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Coots and company


D. J. Sweetenham


  I told you, some time ago, that a new type of duck had taken up residence at Swan Lake but I didn’t know it’s name. Well, now I know. My neighbor, Barry, told me that the little black ducks with white beaks are known as Coots. They were very shy, at first, but they are becoming more and more bold each day. Their numbers seem to be increasing as well, but I haven’t seen any babies. Maybe the original “settlers” are sending out “c-mails” on the duck network, telling friends and relatives that they have found a great place to live where the climate isn’t too bad and they get free snacks! The only other “Coots” that I’ve heard of are the “Old” variety, of which I am one.

  I just looked out the window and saw a rather unusual sight. Two very large white birds were skimming the water, side by side. It was the young couple, offspring of Big Daddy, trying out their flying prowess while they are still able to. They haven’t had their wings clipped yet and, quite honestly, I hope they never do. They should be free to fly as their Creator intended and if they could take their grandparents with them I, for one, wouldn’t lose any sleep over that. And I’m pretty sure the Canada geese would agree with me there! The swans are beautiful to watch as they cruise around the lake but they are total bullies when it comes to their neighbors. Could there be a Russian connection there? Maybe I should leave that one alone, for now! I’ll stick with the local Muscovies and leave the Muscovites in peace.

  The friendly Muscovies around here get tamer every day. Now that they know where the food is kept and recognize the one who feeds them, I have that pleasure at least once a day. The youngest are the most tame and have no problem eating out of my hand but the older, larger birds hang back waiting for food to be thrown on the ground for them. I’m sure they will come around eventually and I’ll keep trying. Yesterday I was feeding them on the dock at the bottom of my yard. Two small ones and two large. An adult Canada goose also decided to join the party and he came very close to taking a chance on pecking some food out of my hand but he just couldn’t quite make it. Hopefully he will have watched the others eating out of my hand and next time he might have gained a little more confidence. A pair of fishermen, in a john-boat, watched us for a while. When one of the ducks decided she had eaten enough and flew over to a corner of the cove, about thirty yards away, the fishermen also moved over in that direction. I was watching the boat as it moved away and then suddenly noticed, what looked like a struggle, going on in the water just beyond the boat. Thinking that the duck may have got into trouble, I called out to the fishermen, “Hey, has that duck over there got a problem of some kind?” “Not yet,” came the reply. “The one on the bottom will probably have one, in the near future but  they’re not fighting, they’re mating.”

  That reminds me. Yesterday, my neighbor, Barry, called out to me when I was in the back yard. He was playing basketball with one of his grandsons. “Hey, Don, can you come over here when you’re finished?” “Sure, I’ll be right there.” I replied. I put the feed bucket back in the shed and made my way over to Barry’s yard, hoping that he wasn’t going to try to get me to play ball. I’m much too old for that s.....tuff, as the man said in the movie. Anyway, when I arrived Barry told me to look behind the bush just outside his garage, up beside the house. There was a bowl-shaped nest scooped out in the dirt containing seven plain white eggs. We were all excited about the event and proud to think that the bird had been comfortable enough with us to trust us with her future family. I believe it was the mostly gray colored Muscovy that I had just finished feeding, down by the dock, when he called me. The next time it is a sunny day, I’ll go back there and take some pictures.


  D.J. Sweetenham, originally from England, is the author of Bumps in the Road and Bumps in the Road - Part Two, highlights of his interesting and far-flung life. D.J., his wife, and two small dogs, live in Stockbridge.




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