ON DUCKS AND GEESE

NATURE IN DISARRAY

Essay and photos by @PCZick

During this time of staying home, we’ve found different ways to entertain ourselves. Some may question our affinity to one of our new pastimes, but it keeps us out of trouble and perhaps sane. Although again some may question that.

Twin Lakes

Our house sits across a private road from a pond known as Twin Lakes. There is a question where the twin resides, and the lake designation seems optimistic. Our road, subdivision, and pond are all named Twin Lakes, so the whole thing is one big misnomer. No wonder the wildlife here may be disturbed.

The saga began when two Muscovy ducks took up residence on the “lake” several years ago. This species of duck are a pestilence in certain parts of the city, but we only had the pair. Until someone got tired of waiting for the ducks to cross the road one day and ran over one of them. We were told by the wildlife officials the male of the couple had bit the pavement. So, the one lone female with large red warts on its face remained. We named her the Ugly Duckling, but she seemed so pitiful in her aloneness that we decided we mustn’t mention the Ugly word in her presence—this decision may be the reason my daughter questions our attachment.

Instead, we took to calling her UD. The only time UD perked up came in January the past two years of her widowhood when the Canada geese arrived for the winter. One pair comes every year and UD began making it a threesome, even going so far as sitting on the nest when the female goose laid her eggs. For two years, we enjoyed the ducklings born in the early spring although it was difficult for vehicles to come in and out of Twin Lakes when two adult geese, one UD, and six ducklings decided to own the road.

UD

Then in April, the Canada geese and their offspring would depart, leaving UD alone and depressed. We did our best to give her a cheery, “Good morning, UD,” on our morning walks and eventually, she became used to us and even followed us on our walks. We became her people.

In January this year, the geese returned, and the threesome once again resumed their odd little trio of waterfowl. One day in March, I heard a ruckus on the water and could see from our front yard large wings flapping. I walked toward the disturbance on the single pond Twin Lakes and saw something quite disturbing. I called for my husband, and when he saw, he said, “Is UD trying to kill it?”

“No,” I replied. “UD is mating with the female.” All the while, the male goose sat in the water watching, not more than ten feet away, while UD’s beak held the neck of the goose.

Several things shocked us. First, UD is a male. And “he” disrupted the habit of the Canada geese that are usually monogamous and pick mates for life. And I later learned geese don’t run in packs, especially during mating season. UD and Twin Lakes had turned nature upside down in our little isolated world.

Soon enough, the nest was laid, eggs deposited, and the female began incubating the potential offspring. We couldn’t go near the nest without the male goose or UD coming after us, so we left them in peace. During the day, the male goose floated guard on the water. And at night, UD took over the duties. Then about two weeks later, they abandoned the nest. The geese ignored the nest, even allowing me to take pictures of the six eggs that had been revealed—not broken but abandoned. Sometimes, UD would stand over the nest sadly looking down at the eggs.

The geese haven’t left yet, and this morning, I heard another ruckus between the three of them, but I didn’t see a repeat performance of the ménage trois of Twin Lakes.

When they do leave, as I assume they will, UD will come back to us for comfort. But we will never think of him in the same way ever again.

And we may have to rename him as the Stud of Twin Lakes, STL for short.

In researching the life history of geese and ducks, I discovered that Canada geese rarely take another mate. But Muscovy ducks have no such standards. While it is possible for them to mate (as I can witness), it is unlikely that it would take. But if it did, the chances are the offspring would be sterile.

Published by P. C. Zick

I write. It's as simple and as complicated as that. Storytelling creates our cultural legacy.

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