About six weeks ago, I spotted some unfamiliar water birds on my morning walk around the lake. When I say unfamiliar, I don't mean to imply that I can't tell the difference between herons, ibis, ducks, and geese (these were definitely geese), but rather they were new on the lake. Of course, migratory birds fly through and stop over with some frequency, but they usually leave after a night or two and don't become part of our neighborhood. We don't give the ones in transit nicknack names like we do for our permanent wildlife (we call our most senior great blue heron Bird Friend, because he was the first and for a long while only animal around the lake that didn't immediately run or fly away from Willie when he first arrived and tended to romp around heedlessly and with abandon).
The first morning I noticed eight of them, swimming some distance from the shore, always staying way out of range for a good look (or, I suppose, a good shot). I figured they were four couples on a fam trip or if they were Brant geese, perhaps they had some sort of package tour of Texas outposts or maybe they just got a bad placement on their RCI timeshare option. Anyway, if figured they were just passing through.
The next morning I spotted the group way out in the middle of the lake, but it only looked like there were seven of them. Where had the eighth one gone? To the convenience store for beer and cheese whiz? Kicked out for cheating at the evening bunco game? Perhaps scouting for a new home like the father in Robert McClosky's Make Way for Ducklings (in which case, I would not have to strain myself with names for the remaining ones: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, and Pack, but I would have to admit that I had missed the mark on identifying them as couples).
The third day it was obvious that the seven weren't moving on and the eighth wasn't returning. They were accommodating new neighbors, floating serenely out in the lake, letting me get close enough to admire, but not close enough to harm. So I had a new piece to my morning ritual. I wouldn't look for them until I entered the picnic area on the far side of the lake (which is the first time I can really see the full expanse of the lake). Then, I would scan, search, and count, just to make sure they had all made it safely through the night.
Of course, if you count up seven geese (not six a-laying, as in the "12 Days of Christmas") every single day, day after day, your mind begins to wander. You begin making up things about them. First, you wonder if they are really The Brady Bunch looked after by Alice in disguise. Then you squint, and try to tell if they are really four hobbits, a man, an elf, and a dwarf or maybe more obviously just seven dwarves. They might be The Seven Samurai. . . or The Magnifcent Seven. You can't imagine how quickly your mind begins to round up things that come in sevens: are they a metaphor about The Seven Breakthrough Solutions, or the Seven Deadly Sins? Maybe they are a water polo team? I really hope that they don't represent the seven signs of the apocalypse.
Why did they come to my lake and why are they staying?
My theory is that they came from a smaller pond somewhere in the area that has disappeared because of the drought. Here's what has happened at our lake this year (driest November to May in a hundred years and barely a drop since the first of June). I think they are safe for now because we have a couple of very deep spots on the lake that probably won't run dry:
I took this photo in the backyard. The Louisiana irises in the bottom right of the picture stand in water in the winter.
This is our dock. When the lake is it's normal level, the ramp is parallel to the attached part of the dock to the right and the floating part at the left of the picture is attached and floats even as well. We had to unhinge the floating part so that the ramp wouldn't torque.
We have cypress trees planted lake side to keep erosion down. In this photo, I'm standing in the lake bed, shooting back towards the shore. All of these knees are usually underwater.
The water is usually way over my head off the end of my neighbor's dock:
The national weather service has the following predictions through October 31, 2011:
We live just south and a little west of the arrowhead labeled "Persistence." They plan on issuing an update on August 4. I sure hope they add some diagonal striping to my part of Texas.