Beau May 11th, 2009
Lately I’ve been so appreciative for all the changes spring has brought forth- the warmth, flowers, green grass and leaves, gardening, birds… It’s really neat to see things growing again, to watch and hear the wildlife, especially the song of birds. This morning very early before dawn I awoke to a whippoorwill calling loudly in a tree top near the house… “Whippoorwill! Whippoorwill! Whippoorwill!…” I had to smile, because it sure wasn’t the mysterious, far off call of summer that I remember so well, but instead an energetic call for a mate or territory. It was actually loud enough to be an alarm clock, so I finally got up. After which the whiporwhill stopped calling and went somehwere else. Someday I’d love to see one.
As the sky grew lighter I went outside to see if our new guest was still at the pond. The Canada geese and goslings were gone, off to some other hideaway since last week sometime. We’ve had a new visitor on the pond since Saturday morning. At least I hope it’s a visitor.
I was reading something when the young boy ran in with excitement in his voice… “Daddy! There’s a bald eagle or something on the pond!!!” He and his mom were in the other room, and I just had to see what this new something was. Sure enough, if bald eagles were waterfowl it sort of looked like one, at least far off… paddling around the other side of the pond. A big brown bird with a mostly white head. A funny looking bald eagle if I ever saw one. Hmmm… a long white head, with red on its face… “What in the heck is that?!” I’m thinking.
The thing is the size of a goose, and best I can tell it’s a big ‘ole duck. A big domestic duck. Like a red-faced muscovy duck. On our pond. Where in Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom did that thing come from!!!
Later that afternoon the boy walked up to me… “Guess what Daddy?!” he says. “Ah, I don’t know, what?” says I. “I just squirted that big bird with my new squirt gun!” he gleefully shared. He had just come back from a classmate’s birthday party. “You mean he let you get close? What did he do?” I ask. “Oh, nothing. He just sat there and fluffed his feathers,” he says nonchalantly, walking off. “Oh…” and it hits home that this ducky thing is pretty tame.
To prove the point we walked down to the pond yesterday. The big duck is sitting on the bank on the other side. It sees me… and jumps in the water and comes swimming over to me. “Hi duck,” I say. It just looks at me with this big funny head and paddles back and forth. “I’m not feeding you!” I say with conviction. I walk back up the hill, and see it swimming over to our little stump. The same stump where we found the wood duck egg last week. This thing fluffs all its feathers around like it’s taking a bath, dunks its head in the water a few times, and then jumps up on the stump, waggling its fat tail with pride. And then it tucks its head into its wings for a nap…
Later again the young boy walks down towards the stump to see the bird. The duck lifted up its head and watched him. He talked to the duck, and the duck faced him, and fluffed his feathers. The boy giggled, and came back up the hill. The duck stuck his head back in his wings for the night. He was still there this morning.
And it likes that stump a lot. Matter of fact, its goes from paddling around the pond, to back on the stump many times during the day now. I think it has adopted us. I don’t know if I want to be adopted by a duck. Never quite pictured myself as a farm-pond, ducky kind of guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you. But I’d like to get some chickens or something first… you know, something productive, or that the boy can learn about in 4H? Besides I have a labrador retriever to train! And a reputation to uphold! If my yellow lab starts looking at ducks like one of the family pets, then where will I be? Sheesh.
The boy has started calling it Quackers. He (or she?) looks more like a Henry or Fred to me. Thankfully it hasn’t made a sound yet. I don’t think I want to hear it anway. I enjoy listening to the calls of bluebirds, towhees, hawks, thrashers, catbirds, cardinals, phoebes, orioles… and… “Quack!” No. I’m just not ready for that. The boy wants to put up posters for a lost duck, hoping that nobody claims it. Could somebody really have lost their duck? More like he found us it seems.
Maybe I could knock on doors. “Pardon me Ma’am, have you lost a duck?!” Could there be a reward for something as, ah, interesting looking as this? Maybe it’s just visiting, you know, passing through or something…? And if it sets a single webby foot in the garden…!