A flock of Mallard drakes takes to the air when writer Mark Seth Lender arrives. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)
Much of the habitat on which Mallards and other ducks depend has been devloped or drained, leaving them short of food and safety from hunters. Writer Mark Seth Lender observes as they gather to await his arrival, and does what he can to provide for them.
CURWOOD: Much of the habitat on which mallards and other ducks depend has been taken from them. And now it’s duck hunting season in parts of the U.S., and for mallards there is no safe place. Writer Mark Seth Lender does what he can to make up for it. He sends us this perspective from the other side of the guns.
LENDER: Mallards are gathering, hungry, complaining, up before sunrise and nothing in the belly.
One calls—a loud descending voice like an old man railing against condition and age. The others mumble under their breath, annoyed, querulous, impatient for the food that has not arrived. Anxious for the giver to come yet mistrustful. A cry goes up and they fly a distance when they see him, even though they know him.
They are wise not to trust.
Soon they will separate: Drakes to the one side, molting together into winter iridescence, night sky blue and brilliant green fire. Hens to the other side, drab in the brown that hides them but for that flash of purple deep as a welder’s arc and a final daub of white. Soon they will leave, these two drawn lots, on different days weeks apart but not toward a different route or result. They will be shot with equanimity all along the way, in great number, on their endless perilous journey seeking south.
But while they are here, I provide. I stand in place of the estuary that has been rerouted, water grass that was drowned, wild rice turned under, beaches walled off deep of the high tide mark and the sound of empty shells rolling in the back wash. I am the Source now, come stumbling, and blurry as the cold ground fog laid down on the earth. I come every day. As if their lives depend on it. As if my life depends on it.
And it does. And it does.
CURWOOD: Writer Mark Seth Lender observes that when mallards are feeding, they literally talk to each other. To see Mark’s photographs of the mallards he feeds, make way to our website. LOE.org.
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