Duck depot daredevils
D. J. Sweetenham
My neighbor and good friend Barry, pointed out to me one day that there was a duck sitting on the little roof of the bird feeder. It’s a very small roof to support a very large duck but, sure enough, there was one of the Muscovy females up there, balancing precariously, trying to lift her feet at the same time as she was pulling at the roof with her beak. I was fascinated by her efforts and finally she managed to tip the roof halfway off which left her just enough foot room to stand while she reached inside and grabbed a beak full of bird seed and threw it out to two of her “buddies” down below at the base of the feeder column.
“So much for feeding the birds,” said Barry. “So what,” I replied, “Ducks are birds too, aren’t they? The little ones can still find some when the ducks are done with it.” I noticed, later on in the day that the role of “seed shoveler” had changed to one of the other ducks with the original sitting on the nearby fence, possibly calling instructions. Since then, several of the other ducks have tried without a lot of success.
Perhaps it was all just an exercise to train them for the ultimate roof-sitting adventure. A week or so after the bird feeder incident, I was walking the Kids outside the front gate when something on the edge of my vision moved. I turned my head to look directly at Barry’s house, which is a mansion, compared to my little lake-side shack. On the highest part of the roof I saw five of the multi-colored Muscovy ducks just sitting, sunning themselves. Using my new-found, self-taught, ability I advised them, telepathically, in “Duck-anese” that the owner of that property is a hunter and he might not take kindly to a flock of ducks sitting up there, doing what all ducks do prolifically. Especially the well-fed ones. I told them they would be well-advised to confine their activities to ground level and before the Kids and I got into the car to go for our morning ride, the ducks had gone.
When Barry came home that evening from work, I told him about the ducks gathering on his roof even though there was no sign of any “stains” from ground level. He just smiled and made some comment about feeding ducks to his new dog. But I knew he was just joking; secretly I suspect that he is just as crazy as I am over these beautiful creatures who call our yards, home. On average there are about two dozen of them, most of which we have known since they escaped their shells as tiny bundles of gold-colored fluff and that I have fed two, sometimes three times a day since then. I feed them Ingles dog food and they seem to thrive on it. They have grown to be big, heavy birds in just a few months and seem to have no problem with fending off the feral cats that invade their space on a regular basis. They can all fly now and, in the morning half-light, when I am throwing out their food over the sea wall, some of them will fly in, straight towards me, as if they’re going to crash into me. They always avoid hitting me at the last second but I think they just like to see me duck.
Well, I see the “gang” milling around in the yard below the fig tree and I’m guessing they have a picnic on their minds. It’s that time of day and its cold but the sun is shining. They know that if they keep on the move I will be watching them and I’ll eventually give in. Actually, I’ve got a 20 lb. bag of dog food and two 20 lb. bags of bird seed to unload from my car before we party. Maybe they’ll help me with that – I need all the help I can get!
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.