I know the phrase “Kodak Moment” will sail right over your head unless you’re of a certain age. I’m sure many of you have never had the occasion to use a Kodak camera or film, let alone sent your roll of precious memories to Kodak’s processing plant in Rochester, New York, then checked your mailbox two or three weeks later for your prints and a fresh roll of film. Digital cameras and phone cameras have pretty much obliterated Kodak as King, as well as the phrase “Kodak Moment” which was part of that company’s ad campaign to focus on capturing those special images that might not happen again.
I would estimate that I carry my point-and-shoot camera with me on my daily treks 99.9% of the time. Not every image that crosses my eyes warrants taking a shot and many mornings the camera stays in its pouch on my fanny pack in the Summer, or tucked into a pocket once I’m wearing a coat.
And, then there are days that a glance at the sky, or multiple weather reports on the radio, Twitter and Accuweather’s website suggest rain or snow flurries may happen while I am out walking, so then I leave the camera at home.
It was just that occasion that I should have had my camera and did not a few weeks ago.
Feeding the critters.
I’ve been walking at Council Point Park since May of 2013 and I’ve been feeding the critters at that venue just as long. Yes, it is YOU that makes the decision to continue feeding them once you start (as they are your friends for life), however, should you decide to forego that nicety, chances are the squirrels and birds didn’t get the memo. They view your appearance on the perimeter path as Pavlov’s dog might have – “yay, the Peanut Lady is here” or loosely translated “our meal ticket has arrived!” Over the years, I’ve had female walkers say to me “thank goodness you’re here as YOUR squirrels were pestering me for peanuts and I’m not starting that with them!”
But, let me clarify that squirrels are not the only critters that assume you are their continuous feedbag. A recent trip to Council Point Park affirmed that for me.
November and December were wacky weather months – we ran the gamut of mild and sunny days, to bitter cold and gray days … sometimes even in the course of a 24-hour period. Of late, there had been a young man fishing off the cement ledge. I have walked past him and he was deep in concentration, staring at the water, lest he miss “the big one” as he waited patiently for a nibble on his lines. Close by his fishing gear were a hot drink takeout cup and a plastic container … no, not night crawlers, but cracked corn. He always left after me, so I would have no way of knowing if he had strewn cracked corn on the cement ledge before departing, but that was my guess as a cluster of Mallard ducks always hovered within close range of where he sat on a milk crate. I suspected he wasn’t baiting his lures on his multiple fishing poles with that corn either.
The “Haves” and the “Have Nots” (when you’re a critter).
So, on this particular Wednesday morning, the weather folks said the snow flurries would fly by the 10 o’clock hour. No problem with that, as I’d be home by then, but I left the camera behind since the sky was very gray and I figured I had already taken more than enough photos to last a few months.
Just before I reached the cement landing, I stopped to toss some peanuts for a few gray squirrels who slept in and missed my stops at the other two locales where I have been regularly making peanut drops the last two months. They came scampering over and immediately switched to a begging stance. I chastised them for slacking off and made a production of dumping some peanuts on the ground and pointing to them with my boot toe. I always do this when the side of the pathway is littered with leaves as I don’t want the peanuts sinking into the leaves and grass and meanwhile my little pals’ tummies are growling after I leave. The pair of squirrels merely stared at me. Suddenly gigantic flakes began tumbling from the sky, so I said “I gotta go – they say we’re getting freezing rain tonight, so eat these peanuts as I may not be back for a few days.”
So, whether that warning fizzed on them at all, I really don’t know, but evidently my chatter DID reach some nearby Mallards and at least a dozen of them left the water and came stomping up the Creek bank and planted themselves near the squirrels and me. They surrounded me in anticipation of treats like I was “The Corn Fairy” not “The Peanut Lady”.
I had to smile at the pair of ducks who evidently were the leaders of the pack. They were tall, light-brown colored ducks and were front and center and they began to quack and advance together with the remaining ducks surrounding me quickly … apparently they felt safety in numbers might achieve their goal. I’d never seen these big brown ducks before, but they sure were friendly.
