Two Canada geese fly by me on the Red River as I settle down in the woods near the river bank. I say “on” because they couldn’t have been more than 20 inches above the river surface, almost out of sight below the lip of the river bank.
They announce themselves as usual with their honking, so that I hear them long before I see them. They fly in a perfectly stable formation, with one slightly before and to the left of the other.
I never cease to be amazed at the power of their flying, especially when I can view it like this, not more than 30 feet in front of me. Their powerful wings carry their large bodies swiftly forward so that within 10-15 seconds they are out of sight around the bend of the river.
The riparian area of the river front has started to turn green since last week, with the brome grass up several inches already and greening the forest floor all around me. The trees still seem to be flowering rather than leaf-budding yet; at least that seems to be the case with the giant elm, whose branches hang down to within four or five feet of the ground around me.
I went over and took a closer look at the huge prairie willow and the white oak nearby, and their flowers seem to be at about the same stage. Tree flowers are a bit ho-hum; they certainly wouldn’t hold a candle to a rhododendron.
I really must learn to know more about tree flowering. I am only beginning to understand it, and this beginning happened late in life. I hope that young folks a couple of generations behind me will start a half century before I did. Life is so short a time to live, and there is so much to learn.
Song sparrow cheers me up with a few phrases of his beautiful song off to my left. He won’t show himself to me yet, but perhaps if I am patient he will.
Drake mallard swims upstream, hugging the far river bank off to my left. The light colored part of his body seem to be a white something or other floating on the river.
The only problem is that this “something” is floating in the wrong direction: upstream. I pick him up in the glasses and discover the drake.
He has the most beautiful colored head. I know it is green, but it looks almost a deep iridescent navy blue.
He is simply making his way upstream along the river bank. I follow him in the glasses as he passes directly in front of me across the 55 yard wide river. I have seen ducks do this before in past years. Why do they always take the effort to swim upstream? Is it because food will come to them, carried by the river, which would not happen if they turned tail to the flow? Hmm. Is there a lesson to be learned here somewhere?
James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.