It has been the Winter of Black Leggings. And snow. It’s May and it’s still cold. But the sun is out occasionally and nature ploughs on regardless. There are ducklings in Herbert Park. They are new life, they are fluffy, they are tiny but they grow rapidly.
I see them every day when I walk through the park. They stop me in my tracks every time, without fail, even if I’m running late, I stop to gaze at them. Mother Duck fussing, hovering, minding. Father Duck further off, the strong silent type. Sometimes I feed them and then, my word, that Mother is something to behold. She flies, a moving streak of indignation, at the seagulls who try to steal the ducklings food, squawking at them until they disperse. She keeps them together this mama, she is hyper-vigilant. At first count there were eleven and two weeks on there are still eleven, despite the pesky gulls and the ominous omnipotence of the resident heron.
Every year you hear stories of the heron picking off the ducklings one by one. But this year they seemed to survive. I saw them today, they were on the island. They are big now. Can ducklings be called adolescent?! Because that’s what they look like. They seemed to be sunbathing, mama ever-present. I fed them and kept walking, happy to see them, all eleven together enjoying the sunshine. I think they release endorphins in me, these ducklings. My mood lifts literally every time I see them.
Oh…but then…it was all going so well…there is another duck family. New ducklings, proper downy babies – five of them. I saw two together and then another three but no mama, no adult at all. Then I saw it – the duck, upside down in the water, other ducks pecking at it. Further up, another one. Carnage. What had happened? The babies were orphaned, bewildered, heading off in all directions, confused, searching for their Mother. They were so tiny, I wanted to jump in and rescue them myself. Thank God there was a park warden there who had equipment for such folly. She fished the dead ducks from the water but the babies… they were scared. They moved so quickly it looked like they were running across the water. She told me she would take care of them, that it would take time to get them out of the water but she would manage it. When I left her, she was calling for back up! She explained to me that the males become very aggressive during mating season and kill the females and that tranquil as it looks the lake is a jungle! Survival of the fittest. Raging hormones, predators, lunch is for wimps – how nature reflects life! She said it was important to keep the ducklings together, they find it hard to survive the loss of a parent but impossible to survive without their siblings. How different are we from them at all?!