Winter weather is here and we wonder how Boris will fare.
Each spring we’re heartened to see wild ducks on our pond. We start to notice personalities as they trek to the seed-scattered ground under our birdfeeders and the corn my husband puts out for them. We always leave a wide unmowed perimeter around the feeder as cover for birds visiting in daylight and other creatures coming by to eat dropped seed after dusk.
Although we’ve never encountered any waterfowl as hilarious as Louse the Goose, duck antics are a pleasure to watch. That’s more true than ever this year, with political chaos and a pandemic on our minds. There’s substantial peace found watching ducks out the window while waiting for coffee to brew or sitting on the back porch as the ducks converse in murmured honks with one another. We grow particularly fond of the nesting females and root for their ducklings to survive despite all the nearby predators known to feast on them.
We know winter has truly arrived when the ducks have departed.
But this year we have Boris* to consider. Boris hung around all spring and summer, noticeable due to a broken wing that healed at a strange angle and renders him flightless. A few weeks ago a raft of ducks arrived. They swam and dined with Boris all day, then flew away. Ducks aren’t always the kindest to each other but this looked like a farewell party.
We know Boris will be spending the winter here, alone. We continue to leave birdseed and cracked corn out for him. We have the shelter of tall grasses and sunchokes for him to hide in, but the pond will inevitably freeze and we don’t know what Boris will do then. The water is safest place for a flightless duck. Every day I see Boris happily doing mallard things is a good day.
And then, unexpectedly, another lone male mallard showed up. He and Boris have been swimming and eating together for nearly two weeks. Maybe Boris’ duck pal will keep him company till spring. Although experts have told us humans to expect a dire winter, maybe it won’t be as dire for our duck friends. We have many outcomes to hope for. Might as well include ducks in those hopes.
*Boris doesn’t appear in pictures. He’s a wary duck, a very important skill when one can’t fly.