Duck Depot happenings


D. J. Sweetenham

Columnist


It’s been quite a while since I wrote about the happenings at Duck Depot and that’s not because there weren’t any; quite the opposite in fact. I’ve had some health issues lately which have slowed down my writing efforts but there have been plenty of “goings on” in the duck world at Swan Lake. I just hope I’m not tempting providence when I say that it seems as though the long awaited spring season may have finally arrived! At last! This was indicated just yesterday when my neighbor and good friend, Barry, called me to go over to his yard to see a mother duck shepherding her little flock of ten babies across the grass to the water where they all piled in to go for a swim. So if that’s the first there should be many more by the amount of activity that has been going on in my back yard, where they get fed. At least once a day I have the opportunity to tell them “Get a room!” but, of course, they just ignore me and carry on feeding and frolicking.

Sometimes these activities result in conflict and twice, recently, I have seen male Muscovies resorting to their equivalent of a stand-up, knock-down fight to settle a dispute over an attractive female. Nobody was really hurt, other than “feelings,” I guess. It was just a big demonstration of power without making contact. That’s how it looked to me, anyway. They were “standing tall” in the water, facing each other, beating their wings at a fierce rate causing a lot of air and water disturbance but without actually making contact with each other. This went on for several minutes until one of them tired of the game and abruptly turned and paddled away while his opponent stood even taller in the water, celebrating his “win.”

I can’t help thinking that the Coots have been expanding their flock, somehow, over the winter. They used to be a small gathering of some two dozen,very shy birds, but now whenever I am out by the sea-wall with a feed bucket in my hand, they all suddenly appear from all points of the compass. And they are much braver now, even stealing food from right under the swan’s beak. Thinking of swans, we have three, sometimes four join us at breakfast and recently they seem to be a little more tolerant of the other birds. I’d like to think they have had a complete change of heart towards the other lake residents, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.

Other residents who have recently made their presence known are the giant carp. That’s my name for them, they truly are giants. I swear you could put a saddle on one and ride it like a horse, if you could hang on. Recently they have been breaking up the breakfast feast by swooping in with their mouths open, like finned vacuum cleaners, flicking their tails to literally knock the birds flying off the floating food. Fortunately they don’t stay around very long. It’s kind of like “McDonald’s (Hey – my name is Donald!) Fast Food for Fish!” I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one.

Other seasonal visitors who generally stay a while are the cormorants. These are the birds with the long necks who dive and seem to stay under the water, hunting fish, a lot longer than is reasonable. Could those long necks actually be snorkel tubes? Whatever. I don’t think they will find much to feed on yet though. The lake has only been full for a couple of weeks. Maybe some small fish came in from upstream. “Big Blue” the King of the herons doesn’t seem to have any trouble keeping his belly full but he’s here all year round so he knows where they hide.

Well, there is so much more news of Duck Depot that I would like to share with you but space is limited and I’m going to have to close this up for now. Before I go, I’d like to say a big “Thanks” to those readers who have been kind enough to comment favorably about my writing efforts. I’ll keep writing them as long as the good folks at Henry County Times keep printing them.