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A lesson on nature’s food chain

Friday, 2 December 2011

One of the things that I enjoy most about volunteering on my nation’s National Wildlife Refuges is that hardly a day goes by that I don’t learn something new.  Today, I learned a lesson about the food chain that I’ll share with you.  A little background first.  When I talked to Stephanie yesterday, she gave me a new assignment.  The refuge needs some pictures of mottled ducks.  Now there’s an assignment I’m more than happy to try.  What with the drought, finding mottled ducks to photograph meant I’d have to do some scouting on the East Unit.  That’s a unit that’s not open to the general public except for hunters on Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays.  Since today was Friday, I was given permission to be on the East Unit and ‘hunt’ down my quarry.  Following the law, my ‘shots’ are lead free!  Fellow volunteers, Barbara and James, accompanied me on my excursion.

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We found thousands and thousands of ducks and geese, but not too many that were willing to pose for a close up.

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However, we did come upon a Northern harrier that had caught something to eat.  Perhaps one of the shorebirds in the moist soil units?  (remember the food chain)  All was calm until…

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…another harrier decided that it wanted what the first harrier had.

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That’s when the battle ensued.  Eventually, one of the birds dominated and returned to eating its dinner.  My thought was that it was a good example of survival of the fittest.  Until…

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…along came a crested caracara to steal the prize from the winning harrier!

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That sure surprised me.  Who would have thought that a young carrion eating bird could scare off a raptor of similar size that hunts for a living?  I’ve always thought of caracaras and vultures as the natural world’s garbage men (or perhaps I should call them sanitation workers to be more politically correctSmile), and hunting raptors at the top of the food chain. 

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Like I said, you learn something new everyday.  To the victor go the rewards, I guess.  We couldn’t figure out what is was that this big battle was all about, but it sure didn’t look very tasty to me!

Here’s the score for those of you that inquired on my personal battlefront:  Mouse 3  Me 1!  Yep, I caught one of those little buggers after figuring out that the new traps that I bought couldn’t be adjusted and needed an elephant to step on them to make them go off.  Before his demise, that little mouse took avail of the peanut butter lined dental floss, and left it clean as a whistle.  So much for catching on his teeth!  I have one old trap that worked, and I’ve re-baited it for tonight just in case my marauder wasn’t alone.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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