On Ducks and Geese

ON DUCKS AND GEESE

Ugly Duckling AKA UD

During the pandemic, we found different ways to entertain ourselves. Some may question our affinity to one of our new pastimes, but it kept us out of trouble and perhaps sane. Although some may be questioning the sanity part as we move into the third year of COVID.

Our house sits across from a pond known as Twin Lakes. There is a question where the twin resides, and the lake designation seems optimistic. Our road, subdivision, and pond are all named Twin Lakes, so the whole thing is one big misnomer. No wonder the wildlife here may be disturbed.

The saga began when two Muscovy ducks took up residence on the “lake” several years ago. This species of duck is a pestilence in certain parts of the city, but we only had the pair. Until someone got tired of waiting for the ducks to cross the road one day and ran over one of them. We were told by the wildlife officials the male of the couple had bit the pavement. So, the one lone female with large red warts on its face remained. We named her the Ugly Duckling, but she seemed so pitiful in her aloneness that we decided we mustn’t mention the Ugly word in her presence. Instead, we took to calling her UD.

The only time UD perked up came in January during the first two years of her widowhood when the Canada geese arrived for the winter. One pair came every year, and UD began making it a threesome, even going so far as sitting on the nest when the female laid her eggs. For two years, we enjoyed the ducklings born in the early spring, although it was difficult for vehicles when two adult geese, one UD, and six ducklings decided to own the road.

Then in April, the Canada geese and their offspring would depart, leaving UD alone and depressed. We did our best to give her a cheery, “Good morning, UD,” on our daily walks, and eventually, she became used to us and even followed us for a few feet. One night, my husband went out to the yard to gaze at the full moon, and UD waddled over and stood next to him. We became her people.

In January last year, the geese returned, and the threesome once again resumed their odd little trio of waterfowl. One day in March, I heard a ruckus on the water. I walked toward the disturbance on the single pond Twin Lakes and saw something quite disturbing. I called for my husband, and when he saw, he said, “Is UD trying to kill it?”

“No,” I replied. “UD is mating with the female.” All the while, the male goose sat in the water watching, not more than ten feet away, while UD’s beak held the neck of the goose.

Several things shocked us about this scene. First, UD is a male. And “he” disrupted the habit of the Canada geese that are usually monogamous and pick mates for life. And geese don’t run in packs, especially during mating season. UD and Twin Lakes had turned nature upside down in our little isolated world.

Soon enough, the nest was laid, eggs deposited, and the female began incubating the potential offspring. We couldn’t go near the nest without the male goose or UD coming after us, so we left them in peace. During the day, the male goose floated guard on the water. And at night, UD took over the duties. Then about two weeks later, the female abandoned the nest. The geese ignored it, even allowing me close enough to take pictures of the six eggs—not broken but abandoned. Sometimes, UD would stand over the nest sadly looking down at the eggs.

The Eggs

A few weeks later, the geese flew away leaving UD alone once again. But he had us. Whenever a day passed without seeing UD, we would call for him, and he would appear from the marsh on the opposite side. Not all Muscovys fly, and UD fell into that category with swimming and waddling as his only form of travel.

As usual, in January of this year the geese returned. I drove into the subdivision one day and saw them land on the water. And then I noticed UD at the other side of the pond swimming—as quickly as I’d ever seen him go—toward the geese. They ignored him and swam away.

For several weeks, we would see the two geese and one duck swimming together, but soon I noticed UD had stopped following them around, and while the geese pecked at lawns, UD would sit with his back to them.

There were no repeat performances of the ménage trois of Twin Lakes. And the female hasn’t laid any eggs yet. And sadly, it has been two months since there has been a UD sighting. And we look. Oh, do we look. And we call his name. No UD.

We don’t know what happened to the mascot of Twin Lakes, but I have my suspicions. Those geese have been acting guilty. One of them even screeched at its own reflection in the neighbor’s sliding glass door the other day. Now if that doesn’t reek paranoia, I don’t know what does.

They came into our yard last week. I screamed, “Murderers,” and they hissed at me. I chased them with a stick. Mourning UD has taken a decidedly questionable turn.

When I told my daughter about chasing the evil geese, she suggested we find another pastime. One that doesn’t involve our chasing and yelling at the geese, which is now not limited to our front yard. Yesterday, we went golfing, and one of my drives hit a Canada goose in the fairway.

“Way to go,” my husband shouted. “Revenge for UD.”

He high fived me, and I grinned.

We may have survived the time of COVID but how well remains questionable.

In Memory of the Twin Lakes Mascot

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