Friday, May 01, 2015

'From troubles of the world I turn to ducks...'

Well I might well. However, Frank W Harvey was a just a bit sentimental; in fact ducks' lives can seem like the troubles of the world in microcosm: precarious, filled with fear and violence not only from predators (he does acknowledge this to a point) but sometimes from each other.

Still, let's not dwell on that, they are beautiful comical things too. For which reason people like to feed them, as here at Waltham Abbey:

and geese and pigeons too. I rather miss this custom, which is not so widespread here in France; we have tried it but the ducks generally seem rather uncertain about the nature of the bargain; perhaps they don't care for baguette as much as Hovis sliced, or perhaps until more recent times, for ducks in close proximity with humankind, it might have been less clear who'd end up feeding whom.

The abundance of food can lead to overcrowding in urban duck populations in the UK, which can lead to problems, yet the sight of tame, sleek, duck families is endearing.

Ducks and drakes:

Drake bromance:

Duck and numerous ducklings:


They are a social focus for humans too; the ritual of duck feeding is a shared and friendly thing, people stopped and talked about them, discussed the numbers of ducklings.

And then they quack...


marja-leena said...

Great photos! Were these taken in the UK on your recent visit?

Lucy said...

Thanks ML! Yes, they were taken in Waltham Abbey, in the Lee Valley in Essex, a big area of urban sprawl and wetlands, but interesting. We've just been watching some amazing eider ducklings on a programme about Iceland.

Sabine said...

Such detail and so close up, beautiful photos!!

Here in my German city with so many parks and ponds and a fat river, we have lots of ducks but alas, feeding is not allowed any longer.
For one thing, the ponds get overgrown with algae from the many bits of old bread that the ducks don't gobble up.
But mainly, it's because old bread is apparently bad for ducks, too much salt, to many added preservatives and flavourings and often enough, mould.
Some places offer special duck/bird food but apparently the birds are now so overfed, some have trouble flying.

What has become of the world, I ask.

Catalyst said...

We have at least two newly hatched warblers from the nest over our front door.

Zhoen said...

Ah, I miss the waterfowl on the Fenway on the way to and from... well, anywhere.

Roderick Robinson said...

Gosh, the closer one gets the more artificial the drakes look: so smooth, the subject of endless polishing. Also they should stick to the water; when they walk about on land they move like overweight Tesco shoppers, hips seized up, lurching from left to right. Unlike Tesco shoppers they have no trolley to lean on - in Darwinian terms they have a long way to go. And then I think of Chinatown, but no... this is a nature post, not one of the BBC's innumerable cooking programmes.

Ellena said...

Thank you for showing us the wonderful side of the coin.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Lovely photos, specially those showing the multi coloured nature of the drakes' heads and the beautiful blue in the duck's wing.

I wish people wouldn't feed bread to the ducks, it's not good for them, yet oddly they often turn their beaks up at grain (which is better for them)

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Sabine - oh dear, that is a sad state of affairs isn't it? Perhaps it would be better if we did eat them, but that would seem like a betrayal, as they are so tame.

Catalyst - how lovely! Fledging fledglings...

Robbie - just reading 'Post Captain'; one of the Williams girls' prospective suitors said she 'danced like a swan', to which Mrc W scoffed that swans can't dance, they have webbed feet. But I think that sitting ducks are rather nice on land, they look as if you should be able to take their lids off and find something nice inside. I do wonder if plum sauce might not be an answer to urban duck overcrowding problems; I heard somewhere that somewhere in Canada the urban Canada geese had got to pest proportions and there was talk of culling them and feeding the homeless with roast goose, but people were queasy about the idea. I remember once reading that a mallard should be treated like a piece of toast: spread with butter and marmalade and crisply grilled, which I must say is rather mouthwatering, if one can accomplish the disconnect, which I can quite easily. But you couldn't do it to them when they're so trusting really, could you?

Ellena - thank you!

CGP - mm, Sabine said (above) that it's forbidden in Germany. Humans aren't the only creatures to opt for salty and processed over what's good for them, evidently! I do wonder if salt itself is so bad though, I think most ducks can get about and feed on brackish if not actual sea water. I'm sure if mallards were rare they would be considered sublimely beautiful birds, in fact, and how odd that that shade of blue-green is called teal, when it is far more likely to be seen on a mallard!

the polish chick said...

they are such beauties, but evil evil beasties if one uses that always unreliable measure: anthropomorphism. we saw two ducks engaged in what one would delicately call a "romantic" moment, and it was so violent and ugly that we, adults all and not particularly dainty, felt shaken for a long time after. ah, ducks - not my particular escape from the troubles of the world.

Lucy said...

Hi PC - yes duck rape, including gang rape, is frequent and horrible, and is not only distressing for us to watch but clearly for the female duck to suffer, and can even end in fatalities. I think it's mainly mallards that indulge in it, and again, it's particularly, though not exclusively, a problem on urban ponds and rivers as a result of overfeeding and overcrowding. Eating them might well be an acceptable solution.