I miss my ducks

Thinking back about the whole duck mishigaas last year, I realize it was a mixture of joy, terror, and anxiety. Mostly joy, as I got to make friends and commune with real wild birds. But also terror and pain, as when I had to retrieve a drowned duckling and watch another one die in my hand. There was constant anxiety as I worried for three months about getting all eight ducklings through to fledging. Every morning as I went to the pond to feed them, my heart started beating faster until I could count all the babies and see that there were still eight. Happily, all eight survived and migrated away from the pond.

It was romantic, too. Honey became enamored of the handsome drake James, but then the evil Billzebub attacked James, with Honey quacking and egging on the combatants. Trying to break up the duck fight, I accidentally made Billzebub fly into a window grate, and then I had to save his life by pulling him out underneath the bars. He promptly rewarded me by going off with Honey, leaving James to mourn alone at the pond. But then, after a week or so, the fickle Honey returned to James; I guess Billzy was too rough a boy!

Finally, the reunited Honey and James flew south together. It doesn’t get any more romantic than that.

I miss them and I hope that Honey returns next year, maybe even with her handsome swain James. If she does, will she produce even more ducklings?  Here she is in all her feathered beauty:

Here’s James during his weeklong vigil for Honey. I didn’t think she’d return, and this made me ineffably sad. Look at this dolorous duck! For days he sat on the island silently staring into space, looking for all the world like a decoy.

But she came back to the pond, and I’m hoping against hope that the pair will return next spring. That hope sustains me through the gloomy winter.  

32 Comments

  1. Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    If we all were a little closer to nature, it would be easier to see the the world wasn’t designed for us r any other species. I tried raising some ducklings once only to come home and find them all eaten by turkey vultures. I made a vulture proof pen and got some more ducklings, only to come home and find that coyotes or raccoons had eaten the second batch (by tearing through the nylon netting). When at the store for the thrid batch, lamenting my woes, the clerk looked at me sort of funnily and said “Duckings are everything’s favorite meal.” Imagine an existence out in the wild where so many things wanted nothing more than to kill you and eat you, or eat you first and if you died, you died.

    BTW The best book I have ever read on Free Will (and I have read a lot of them) is “Who’s In Charge?” Very cogently argued.

    • Laurance
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      I’m interested. Who is the author?

      • W.T. Effingham
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Michael S. Gazzaniga. He is one of the best authors for cognitive neuroscience and consciousness.😺

    • Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I am sorry for your ducklings!

  2. Laurance
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Okay! All right! Why? Why?

    There you are, duck-bereft. Un-Honeyed and James-less there in Chicago. But here I am in central Pennsylvania, and we still have ducks in Talleyrand Park, just down the street from here. And I wonder why.

    It gets cold and snowy here, too. But we still have a number of ducks who are spending the winter. I wish I could send you some of our ducks to console you.

    Is Chicago that much colder and duck-unfriendly than Bellefonte PA?

    My wish is that Spring will come and you’ll hear quacking, and Honey and James will be coming back to you.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      You must have open water through the winter or they cannot stay. The local Canada geese stay here year round but if it freezes up they still must go far enough to find open water. Life kind of depends on it.

      • Laurance
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Yes, we do have plenty of flowing water in our park and it flows through the winter. Thanks for the information. I was wondering what was going on.

  3. Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh Jerry, I hope you are “enducked” again = )

  4. Linda Calhoun
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    “Every morning as I went to the pond to feed them, my heart started beating faster until I could count all the babies and see that there were still eight.”

    The hardest part of my day is first thing in the morning when I’m going out to the barn, because I never know what I’m going to find. I check everyone, and If they’re all OK, then I can relax, feed, milk, and clean up. If something is wrong, I jump in and take care of it as best I can. But, it’s the not knowing before I go out that needs to be attended to first.

    L

  5. Glenda Palmer
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Great photo of Honey. I followed all the ups and downs of life on Botany Pond with you and hope the pair return to you in the spring.

  6. Stephanie Mayer
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I actually thought about Jerry yesterday because I was riding my bike next to Boulder Creek yesterday and saw a large gaggle of ducks cavorting. I don’t know why they stay around Boulder and not in Chicago. Maybe they like our supposed 300 days of sunshine.

  7. Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps your next book should be “Honey and James: On Botany Pond”, aimed at animal-loving children and adults everywhere.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s like reading a Victorian novel, boss, and then finding yourself long afterward wondering whatever became of Becky Sharp or David Copperfield or Heathcliff.

    • Mark R.
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      I’ve often wondered if Scrooge stayed happy…

  9. Mark R.
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    “For days he sat on the island silently staring into space, looking for all the world like a decoy.”

    I love this sentence; it put a smile on my face.

  10. Posted December 15, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I miss the morning delight of hearing about your ducks, Jerry.

    I can’t get excited about this winter. There’s something in the air that’s a real downer.

  11. FB
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    “Volveré y seré millones” (I will return and I will be millions) – phrase attributed to Evita.

    Just saying…

  12. Heather Hastie
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely post! There’s something about developing a connection with a wild animal, even for a short time, that’s incredibly special.

    • Diane G
      Posted December 16, 2018 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      Nicely put. I agree.

  13. Bill Dickens
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I commented on your posts on the ducks last year however I loved your series of articles on this and I hope you’re able to report on them again next season.
    I also find myself quickly emotionally involved in the wildlife in my backyard. Over the last couple of years a fledgling crow and a cedar waxwing fell into my yard. They seem to quickly imprint on humans at that age. I worried about them for weeks after they were able to fly off and fend for themselves.

  14. rickflick
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    “the reunited Honey and James flew south together.”

    Like Casablanca except the hen flys off and the drake stays. Well, not so much…but romantic like that.

    • Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:53 am | Permalink

      Of all the ponds in all the towns in all the world …

      • rickflick
        Posted December 16, 2018 at 2:04 am | Permalink

        Yes, exactly.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 16, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Or like Rick and Louie heading off to fight with the Free French garrison at Brazzaville. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

      • rickflick
        Posted December 16, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        That too.

  15. Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    They’ll be back, I’m almost certain of that!

  16. Steve Barnes
    Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    A touching recount.

  17. saxonrooinek
    Posted December 16, 2018 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this beautiful story. We humans are simply part of Darwin’s Tree of Life. We’re here to support other branches of the tree too

  18. saxonrooinek
    Posted December 16, 2018 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    I have changed my email address. I cannot seem to find on SETTINGS where to notify you of this.  Please send email notifications to dianalangley@gmail.com and cancel this old address.Is that possible? 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • Posted December 16, 2018 at 4:41 am | Permalink

      I can’t do that as I have no control over subscriptions. You’d have to cancel and resubscribe, I believer.

    • Posted December 16, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      You must have an account with some kind of online service in order to get WEIT posts sent to you via email. If you don’t see a WordPress bar at the top of WEIT posts when viewed in a browser, it must be with some other service. Since your post mentions Yahoo, perhaps you have a Yahoo account and simply need to change the address it knows you by. If you don’t remember where the account is, it is likely identified in the emails it sends. If you have one saved or printed, look there.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 16, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I had the same problem. I googled a bit and found where in the settings to fix it. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where the sweet spot is. Getting old. Probably somewhere in the security tab.


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