D. J. Sweetenham
Finally the ducks seem to be feeling the heat and yesterday afternoon, when I went down to the lake to feed them, there wasn’t a single duck, of any kind, in sight. Normally there was a crowd waiting for me but all I could see was flat calm water, stretching as far as the lake extended with no sign of bird or any other kind of life to disturb the eerie stillness. No chattering from the squirrels in the neighbor’s trees, no bird-song, no breeze in the bushes and no movement in the fig tree from ever-hopeful cardinals, searching and hoping for just one, last, sweet summer treat. No sound and no movement and most importantly, no ducks. I began to wonder if this was the start of something big, like Armageddon or something similar but then I figured if that were so, Fox news and all the other “experts” would have been diagnosing and analyzing the situation across all the TV channels ad infinitum. And I was bound to have seen and heard the story a hundred or more times over, by now. (complete with repeat commercials, over and over and over again!) So I had to assume the cause was natural and the excessive heat must be the culprit. And, giving the situation a little more thought, I came to the conclusion that just about any living creature who can cheerfully swim around in ice water during the winter must be very uncomfortable when the air temperature is getting close to 100º. In fact all our wildlife is probably uncomfortable under these conditions and would prefer to be in a cool, shadowed location even down to the idiot walking around his yard with a bucket looking for something to feed.
Well today was a different story. I had been to the Breakfast Club at Miller’s Store on Hwy. 155 and I had noticed a slight drop in temperature from previous mornings. It wasn’t much but it was noticeable. As I drove home, I wondered if the wildlife had noticed it too or if they were still huddled together, out of sight, trying to keep cool. I decided to leave the feeding exercise for a little later than usual to give them extra time to enjoy their comforts a little longer and after enjoying the biscuit I had carried home from the Club, I took care of a couple of small tasks on the phone and the computer. Finished with that I went to put on my yard shoes. By then it was almost 100% daylight and I could see all of the yard and the water through the sun-room glass doors. Filling my area of vision was a sea of feathered bodies filling the yard and the sunroom steps. All trying to tell me to hurry up. They were hungry! Well that certainly was a relief for me and I hurried, as fast as my aching and sore old body would allow to get my shoes on and to hobble down the steps, careful not to step on any big flat feet, whose owners were pressing against my legs. I made it to the bottom safely, without crushing any one and then slowly shuffled over to the shed where the rations are stored.
As usual, one of the female Muskovies, (Several shades of gray, I call her) came into the shed with me while one of the big male Muscovies stood outside the open door stopping any other ducks from entering. 5 scoops of Ingles dog food pellets were placed in the bucket and then I headed back outside amidst the sea of ducks. As I moved I shouted at the Mallards to get back in the water which they did, all at once. It was like an explosion in a feather pillow factory! So just for a short while, I had two separate crowds of ducks, all apparently on the verge of starvation. I threw out a couple of scoops of food as far out into the lake as I could which would keep the Mallards happy and the rest I spread around the shed entrance and along the path to the water for the Muscovies. After that I made a bee-line for the sunroom steps and left my feathered flock to fend for themselves.
So it wasn’t really Armageddon after all. Just HOT! But it was strange that every one of the birds was affected the same way. Did someone send them an e-mail or was the heat mentioned somewhere on the Duck Depot Facebook page? I guess we’ll never know and as a very good friend of mine once said, “Just keep on, keeping on!”
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 their small dog, live in Stockbridge.