I looked around, no fisherman – hmm, so evidently I was the substitute who was supposed to produce treats just like he did. I had no more peanuts and don’t usually carry duck food on me, so I shrugged and said “sorry – really I am, but I don’t have food or treats and I’m out of peanuts.” The pair up front looked at me dumbfounded and gave a few quacks and within a minute, the whole bunch of them exited stage left and went back into the water. It was a little surreal, as I’ve not had a group of ducks approach me like that. I felt badly and called after them “guys – I’ll bring something for next time … not corn as I’m not going to the store, but some kind of treat, okay?”
Another missed “Kodak Moment” … sigh.
Birds of a feather break bread, er … WASA crackers, together.
I didn’t make it back until that weekend and I brought along WASA whole-grain crackers. No ducks. Three days in a row and no ducks and finally the moon and stars aligned … ducks showed up and this time, I had food AND the camera.
Well unfortunately, this encounter just wasn’t the same – it lacked the pizazz and spontaneity, the feeling like I was somehow Snow White and the ducks were paying me a visit. But, I brought food, just like I promised, so I felt I had redeemed myself in their eyes.
If you bring “critter food” you must bring enough for a crowd or risk hurt feelings. Many years ago, as a newbie to Council Point Park, I brought a bag of bread, after getting a buy-one-loaf-get-one-free deal at Meijer. I broke the loaf all up and figured I’d share it with the waterfowl. But no ducks were there that day, so I scattered the bag of bread for the Canada Geese, who waddled over and enjoyed it as a change from their regular grass diet. Back then I didn’t know bread was not good for waterfowl. So the gaggle of geese gulped down their bread, then their brethren, on the other side of the walking loop, were eager to get some treats of their own and they hurried over to see me. I showed them the empty wrapper and that didn’t go over well. They charged me and I ran like heck! I caught up with about a half-dozen women walkers and wormed my way into their cozy group and said “bear with me, those geese wanted more bread.” The ladies were cool with accepting me into their group, the geese lost track of me (whew) and I learned a valuable lesson that day.
So back to the present time. The ducks saw the crackers, which I hurriedly broke into sections before dashing out the house. I should have made the pieces smaller I guess. The ducks climbed out of the water and were reluctant at first …
… then they were all in and began eating the crackers.
Soon the Canada geese saw the activity on the cement ledge and decided to investigate. I thought “déjà vu with these geese – didn’t I learn anything the first go around?” Those Canada geese climbed out of the water and took command of the food, but the ducks didn’t back off entirely.
Finally, they settled down and broke bread, er … crackers together.
One female Mallard just gave up and said “oh, let ’em at it!” and waddled off in disgust and plopped back into the Creek.
The light brown ducks, which led the parade before, are much larger than the Mallards. Fellow walker Arnie and I think they might be some type of Pekin-Mallard hybrid. They are huge and I believe the leaders of the ducks at this venue. I looked on some duck websites, but I can’t I.D. them. Maybe you can?
Since I took these photos, more people have encountered these ducks who are emboldened to step out of the water, go up the Creek bank and onto the perimeter path in search of food – this has become an almost everyday occurrence, except this past weekend as the Creek was frozen solid. But they never have come up close in my personal space like that day! I’m still smiling at that encounter. Ducks, unlike geese, are pretty friendly.
I’ll have a follow-up story on the fisherman, whose name is Jacob, as we had a long chat about my close encounters of the duck variety. Since I’ve spoken with Jacob, he’s not been back, unless he arrives after my usual departure time. He assured me the ducks are not hungry and they’re full of shad, the feeder fish that live in this Creek. We agreed the ducks just like hanging with humans and squeezing us for food.
The aftermath of the fisherman and the ducks .…
Well, you’ve no doubt heard the expression “lucky duck” and it applies here. Now you often see people bringing food for the ducks and scattering it on the ledge. This week for Wordless Wednesday, you’ll see such a feeding frenzy and I didn’t create it.