Image and copyright by Rodney Campbell:
The maddening crowd this time of year is not always defined by the shoppers at the mall. Today, it was a cluster of mallards that gathered mid-morning in the Ecorse Creek at Council Point Park.
I was happy to discover that the freezing fog, which put a kibosh on Saturday’s walk, had dissipated by mid-morning and I could still go for a Sunday stroll.
Since it was clear and dry, I decided to head to the Park, but not before I gathered a few goodies for my furry and feathered friends first.
In my fridge were a few bagels and English muffins that were so stale they could choke a horse. I crumbled up the muffins for the ducks and cut up the two bagels and smeared peanut butter on them as a treat for the squirrels.
So .. off I went, bearing gifts in this season of giving.
Soon I was at my favorite nature nook once again. The Park was fairly quiet as I started on the trail. I searched the trees for squirrels so I could entice them down for their treats which I planned to line up along one of the Park benches. I saw no squirrels, so I wiggled the bag of crumbled-up muffins and made a clicking noise with my tongue. Sure enough, one small squirrel (with good hearing) came scurrying from out of nowhere, eventually arriving near my feet to investigate what I was offering. I carefully set out some of the little “sammiches” on the bench and watched his reaction. He climbed up the bench and ambled over along the seat to see what I had put there, sniffed the snack appreciably, then gobbled them down one by one. Soon he looked over expectantly for more. “How about your buddies?” I asked, and quickly realized that was a dumb question since he bounded over closer to my foot and gazed at the bag in my hand. Alas, he had my heart, so I went back to the bench and gave him the balance of the treats.
I left him munching contentedly, then resumed my walk. On the opposite side of the perimeter path, I could hear water splashing and ducks quacking. Most of the bushes and trees are now bare, so I didn’t need to climb down the grassy embankment to scope out the situation. There were about 20 mallard ducks, both male and female, clustered together in the middle of the Ecorse Creek. Some were diving for food and I watched the occasional male take flight and exit the water quickly, then land a few yards away with a skid and a splash. I believe the whole gang had something to say as the quacking was quite loud. I walked closer to the edge and opened my bag to get the English muffin crumbles for them. I tossed out the contents of the bag, then watched every one of them scramble to be first to nibble on those yeasty treats that were floating on the water.
Suddenly, I saw one lone mallard male, swimming along quietly in the opposite direction. The others did not pay any attention to him. That got me wondering – was he bored by their antics? Did they bully him? Who ruffled his feathers? Maybe he just wanted to get away from the maddening crowd. I watched him for the longest time as he glided along the surface of the calm water, then he disappeared from my sight when he ducked into a little alcove. The rest of the crowd, seemingly oblivious to his absence, just kept carrying on.
I went back to the trail, finished that loop and started a second loop. My squirrel pal spied me and sought me out, but this round I had nothing for him. He made me smile as he still had a few smears of peanut butter clinging to the fur around his mouth. I glanced over to the Creek and the ducks were still there; their fracas was finished and now they were contently paddling along in the murky water, and all was right in their world.
My day was alright too – I felt peaceful, infused by nature and happy to have added five more miles to my goal on this December day.
I know you’ll appreciate this beautiful mallard’s image captured by photographer Rodney Campbell that accompanies this post. Rodney has entitled the photo “Splish Splash”.