Spring brings courtships, rivalries.
It was evening, the time of day when the slanting rays of the sun make the pond near my house look like a Monet painting … a colorful, shimmering reflection of the surrounding trees.
A white, male Muscovy duck was paddling in circles, occasionally sipping water, as if he was getting a little exercise before settling down for the night.
On the bank, a black female appeared and waddled off into the water. Behind her, a dozen ducklings jumped into the water one at a time. The duck mom swam across the pond, looking like she was towing a long yellow rope as they followed close behind.
She settled into the grass across the pond and the ducklings gathered around her. Eventually you could only see only one or two as they snuggled under her wings for the night. The male eventually came ashore and settled down near them.
That was a few weeks ago, and as I watched the ducklings since then, I noticed there were fewer and fewer. Now there are none. I suppose natural predators, like alligators, and neighborhood pets are to blame.
It’s part of nature, which is both beautiful and violent. But not pure nature … it’s nature doing the best it can in a residential neighborhood.
Thinking about the weeks that led up to that peaceful scene, I feel like I’ve seen my own version of “Swan Lake,” or maybe “Duck Lake.”
At first there was a rivalry between two females. They both followed the male around until one must have won out, because the other disappeared for quite a while.
Then, there were the big fights.
A larger, black male appeared and challenged the white male. They became engaged in a vicious fight in the pond. I thought for sure one of them would drown, but I saw both of them later.
Those courtship fights apparently look more terrible than they really are.
Another time, they started fighting on the bank. I was impressed by the smaller, white male. He attacked and attacked. The black male broke off and flew into the pond, but the white male followed him and continued the fight in the water.
A week or so after the last fight, I saw the white male following along behind the female and her ducklings. Ah, the victor, with his happy family.
The ducklings are gone, but there will be other springs and more hatchlings with a chance to survive. Some of them must make it to maturity or there wouldn’t be all those Muscovy ducks on ponds throughout the city.
It was interesting to watch, this little “Duck Lake” story, and I think I’ll remember that peaceful scene on the pond that evening for a long time.