“Nature is the art of God.”
— Dante (1265-1321)
There’s no reason under the sun the ducks should have survived this long, but there they are, waddling as fast as they can toward the house. These beautiful, graceful water creatures look ridiculous on land, and that makes me smile. It’s a simple pleasure to have a duck happy to see you.
The ducks and I will greet midway between the house and the lake. They will turn around and waddle as fast as they can back to the lakeside where they’ll be fed corn and white bread. They like white bread better than whole wheat. I suspect whole wheat is chewy and Pekin ducks have no teeth.
It should be a habit to write down the date of acquiring new pets so one would know how old they are. You think you will remember these things, but time goes by and it slips into the recesses of the mind. I can’t remember the date, but I do remember the details.
Leah came from a neighbor who raised her in a field. When she came here she did not know how to swim and was apprehensive about the water. She had a weak eye but did not appear to be blind; that would come later.
Within six months her two companions disappeared. It was a sad time for both of us. That winter Leah learned to swim. I promised come spring I would get her some friends, and I did. I knew nothing about raising ducklings.
After about going crazy with three ducklings in the bathroom, Jacky Triplett loaned me a pen. He said the ducklings could not go to the lake until their oil had come in. Normally the momma duck would stroke the duckling and draw the oil. We had no such momma so we’d have to wait for the oil to come in on its own.
Research shows that bird feathers are a miraculous system of engineering. There is one barb off the main stem with tiny barbules. The barbules have hooks and ridges that fit together and create a sliding joint. The system will only work if the sliding joint is lubricated. For ducks the oil is also necessary for waterproofing their feathers. Without waterproofing the duck would get waterlogged and deathly cold in the winter.
At the base of the duck’s tail there’s a preening gland which supplies the oil. The ducks have to turn their necks 180 degrees to reach the gland and spread the oil throughout the feathers. It seems birds have 13 to 25 bones in their necks to accomplish the task, while we humans only have only seven bones.
Leah and her pals spend a lot of time preening. All this time I thought they were trying to look pretty, but their survival depends on preening.
Counting the winters I can about determine the ducks’ ages. Leah has survived predators through four winters and the “peeps,” two.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. In the past week, our reporters have posted 59 articles to cdispatch.com. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.