Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mystery duck

The duck mystery deepens. For years now, Bill and I have been walking around Como Lake in Coquitlam - a very pleasant alternative to the "duck park" that has been bulldozed to make way for a Third Reich-scale cement amphitheatre that will blast loud rock music night and day. Obviously, all the wildlife within a 5-mile radius has fled. 

But we still have Como Lake! We noticed some time ago that there are some pretty strange ducks amongst the mallards and wood ducks. This one, for example. This is a very big duck, almost the size of a goose, and he is brown-and-white  (several different shades of brown, from quite dark, almost coffee bean, to cocoa brown). Then we discovered, to our delight, a second brown-and-white duck, somewhat smaller than this one, likely a female. And yet, strangely enough, we've never seen them together.

I made this gif from an eight-second-long YouTube video labelled "Ducks at Como Lake". I know it's the same duck. Not my video, of course. There was no information with it, not even a description. This is not much help.

Do you think I can find ANYTHING on this duck, or on any duck remotely close to it? If I google "brown-and-white duck", I get professional photos that are labelled "brown-and-white duck". They appear to be of barnyard animals, but I can't be sure because there is no information with them at all.

NOBODY knows anything about these two ducks (or are there more? Or will there be babies?), which both intrigues me and drives me crazy. It's possible these are domestic ducks that have gone native, or whatever-it-is they do when they answer the call of the wild. Or maybe they're hybrids - it's just crazy enough. 

There were beavers living in LaFarge Lake (in the famous "duck park" which has now been paved, like Paradise in the Joni Mitchell song), and no one could explain that either. Nine beavers, to be exact, two adults and seven kits. Seems like some fever dream, except that there were nineteen trees felled or seriously gnawed in the park - we've seen some of them - and many still have wire mesh wrapped around the trunks. Beavers in a lake is no big deal, right? How about beavers living in a STONE QUARRY in the middle of a major city, in the residential area right next to a community college?

To make it even stranger, we saw an otter in the lake one day which scared the bejeezus out of the ducks. We've never seen them do this before, but they all, to a duck, beat it out of the water and just huddled in a line along the shore until the otter was well away from them. It swam around on its back like they all do. No way can there be ONE otter in a lake. Or a stone quarry.

Today we went to a place in Burnaby called Piper Spit and saw ducks and ducks and ducks: a mother duck with THIRTEEN babies, so newly-hatched their fluff was wet even when they were sitting on the ground. And we saw a pair of Canada geese with goslings so new they still had that pollen-y-looking yellow stuff on them, almost like vernix on a newborn.

One of the geese kept kinking its neck and bobbing its head at us. We knew why, of course. We were too close to its young. So I said to Bill: Do you know how you can tell it's a Canada goose?

Because it stands on guard? (Moan. It's too late at night.)

Special bonus news item from the Tri-City News!!

They may be one of Canada’s most iconic animals, but the beaver is not welcome in a popular park in Coquitlam.

City officials are once again dealing with the large rodents at Lafarge Lake after the animals appeared in late fall.

While the city isn’t sure how many beavers are in the park, Lanny Englund, the city’s urban forestry and parks services manager, noted a process is underway to have them removed and relocated.

The problem with the beavers is they damage trees and dig tunnels, which can undermine the trails around the lake and cause a hazard.

“It does seem to happen on and off and eventually it gets to the point where the impact is too great,” Englund told the Tri-Cities NOW, noting the city experienced a similar situation with beavers a couple of years ago.

“Town Centre Park is such a high use [park],” he said.

“There’s too much risk allowing them to do their thing.”

In the short term, the city has wrapped trees close to the lake in a fencing wire to protect them from the animals.

The city has also brought in a contractor to live-trap the beavers and relocate them to another part of the province.

It’s unclear how long it will take to trap and remove the animals from the lake.

Meanwhile, the big mystery is exactly how the beavers made the lake their home in the first place.

Englund noted the lake is connected to Hoy Creek and the Coquitlam River by underground pipes, but suggested it would difficult for the beavers to travel through them.

There is also a small creek in the northwest corner of Town Centre Park that has been home to beavers, but it would force the animals to cross over land.

Englund said an even more unlikely scenario is that someone intentionally put the beavers in the lake.

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