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Field Notes No. 24 (Feb 12, 2012)

Sunday, February 12, 2012, 2 pm. Bright sunshine, Temperature, 27 degrees F., West wind.

When I arrived at the park today, fire trucks from Ames and Gilbert were fighting a grass fire. The fire started next to Grant Road on the west side of the park and quickly spread toward the east, aided by a the westerly wind. It burned a strip across the planted prairie and some of the dry wetland. It made it all the way to the gravel path leading up to the ridge. Fireman had it completely out by about 3 pm. I took a number of photos and sent them to Kevin Kane for posting on his blog. The fire probably did more good than harm.

The area of open water on the south lake was a little larger today and the waterfowl were behaving much like yesterday although they were closer to shore on the south and east side. I noticed some courtship behavior in a few of the Canada Geese. Males swim behind or beside a female with his neck stretched out low over the water. He held his mouth wide open and called repeatedly. Any other goose that came near he would chase away. All the while, the female acted as though he wasn't there.

Courtship behavior will increase as spring approaches. Geese mate for life but many two- and three-year-old geese are looking for mates. About a week ago, I witnessed a fight between two geese that was probably a squabble between two males vying for the same female. The geese were in the water and one had a hold on the other one's neck. Both were flapping their wings and splashing the water vigorously. Prior to the fight, most of the geese in the flock were sleeping quietly on the ice. The noise of the fight caused them all to wake up and begin calling loudly. Watching geese sleep can be quite boring but if you are patient, you might see something interesting.

Erv Klaas