Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wits and Will -- The Exceptions to the Rule

(Photos:  1-- The Bradley Brigade. Despite the "rules" against them, all three domestic ducks not only survive, but flourish in an otherwise, difficult environment.  2-- Chrissy.  A disabled mallard who has used wits and will to survive an otherwise, life threatening injury.)
All rules have exceptions.
This was my thought when reading a very fine and mostly factual article published a couple of days ago, regarding the usually dire fate of domestic ducks and geese abandoned to public parks:
Indeed, it is an act of cruelty and irresponsibility to abandon to circumstance, domestic animals raised in captivity and/or human homes.
Nature tends not always to be kind to "interlopers" on the territory and space of wild and native animals.
Additionally, abandonment to the random outdoors for an animal accustomed to indoor, regulated temperatures and controlled environment has to be a very terrifying and challenging ordeal for the goose or duck who has never seen grass or a lake or had to forest for food.
Most important and significant, geese and ducks are, "flock animals."  Without a flock to interact, work with and rely on for protection, a goose or duck (whether domestic or wild) is more or less doomed.
Still, there are the exceptions to the rule.
Brad, Piggly and Wiggly at Harlem Meer are notable exceptions.
All three are domestic, flightless "barnyard" ducks who have not only survived life in a public park, but flourished.
I personally don't know the origin of these birds.  They may have been "Easter ducklings" abandoned when grown up or possibly even rescued from a "Live Poultry Market" and dropped off at the park.  But, regardless of the original circumstances, Brad, Piggly and Wiggly have miraculously endured.
I don't know when Brad first appeared at Harlem Meer.  But, I know he has been there for at least the three years that I have been visiting.
Brad is, I believe, a "Rouen" duck or he could be, a "Kacki Campbell."  For the first two years of my observances of him, Brad was with a female Kacki Campbell ("Angelina").  The two ducks might have been dropped off together or eventually found each other on the lake.  This was of course, crucial to their survival -- to at least have each other.
Sadly, something happened to Angelina last spring and overnight, she mysteriously vanished.
For months, Brad was alone and seemingly "lost" on the lake.  Constantly searching for Angelina, his status immediately diminished among the other waterfowl, I seriously worried for Brad and even spoke to Central Park rangers about the possibility of rescue and seeking a sanctuary for him.
But, the request was dismissed with "Nature should take its course" even though we weren't talking about nature or wild birds, but rather, a domestic duck abandoned and alone in a park.
Nevertheless, despite the lack of flock and status, Brad pressed on and managed, if not to be totally accepted by mallards at least not to be attacked by them. He had, after all, already survived several years on the Meer.
But, I worried what would happen to Brad in winter when the lake froze over and all the mallards and geese would leave?
Certainly, Brad could not survive all alone on a frozen lake!
But, as matters turned out, the lake never entirely froze over during this exceptionally mild winter and the mallards and geese never left.
Brad was lucky in other ways, too.
This past fall, two other domestic (Kacki Campbell) ducks mysteriously appeared at the lake, though at different times.
First there was Piggly.
A skinny, wretched and seemingly very weak duck, Piggly began showing up for treats some time in October as I recall.
I did not think this "lone duck" had any chance for survival at all.  Not only was Piggly mercilessly attacked by mallards, but even Brad did not initially accept him.
I tried to get extra food to Piggly in effort to strengthen and fatten him up but it most often seemed like a fruitless effort due to the relentless attacks by other birds. 
Nevertheless, over the weeks that followed, Piggly gained strength and developed a very keen ability to dart and escape mallard attacks as well as to quickly grab food.
About a month following Piggly's appearance, Wiggly began showing up for food.
Wiggly was a female Kacki Campbell and though in better shape than Piggly when he was first dumped, she too, was alone and skittish.
It was my hope then that the two domestic ducks would take up with each other for protection and companionship.
It took a while, but that eventually occurred.
And as fall began to give way to winter, Brad ultimately welcomed and took the other two domestic ducks under his protective wing.
That is, in fact, how the "Bradley Brigade" and "Three Duckateers" came to be. Birds of a feather flocking together for safety, companionship and survival.
But, as noted, it wasn't something that occurred over a day or a week, but rather several months.
All three domestic ducks were lucky that there were other domestics in the same predicament.  Were that not so, its unlikely they would have ultimately or easily survived.
Another "exception to the rule" is Chrissy.
To be frank, I have no idea how this disabled mallard has survived nor can I guess how a mallard sustains an almost back-crippling injury (unless being hit with something).
But, somehow, Chrissy has endured for at least a year despite being barely able to walk.
But, sometimes in nature, those with disabilities are able to compensate and adapt in other ways that enable them to survive.
In Chrissy's case, she is exceptionally smart and has learned to use her eyes and wits to access food quicker than the rest of the mallards with full and greater physical strength.
Some animal lovers might have thought it wiser to try and rescue Chrissy and bring her to a bird hospital or vet.
But, I am quite sure that most vets would recommend euthanasia for a wild mallard who is basically crippled and for whom there is no treatment.
But, perhaps medicines, "treatment" and "rules" aren't always the keys to survival and endurance.
Wits and will are.
In today's modern world, there are many humans who can't seem to get through the days without some "medication" from the cradle to the grave.
One wonders how animals in nature survive without any of these "feel gooders" -- even those animals who the rules say should not survive?
Perhaps there is real truth in the statement that, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
I personally believe that to be especially true for geese whom humans have waged "war" upon, but who nevertheless, not only survive, but prosper and procreate.
And it can sometimes and obviously be true for domestic ducks and other animals abandoned to the wilds or city parks who have nothing but wits and will to survive on.
In the quests for survival, wits and will seemingly outdo medications and human manipulation every time.
That is what creates the exceptions to the rules or perhaps more accurately, the very rules themselves.
"Let nature take its course," I was once told by park rangers.
And I now believe they were right as nature takes care of its own -- apparently much better than we humans can and do.
Nature provides wits and will where the obvious and even necessary may lack.  -- PCA

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