I’ve been taking some rather mediocre bird photos, three of which I’d like to share with anybody who might be reading my blog from time to time. The pictures are of a Muscovy or Canal Duck and her ten ducklings. My condo is on a little lake, where there is a pleasant variety of wildlife, and from my terrace room, I’m able to observe, in a non-threatening way, the lives of many birds, turtles, and frogs. My photos are often a bit obscured by the screen that encloses my terrace, but I think the reader will be able to discern the unspoken narrative of each one. The first is of a mother duck giving a swimming lesson to her offspring, and they are enthusiastic learners that bring right from the eggs the wonderful instincts for their aquatic frolicking, though the tikes never venture very far from Mom, who in her manner reminds me of Jemima Puddle Duck from the works of one of my favorite authors from childhood, Beatrix Potter. All this hen needs is a shawl and bonnet.
Some of the ducklings are already practicing diving with expert skill, even though they are only a few days old and could fit into the palm of a child’s hand. They play with each other but are most careful to remain within view of their mother, who seems to have an easy time of keeping her brood together in a neat little group. At times they all seem almost like a single organism, any movement affecting other movements, no one part any more important than any other. The mother is very protective, and at one point this afternoon after the swimming lesson, she herded her ducklings out of the water for a nap. They all fit snugly under her wings to keep warm and safe for about an hour before two or three began coming out again to play. I was struck by the simple beauty of the scene and was reminded of a line from one of my favorite Psalms, 91:4, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
The eastern part of the lake has a sheltered area of reeds and water grass, where some of the ducks nest and where this charming hen headed at last with her ducklings in late afternoon. I felt deeply moved by their journey together, a gentle little caravan on the water. I was privileged to watch the scene, a miniature drama undoubtedly repeated often all over the world, not always observed by humans, but a theme we share with all other living things, the need at day’s end of going home.
I’d like to end this blog entry with one of my favorite poems:
The Little Duck
Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf,
And he cuddles in the swells.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic.
And he is part of it.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you.
He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity – which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
I like the little duck.
He doesn’t know much.
But he has religion.
By Donald Babcock