Saturday, January 26, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough, One "Scatterbrain" Duck Emerges as Leader

Wiggly, the once "scatterbrain" Khacki Campbell domestic duck, now a bonified leader.
Working together, the ducks expanded the open pool of water, despite frigid temperatures.
Time to fuel up and take short break.
Wiggly remaining dutifully in water, while others eat.
Hector the swan, taking it easy while the others work.
"The coldest week in New York City since 1996."

Its nearly a week since temperatures in New York City plummeted to the low teens and virtually all of Central Park lakes and ponds froze over.

When last I left the six domestic ducks and one mallard at an iced over Harlem Mere on Thursday morning, they were reduced to confinement on a tiny pool of shrinking water not more than 5 or 6 feet in diameter.

I was convinced that the rapidly vanishing pool would not remain liquid through the night.

But, never discount the sheer determination of waterfowl when the going gets tough and the chips are down. 

Apparently, the "tough get going" and the chips fall where they will.

Wiggly, the one duck who survived last winter at the Mere and who I have long deemed a kind of "scatterbrain" apparently recognized the quandary all six ducks were in and remembered well the lessons she had been taught by her mentor, Brad (now deceased).

I am not exactly sure how Wiggly did it (other than showing by example), but somehow, she and the other six ducks managed, not only to maintain the tiny pool of water, but actually expand it! 

I fully expected yesterday to find all six ducks stranded on a frozen block of ice.

But, instead, they were all cheerfully and energetically swimming on a pool of water that was at least 20 feet in diameter!

How in the world? I thought when remembering the temperature the night before had plunged to 12 degrees, causing running water fountains in New York City to actually freeze.  It seemed impossible that with everything else in the city freezing over, this one pool of water would not only remain, but actually expand!  

The rest of the lake at Harlem Mere was so frozen solid, that one man foolishly ran across the ice, bouncing a basketball on it!

And yet, there were the ducks swimming in the pool, like it was a glorious spring day. I truly could not believe my eyes -- though was grateful for what I was seeing.

Similar to the previous day, the other ducks left the water to come and grab treats that I tossed on ice, while Wiggly remained determinedly swimming in the water.

The domestic ducks were much more confident and adept at "skating" on the ice than the previous day and even sauntered up to the embankment.

After about ten minutes, Wiggly, finally decided to take a short break and leave the grueling task at hand.   She left the water and walked a few steps on the ice to quickly scoop up some cracked corn.

But, after no more than a few mouth fulls, Wiggly let out a loud honk to the others and then dutifully returned to the water.

"It's time to get back to business, guys!  Now!!"

And like good soldiers just given marching orders, the other ducks slowly returned and joined Wiggly "working" the pool.

Though they are only six, the domestic ducks received additional help from one mallard, one coot and even some passing sea gulls yesterday.

The one bird they seemingly did not get any help from was Hector, the swan, who yesterday, casually sauntered around on grass begging treats from passersby.

Hector is apparently still unwilling to "lower dignity" for the sake of maintaining open water with the lowly ducks. If the pool freezes over, so be it.  He has other options.

Perhaps it shouldn't have been so shocking yesterday that the domestic, flightless ducks were able to maintain and actually create open water -- especially with the sheer determination and apparent "leadership" of the duck I once thought of as a total flake.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

And though she may at other times be a "scatterbrain," when the chips are down, Wiggly steps up to the ice and becomes a bonified leader.

"Brad's legacy," one might say.

Wiggly was taught well last winter.  -- PCA



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