A happy and prosperous New Year to y’all

D. J. Sweetenham


On Christmas Eve we had perfect weather for a spring day. We’re only three days into winter so that’s one blessing for all of us. The ducks were patrolling the back yard, when I looked out there after lunch so I knew that they had food on their collective minds. No feathers ruffled though! I made my way down to the shed where their ‘rations’ are stored and took four dippers full of Ingles ration style dog food and put them in the food pail. My watch-duck was in attendance as usual and she chattered away to me as I worked. She always follows me into the shed, telling me all the news of the lake and looking for her special treat. It’s nothing in particular, just that she likes to have a handful of the food placed on the grass outside the shed which she attacks quietly while I go to the water’s edge and throw out the rest of the food to the waiting diners. It’s a routine that we follow every day, morning and afternoon. By the time I finish throwing out the rest of the food, she has rejoined the flock in the water and is busily drinking down some of the lake water to soften up the pellets of dog food inside her. That’s a little tip worth knowing – if you want to feed any ducks of your own on Ingles ration style dog food, please make sure they have a source of water handy. Clean or not, it doesn’t matter. Ducks aren’t fussy that way. It’s just that the dog food quickly softens up from being hard and indigestible to becoming a healthy duck-filling mush when water is added. The majority of our ducks on this lake have been brought up on that food and I’ve not seen a sick duck here yet. Of course, it’s also a good food for dogs too.

We had quite a large Starling Storm a couple of mornings ago. That’s a normal winter/spring happening around here. Suddenly the sky darkened and a huge cloud of starlings landed in the high pine trees, next door. Every one of them had something to say and was saying it at high volume. It was quite impressive but it didn’t last long and they were up and off to another clump of tall trees further along the lake. The cormorant who usually sits on the branch which sticks out of the water where a pine tree fell a couple of years ago has returned and taken up his watch-bird duties. He can sit there all day long, barely moving a feather until you begin to wonder if he really is alive and not just a clever wooden carving put there by some smart kid. Another one-time resident who has been missing for some time, returned yesterday. I was walking across the front yard to the mail box and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a dark shadow approaching me from the direction of my neighbor’s house. I looked up and cruising along, with long, gentle wing flaps, at an altitude of about thirty feet was a big blue crane that I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. It really is good to see old friends again when they have been absent for some time. Of course, it may not have been the same one. But he served to remind me of the original which was comforting.

Now, I know I should stop, but I just want to add one more “incident.” As I was writing those last few words, I heard the honking of the white goose flight instructor approaching from the southern end of the lake. With his pupils strung out in a line in front of him, he was calling out flight instructions to the learners as they performed an in-line low-level fly-by. With about thirty adult Canada geese in the group, that was really an impressive show. So that was the big closing event of the day. Standing on the back steps and shouting “encore” would not have helped. They’d all gone home by then!

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.