure enough, when I looked more closely, there was an eagle in their midst. I stood and watched as the eagle flew overhead and a bit to the north, near the two tall evergreens where “my” two crows have their nest. Now I don’t know how six crows signal to the rest, “We got this. The rest of you can go home.” But that is what happened. Only six crows pursued the eagle. They kept up the cawing and dive-bombing for several minutes, until the eagle slowly moved away higher and to the north.

I drove the half mile to the lake, where the walking path recently has been reopened. The parks department is still discouraging group gatherings, so the huge parking lot is closed and roped off. I found on-street parking and began my walk. These days the path is one-way counterclockwise, and pedestrians only. The scenery is spectacular. I was lucky to have a sunny afternoon walk on a day that was forecast to have been rainy.

Green Lake has dozens of species of trees, including many varieties of cedar, birch, alder, linden, maple, dogwood, ornamental cherry, willow, umpteen evergreens, and more. Some of the trees are labeled with small plaques. For instance, I saw one labeled an “Atlas Cedar,” native to Morocco and Algeria. Along the lakeshore are cattails, water lilies, weeping willows, yellow iris, and logs where herons and turtles abound.

Red-winged blackbird. Photo by Gillfoto / Wkimedia.

About one-third of the way around, I saw a young mother and her two toddlers. They were admiring a mallard family near the shore. I got close enough to see the ducks, but not too close to violate social distancing guidelines. The ducklings were darling fuzzy creatures, six in all.

I stopped three times on my walk to sit on a bench for a few minutes so I could rest and also take in the natural sights. On my first rest, I could hear and glimpse red-winged blackbirds in flight. They seemed to be swooping down toward the path, and upon closer inspection, I saw that they were coming down (one at a time) to take a quick treat from someone’s outstretched arm! I was compelled to go over and chat with the New Zealander who was feeding them small pieces of shelled peanuts. He seemed quite knowledgeable and had obviously done this before. He explained that he had to face away from the birds, or they would not take the nuts from his hand. If he made eye contact, they felt threatened.

Family of Canada geese. Photo by John Gerrish.

I continued on my walk, appreciating the sun, plant life, trees, and birds. I saw one more mallard mama with five much larger ducklings. Then at about the two-thirds-mile mark, something out on the lake caught my attention. From afar, I couldn’t tell if it was a small log or a small boat… Whatever it was, it was floating and moving toward me. As I got closer, I could finally make out that it was a family of Canada geese swimming in a straight line, with one adult at the front and one at the rear, and seven fluffy goslings in between. Much to my amazement, they swam to shore and came up on the grass almost next to me. The young birds were beautiful balls of golden fuzz. They had little buds of wings but no feathers yet. All were busy eating various kinds of vegetation near the shore. I saw one more family of geese near the end of my walk—this time two adults and four fuzzy goslings.

Even though I feared that my muscles were going to be sore later, I felt almost elated by the time I finished the 3.2-mile loop. First of all, it has been quite a while since I walked that far at a brisk pace! Second, it was a gorgeous setting, a sunny May Day with a lot of friendly walkers and runners of all ages and ethnicities, all observing the new social distancing norms. (I noted only about 25 percent of walkers were wearing masks, as I was.)

I took an Aleve as soon as I got home, with my muscles in mind, and I am already anticipating my next walk around the lake! I feel fortunate to be able to drive half a mile and see so many plants, trees, and animals in such a beautiful natural setting. I hope you, too, have someplace nearby to get out of the house and enjoy the beauties of nature.

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