I’ll never eat duck paté or roast duck again. How could I with new-found duck friends in the marina where we’re moored at the moment? Like a Disney movie come to life. This place is a veritable cornucopia of wildlife, especially of the water fowl variety. Swans, ducks, coots and moorhens, along with the birds….starlings, swifts, sparrows, swallows, owls and varieties of hawk. Then there’s the mother of all water fowl, the mighty herons that even eat the eggs of other fowl, young ducks and young rabbits. Majestic but deadly.
One evening I sat out on the stern (the back) of the boat and watched a cloud of swifts moving this way. They settled on a telephone wire then took off, dive bombing the marina where we’re moored. A few of the little daredevils buzzed me and one went right down into a neighbour’s boat before swiftly (get it?) flying back out without a fuss or a flutter. They kept it up for quite a while until they must have become bored and off they went in a cloud of wings again.
I get coots and moorhens mixed up. Rookie’s mistake. I think coots have the white mark on the forehead and moorhens the red. I could Google it (or Alphabet it as I read it is soon to become) but I can’t be bothered. I shall let the reader do the research. They look the same and make a gawd awful noise. Probably from the same family of fowl. If the moorhen is the red foreheaded one, then they seem like the larger of the two. Confusion reigns on the high seas….the canals anyway.
A swan couple with their ugly duckling swim by sometimes. I haven’t seen them in a few days. They may have gone to the other part of the marina. They can be rather nasty, especially with the little one in tow, but they seem to know that we’re not going to harm them or their child. Besides, they want grub from us. But I don’t trust them. They can be vicious, even when you’re feeding them, hissing away as if what they’re being served isn’t up to snuff.
The other day a large Heron wafted in and sat on the stern fender of a boat across from ours. It stayed still and silent looking for its prey, some other fowl’s child. I never knew that about them. I saw a picture online of one with a small rabbit in its sharp beak. I didn’t wait around to see if the thing found some poor suspecting creature, a lost chick of one or the other species of fowl in the area. They are famous for patrolling the gardens of Britain, cleaning out ponds of fish and frogs. Too bad they look so magnificent. Hard to detest such beauty. Wh pretty women get away with so much. And that ain’t sexist folks, just a fact. Men are suckers for a pretty face and become twits in the presence of one. And, let’s face it, a bird is a bird.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Water fowl. Lots of them. Herons can’t eat them all. Funny though, when the Heron was around, the other fowl were pretty scarce….hiding even. They must sense the Heron’s presence and the danger it brings to them. The all clear was sounded once the Heron flew away and back came al the other fowl.
By far, my favourite are the ducks. Never thought I’d say that. But they are lovely creatures. A gang of them has been roaming the waters of the marina all week. Mums, dads and young ones, some quacking, some making an attempted quack and still others peeping. And they do it all at once. You know when they are approaching, believe me. They go between boats, up one aisle and down the next, hoping someone is there to toss some tidbits their way. I have not purchased duck food, so bread has had to suffice. Ducks care not. They’ll eat almost anything….except stones I’ve noticed.
I know bread isn’t the best for them….swells in their stomachs apparently, but it’s traditional and they love it too. And anyway, I only use wholemeal. So there. They all know me now. Ought to be hearing them approach soon. They are due. They were here earlier. About six adults and ten ducklings, which have grown some in the eleven days I’ve been on board. The ducklings fight over every morsel. It’s a sight to see. Looks greedy, but don’t forget, ducks have bird brains. I love the way they seem to run along the water’s surface in a group while pursuing a small piece of bread. Looks reminiscent of an olympic dash.
One of the female adults has a limp. I know this because she gets up on the dock to which our boat is tied and limps up to our side window, puts her head in and makes a very delicate quacking noise. As if she is asking if it’s OK for them to be there…the brood that is. As I approach the window, she hobbles out of the way slightly to allow me to dish out the goods. Feels a little like Halloween and Trick or Treating. She waits patiently while the little ones are fed, wagging her short tail feathers and quacking quietly, probably telling the little ones to wait their turn and not be so greedy. English ducks are raised to show manners.
Then it’s her turn. I put a piece on the side deck and she limps over, bends her neck and takes the piece of bread. I do this several times before resuming with the rest who are still in the water. As I do so, the disabled female limps up to the window and brushes her neck against my hand. I’ve never seen that before and have not experienced anything like it. She rubs the side of my arm twice more, then she’s off into the water with the rest. Almost at a command the others fall in behind her and off they go.
That’ll have to do for now. I hear the parade coming this way. Quackers ahoy!