Friday, May 4, 2012

Pigeon's Lonely Duckling

Father was the first to see the new ducklings. It was late evening in late April, and the sun had just tipped the sky towards twilight. Come look! he cried,  pointing out to the pond. Mother and Pigeon came and squinted out into the pinkish dusk. They heard them before they saw them, squawking and squabbling at the muddy edges of the water. Mama ducks and papa ducks were grouped together in families at different corners of the pond, nuzzling at swarms of tiny little heads bobbing up and down at their flanks. Father grabbed the camera, and Mother found some old stale bread. Pigeon held on tight to her shoulder, and down they went to welcome their new friends.

Pigeon watching & being watched

The mama ducks heard them coming. They honked and hollered and high-tailed it away across the pond, nudging and knocking their little ones into line beside them.

It's what I would do if some large, strange creatures were coming at me with my babies, Mother thought. They waited at the water's edge, their feet sinking into the mud, and watched. The papas nudged and flapped the little yellow balls of fuzz into the water, let them swim, and nudged them out again. Mamas led their troops to food. Babies followed close beside, the occasional slow-poke scuttling over the water to catch up to his family as they circled the pond. But the ducks would not come close to Pigeon's family.

Oh, well, let's leave them some food, Mother said to Pigeon. Maybe they will decide we are friendly and come back tomorrow. She scattered torn bits of bread over the shallow inlet, and they went inside.

The next day, the ducks did come back. When Mother spied a family nibbling the grasses at their bank, she took Pigeon and a few slices of bread back down to the water's edge. This time the mamas did not swim away. This time, they came closer. They were not afraid. Pigeon pulled at the grass and sucked on his toes while Mother counted ten ducklings. They named the mama Lucinda. Another duck family came by, with a papa. They looked more like a Mathilda and Jack. Their babies were still little, but quite a bit older than the others.

Mathilda and Jack

Lucinda's babies
Mathilda & Jack's children

That evening while Pigeon napped, Mother and Father heard a howling. At first they thought it was Pigeon, awake in his bed. But it was coming from the thicket beyond the pond. They listened for a long time and worried over the ducklings. Father wanted to protect them, but their was nothing he could do.

And then Pigeon's family left town for a few days. When they returned they didn't see any ducks at all. But it was a stormy day, and they weren't surprised. But the day after that was sunny and calm, and the pond was still very quiet. Finally Mother spied a lone mama duck. Was it Lucinda? Let's take her some bread, she said to Pigeon. Maybe the ducks found another friendly bank while we were away. Maybe if we feed this mama, she will bring her babies back...

But when they got to the pond's edge, they saw she wasn't entirely alone. And she wasn't Lucinda. This mama was much smaller and thin. Close to her side was one lonely little duckling. He looked much younger than Mathilda and Jack's children. Where are your brothers and sisters? Mother asked. Where are your friends, your uncles and aunts? But of course, the duckling didn't answer.

The pair seemed pleased for the bits of bread Pigeon had brought. They ate for a long time, even wandering up into the grass with webbed feet to nibble the stray crumbs that had fallen there. Maybe they will bring back their friends tomorrow, Mother said.

The next day the thin mama duck was back, and beside her the same small, lonely duckling. But the only other duck to join them was an emerald-headed papa, also smaller and thinner than the others. Mother hurried to take them some bread. Mother noticed how the papa duck let the other two eat before he did. He looked like a Gordon. The mama was Pearl. And the lonely little duckling had to be Scout.

Pearl & Gordon with Scout
Was he (she?) a sole survivor? A sweet little runt, needing extra days at mama's side? Perhaps the thin, quiet couple had adopted little Scout. Whatever their story, Mother was happy to show them some hospitality, for she was the mama of one lonely little bird herself. These ducks were a family, and they were willing to break bread with Pigeon and his parents. And if they were all that was left of the flurry of life that had erupted on the doorstep a week before, well, then they needed a safe, friendly bank to find their feet on. Pigeon's pond was indeed a place where a lonely bird could find a friend, a patch of mud warm in the sunshine, and a few scraps of bread to share.


  1. I just found your blog from Soulemama, and have read many posts. Just beautiful! You have such a way with words and your camera. I will definitely be stopping by...

    1. So glad you enjoyed what you read, Alex! Thanks for coming by and taking a moment to comment :o) It's always nice to meet new friends!


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