Friday morning before work I did another Tour de Birds in the Park. I saw Green Herons like the one pictured above and I saw the Yellow Crowned Night Heron, pictured below. I saw Great White Egrets, Mallard Ducklings and the Wood Ducklings pictured in today’s header. I also got fifteen miles, but the best is yet to come, I got a story out of my little tour. This story involves a life and death struggle, but it also involves subterfuge and trickery. It was high drama.
Near the end of the my ride, as I was passing the fish ponds on the bike path, I heard a clucking sound. I stopped and approached the reeds on the near side, where the clucking seemed to be coming from. All the while I was thinking bird’s nest, with baby birds. Photo-Op!
I got to within about thirty feet of the reeds when the pictured Yellow Crowned and the Wood Ducks and ducklings flushed. The clucking got a whole lot louder and way more insistent. The Yellow Crown roosted on top of some wire fencing that the Park’s people had put up to protect the water vegetation from the geese. It had a central perch for the unfolding drama.
It turns out all the clucking noise was coming from one of the adult female Wood Ducks. It would swim in a spurt and then stop, clucking, not quacking mind you, all the while. It was then that I saw something moving under the water. Cue the theme from Jaws. Whatever it was, it was after that Wood Duck. The underwater menace would surge ahead. The Wood Duck would spurt ahead in response. Cluck! Cluck! Went the duck. I stood there transfixed as this dance of death was played out with my camera remaining at my side.
The dance continued for almost a minute as the duck and the underwater menace circled together the small pond. They made it two thirds around the circumference of the pond when the Wood Duck seemed to lose interest in the chase and instead of short spurting ahead, it double backed and just kept going. It reached a log in the middle of the pond and climbed up on it, still clucking away. It was then that I noticed that the other adult female Wood Duck and two ducklings were swimming at the opposite end of the pond. The one Wood Duck that was even still clucking and had been chased by the underwater menace, eventually rejoined them.
I do not know for sure what was under the water that morning. It could have been a large fish, but until last week that pond had been all but drained. It could have been a snake, but the bow wake of what ever was under the water seemed too broad for a slender snake. I think that it was a Snapping Turtle. I have seen good sized snappers in the vicinity. Once I encountered one on a similar morning. I found it hissing in the middle of the bike path. I gave that one wide berth.
In retrospect I think the Wood Ducks played the turtle. The one adult that was making all of the noise, lured it away from the ducklings, while the other adult steered the ducklings to safety. The Yellow Crown who had been sitting and watching this little melodrama unfold, must have decided that the show was over and flew off. I packed up my camera and mounted my bike, determined to get home and then to work. The Wood Duck was still clucking as I rode off.