Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rodents of Unusual Size

When we last saw our fearless adventurers, we had made it back to the final stop in our excursion to Meyer Park: the duck pond. Our path was quickly blocked by the guardian of the lake, but our courageous Cowboy quickly leapt to the forefront to challenge the menacing beast.

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With eyes of steel and a handful of stale bread, our hero was able to gain us safe passage to the bountiful waters beyond.

The duck pond was teaming with life this day, with a half dozen or so Swan Geese actively competing for our bread crumbs with the Mallards that regularly inhabit the place.

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Also visiting were this dandy duck-with-a-'do and his companion.

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Wading slowly near the opposite bank was a Great Egret, casually wandering back and forth as he searched the water for something a bit more lively to eat.

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Near the bank where we were standing, Cowboy spotted this three-foot-long snake taking a siesta in the cool water.

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At first I was afraid it was a water moccasin, but the markings didn't look right for that. We never did figure out exactly what kind it was, but after a few minutes it tired of being a spectator sport and quickly swam out of sight.

Just then, Cat grabbed my arm. "There they are, Daddy! Quick, take a picture!"

I looked across the pond and spotted them — the Rodents of Unusual Size. All I could think to say as I lifted my camera was, "As you wish."

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It was the "giant beaver things" that had prompted this weekend adventure. Nutria. (Or "neuter rats," as my high school buddy Cliff Gammill used to call them.) There were two or three of them swimming along without a care in the world, completely unconcerned with the noise of the people nearby. One of them even ventured out on the shore, just a few yards from where we stood.

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I love those wonderful little hands, which they use to pick up and hold food as they eat, very much like raccoons do. If you are unfamiliar with nutria, they are a bit smaller than beavers but larger than a muskrat, with a long thick tail that flows gracefully out behind them as they swim.

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They have webbed feet and rather sharp claws, and have lips that can be closed to allow them to chew while swimming without letting any water in.

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After we watched the various inhabitants of this small pond for a while, the air turned cool and the rain we had been expecting all morning finally began to fall. So we bade the critters goodbye and headed off to enjoy a hot lunch before finally returning home.

Unfortunately, the dirty dishes and the laundry were still lying right where we left them.


Christopher said...

ROUS's? - I didn't think they existed. But then after the lightning sand and fire spurts, I suppose I ought not to be surprised. Nice documentation of them.
Kyle, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!!!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great family outting with lots of fun things in the spectrum of life to take in and enjoy. There is always something to learn from. Merry Christmas to you and your family.


bowledover said...

Lovely family outing pictures and your son gets recognition for spotting the snake too.
Seasons greetings to you all.

Kyle said...

Christopher- Out of sheer luck we somehow managed to avoid the flame spurts and the lightning sand! But those ROUS's...

All- Thanks for the comments and the holiday wishes. We had a great Christmas and are still looking forward to a nice long weekend together before returning to the normal grind. I hope you and your families are enjoying a wonderful holiday as well!