Winter proceeds in fits and starts. The marshes have frozen, thawed, filled with January rain, frozen again.
Perhaps that suits the otters just fine. They certainly appeared to enjoy playing on thin ice in recent weeks. There was enough open water to dive into while chasing mud-cats, and enough ice to climb onto while munching on fresh fish.
The freeze-thaw cycles on the lakeshore tossed up playful effects too. Softly breaking waves piled pebbles and froze them into place, and just as quickly started to melt pieces out of the stone walls.
What shape is water? Is it round or made of sharp angles? The waters of Westside Marsh yield complicated answers.
Above, a gently bending shelf of ice remains from a previous period of high water. Insulated under that shelf, the warm mud of the marsh pumps out humid air. And where the breath of the marsh meets a crisp overnight breeze, a profusion of frost crystals have gathered by the time the warm sun wakes.
Our local waters showed a very different face this past Saturday, with wet snow blowing into the waves under a relentlessly grey sky.
It was just the sort of a chilly, windy, damp day when people like to say “It’s a nice day – if you’re a duck.”
But is that true? I set out to find an answer.
Now, engaging a duck in small talk is not as easy as you might think. There was the problem of finding a duck in a blizzard, of course – and then getting close enough for comfortable conversation.
On this day the ducks were not to be found at sea. In the relative shelter of the harbour, however, I came across several clusters of buffleheads and long-tailed ducks, dodging the ice chunks together.
When at last I had worked myself close to the ducks and out of the howling wind, I popped the question.
“Is this really a nice day for a duck?”
And I was met with a steely silence which seemed to say, “Well, you’re supposed to be the homo sapiens – you figure it out.”
And so I came home from this encounter none the wiser. I can only say that it was a nice day to be out watching ducks.
Photo at top: Drift Wood Diptych (click here for larger view)