Tag Archives: ducks


There were a lot of them.  Gathered in a group, moving with purpose.  Where did they come from and where are they going?  

Seagulls are usual.  They congregate, squawking and arguing over who gets the bag of cheetos stolen from the blanket.  Shorebirds with their long thin beaks poke the wet sand in search of snacks.  Whimbrels and godwits are shy, scattering as I creep near.  I’m always on the lookout for egrets, tall and elegant with bright yellow feet.  Sometimes they feed in pairs or triads, but mostly seem to lead a solitary life.  

When the little girl approached the group, I expected them to take flight.  Rise into the sky in unison.  But they didn’t.  As I got closer, I saw they were traveling together, one after the other like school kids heading from the classroom to somewhere.  They were unperturbed when I came close with my camera from behind.  And not concerned when I ran ahead and took my photos from the front of the line, in fact, the lead duck nearly walked right into me!

I’m still wondering about that sord of mallards (if they had taken flight they would have been called a flock).  In all my walks on the beach over the years, this is my first sighting of mallards on a pilgrimage.  Where did they come from?  Where were they going?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Something I Learned this Week

I’m lucky.  As a classroom teacher I have opportunities for learning all the time…from my students, out in the community, from my colleagues, with my “colleagues at a distance” (on MOOCs and social media), …and at home, from my family…  I am surrounded by learning.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to take our students to the local waste water treatment plant.  We’ve been studying water (something we don’t have enough of here in San Diego!) and have a parent in our class who happens to be the deputy mayor in our community.  She was eager to make the connection between the study of the properties of water and the water cycle and the municipal responsibilities of getting water to our taps and then treated as the water heads back out into nature’s cycle.  So when she asked if we’d like to have her arrange a field trip to the water treatment plant just a couple of miles away, we were eager to go.

And even more fun, the water plant manager and the other employees were delighted to have us visit.  They had us break into three groups and then took us on a tour of the plant, carefully explaining and describing all the processes in the treatment cycle.  We started at the huge digester tanks, filled with the solid waste being cleaned by natural occurring microorganisms.  We learned that the temperature of the tanks is about the same as our body temperature when we have a fever…up to about 102 degrees.


After spending 15 days in the digester, the now activated sludge is sent through a process that separates the water from the solids.  We watched the belts squeeze out the water and send the dry activated sludge into a truck to be hauled off to Arizona where it is used as fertilizer for livestock crops (alfalfa and the sort).


We saw the big overflow tanks…where waste water collects under these big sheets (the water you can see on top is some accumulation as the result of the rain we got last week).  There is an inflow of 3 million gallons a day!  (And they have a duplicate tank just in case there is a problem with one–they explained the importance of redundancy to keep the operation moving.)


After than, we got to walk through the lab…and take a peek at all the science equipment in use. We noticed test tubes and vials, everything scientists need to test hypotheses, collect data, and carefully examine what is going on with the water they care for.  We also got to see samples of the different stages of water cleaning.  (They use a three-part process to get water to the recycled stage)  Dale carefully explained each step in the water cleaning process to our young students.


We learned about the way that air is used to clean water…and watched the water bubble with the air pumped through it.


And this student was enthralled with all she was learning…she took pages and pages of notes in her little reporters notebook.  (She proudly announced that she filled 17 pages!)


I hadn’t thought about the technology of keeping odors at a minimum, but this space ship looking thing cleans smells from the air before it goes back into the air.


Once water goes through the primary, secondary, and tertiary processes, it gets to the recycled water state…for use in landscaping and on golf courses.  This stage flows into the purple pipes that carry this water throughout our community, but at the plant the water flows through these white pipes that will eventually meet up with the purple ones!


And whatever recycled water is not needed for the purple pipes is piped out into the ocean, joining the salt water and becoming part of our natural water cycle once again.  The ducks have decided that this is a great place to hang out…right across the street from the lagoon!  I think they see this place as their own private spa!


So…what have you learned this week?  Maybe it’s a longer story of a particular place…or a snippet that caught your fancy and taught you something new.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #learning for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

I’m looking forward to learning from you this week…pinpoint something you learned this week and share that learning with the rest of us through your lens!

A Conversation With a Duck

Sometimes a conversation with a duck takes a surprising turn.

mallard talking

This guy had a lot to say about my camera and the intrusion of his privacy.  He stood right up and let me know that my attention was not wanted.  Before I had walked toward him, he had been sitting in this spot, relaxing in the cool and sunny afternoon sun.  A couple of females swam nearby.  This little body of water sits next to a local community college…across the street from the local lagoon.

mallard swimming

As I walked back toward my car, this mallard continued his conversation as he stepped into the water and swam upstream, against the current.

I’ve been working to capture some of the sounds I hear on my photo walks these days.  And it’s hard.  When I am out walking and taking photos and noticing the world around me, I also hear amazing sounds…like the conversation with the duck.  Unfortunately, the microphone on my iPhone is simply not sensitive enough to capture these conversations with nature.

Today I headed out to a portion of the lagoon I had never explored before.  It was strangely desolate…dry, smelly…not the lush environment I experienced closer to the shore.  I could hear so much more than I could see in this setting.  Birds called, dragonflies and bees buzzed, the rushes whispered, and I could hear the white noise of the traffic from the freeway not far in the distance.  I came across this sign…and it made me wonder if the birds take note of information like this!

bird sign

As I explored this dry and deserted environment, I noticed these strangely unique plants…I don’t know what they are called and haven’t seen them before…but was immediately drawn to them.  My husband called them alien flowers and immediately began a narrative about visitations from aliens (he is a big sci-fi aficionado).  Personally, I think these thistle-looking flowers are beautiful!

alien flowers

As I walked along the road away from the lagoon toward my car, I found myself thinking about the distinctions between weeds and native species…and in many cases, I think they may be one in the same!  I doubt that anyone planted these flowers, but I recognize them as native.  I have seen them often in and around the lagoon…and they are lovely…especially as they blow in the sea breezes.  They are like miniature sunflowers or daisies…brilliant yellow…the definition of spring!

flowers near lagoon

I walked through many patches of these flowers growing wild along the side of the road, attracting bees and other pollinators, and simply making the road more beautiful than ordinary dirt and asphalt ever thought of being.  And then I noticed this tree, large and stately…and likely home to many birds and bugs, and shade to many more.

tree near lagoon

I learn so much on my walks with my camera…even when I don’t capture it in images.  Today I was much more aware of sounds than images.  What looked like dried grasses and brush hinted at a richness of life within.  I could hear birds calling, the rustle of animals, and the wind singing in tune with the plant life.  I came across a hidden babbling brook and wondered if the water were fresh or brackish.  At one point a bee came to whisper in my ear and stayed with me longer than I really wanted.

And so I am reminded to not just look…but also to listen to the world around me.  There is so much to be learned from a conversation with a mallard or the whispers of a bee, if you just take the time to listen.