If you’re a duckling, death looms large. Injury & Disease are constant companions, and being nothing more than fluff and water, you’re easily squished by hoofed mammals, humans, even other ducks. There are a thousand things that like to eat you; from dogs, cats, and most quadrupeds, to the large bass in the pond, to snakes (though you’re generally too fast for those) to the most notorious of all, snapping turtles, who rise silently from below while you’re paddling innocently about, and swallow you in a single bite. In my almost two decades of having ducks around the place, I thought I had seen every method of duckling destruction known to man, but this past weekend provided a first. I was out in the garden, mowing the pasture, when I noticed that a great blue heron was wading along the shoreline of the pond. I didn’t think much about it, as the bloody bird had already fished out the $300 worth of large koi I had specially mail-ordered in last spring. So, I thought, let it eat a bluegill or two, if it could catch one – welcome to it. Obviously the ducks felt the same way, as they were merrily swimming near the heron, just out of range… Supposedly. One of hatchlings, however, strayed out of the green zone near its mother, and Bam! Before I could even move a muscle, the heron had reached out, skewered the poor thing in a single thrust, flipped its head back, and chugged, chugged, chugged it down.
Over and out little duckling.
I chased the heron away of course; and of course, it will be back, silently stalking the shallows; there’s nothing I can do about that. Hopefully though the remaining ducklings – never terribly bright under the best of circumstances – have been imprinted with a valuable lesson and will henceforth steer a wider heron berth, having discovered that for a duck, death comes not only from below, but from above as well.