Thursday, November 3, 2016

Birds of the Quarry, 3 - The Mallard

Mostly, mallards do things in pairs. Fortunately the stylist of creation distinguished the genders so that we can follow the sexes separately, if not individually as they do in matrimony.

During their nuptials the mallards are mutually appreciative and theatrical.

Then they go off together to set  up a nesting site. Mrs. Mallard seems to have the deciding say in its location, as she's the one who keeps solitary vigil over the eggs and manages the welfare of the ducklings. Her camouflaged coloration must safeguard her during the vulnerability.

It is the only time of year when the gentlemen mallards keep their own company exclusively.

The nest may be secluded at a considerable distance from the Halibut Point quarry, although it is probably near at least a puddle large enough to give safety to the brood when it hatches. Ducklings can swim immediately after emerging from their shells.

Then they begin the serious comedy of preparing to fly.

The National Audubon Society  website looks past the commonness of mallards, their predilection for urban parks and for children's bread-crust handouts. "Although barnyard and feral ducks may be dumpy and ungainly creatures, the ancestral wild Mallard is a trim, elegant, wary, fast-flying bird." With a strong tailwind in migration they have been known to travel 800 miles in 8 hours, at altitudes above 2,000 feet. They may lose up to half their body weight during this exertion.

Alternatively they may stay to endure our winter. Beneath waterproof outer feathers the ducks have a snug layer of down.

When the quarry freezes over the mallards move down to Folly Cove to forage along the shoreline. They have neither nerves nor blood vessels in their feet.

They have already made their familial commitments for the year ahead.

In spring the mallards follow softening weather to hospitable wetlands throughout the Park. The drake and the hen, separately arrayed for their parts in the union, display the common blue speculum on their wings.

The Prince of Iridescence
Perfectly contoured feathers keep the duck afloat or aflight, as needed. Their crisp lines seem more painted than sprouted as though drawn for the pleasure of a sublime eye more demanding than survival itself.

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