Monday, June 2, 2014

Feeding Ducks in Heat

A little over a mile from our house is a man-made lake…or pond…or moat. Really, I’m not quite sure what the body of water is considered to be, but I am relatively certain it is man-made.  Every few months we take the kids to this watery spot—a bag of old bread in hand—to feed the ducks that reside there.  It’s a cheap, fun activity to do with our boys and the ducks can’t seem to get enough of our stale bread and crackers.

This past weekend, after noticing that half a baguette that had been purchased earlier in the week had gone uneaten, I decided it was high time to pay the local water fowl a visit. I mentioned the idea to my boys on Friday night and they were quite excited, but the next day my 7-year-old had lost interest.

“It’s too hot out to feed the ducks,” he said, even though he hadn’t been outside or heard a weather report.  Of course, we live in Chandler, Arizona and it was May 31st, so I suppose he took an educated guess that the heat would be oppressive.  Turns out he was right.

Leaving my older son behind to construct functional aircrafts out of Legos under his mother’s watchful eye, I took my 5-year-old to the lake-pond-moat. As we walked along the banks there was nary a duck to be found. Clearly, the 104-degree heat was not something they wanted to be swimming about in.  Perhaps they had more sense than us.

Eventually, as we walked I spotted a lone duck on the opposite shore about 80 yards away.  I pointed it out to my son.

“That duck is just taunting us,” he said.

(I’m going to pause here to point out that when it comes to my son’s vocabulary I am a boorish, braggart dad.  Some dads are this way about their kids’ athletic abilities or artistic skills, but for me it’s all about the ease with which my boy—who is first entering kindergarten in two months—navigates the English language. All of the quotes I’ve attributed to him in this article are verbatim and none were the result of paternal prodding.)

I suggested that we just start throwing bread in the general direction of the duck to see if he would take notice.  My son surveyed the situation and his brow furrowed.

“I think those rocks are too close to the surface,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He went on to explain that he thought the water was too shallow where we were standing and the duck what have a tough time getting around the rocks to get to the food.  He was genuinely concerned, so we walked about 25 feet due north to a spot where the water was deeper.  As we walked, the duck started swimming toward us even though we hadn’t thrown any bread yet.

Once we stopped and started hurling bits of baguette into the water the duck picked up his pace and began eating our feast.  The fact that this duck was all by his lonesome, without any of his brethren in sight, was pretty unique.  Usually we feed dozens at a time.

“This duck must be pretty happy he gets all of this bread to himself,” I said.

“Yeah, maybe he’s thinking ‘this is my lifelong dream,’” my son laughed.

After a few minutes the duck’s lifelong dream ended, however, when two other ducks took notice and swam over.  A minute or so later a couple more came over. And then…

“Look, a whole swarm is coming,” my son said, pointing.

Soon about 15 ducks were nibbling on the bread that was originally meant to go with our pasta dinner the previous Tuesday.  Considering the small amount of bread and large amount of ducks, the competition to get the eats was pretty fierce.

“I’m voting for the mallard team,” my son said.

“Uh…what?” I asked.

“I’m voting for the mallard team,” he repeated.  After staring at my son dumbly for several seconds, he said, “The ones with the green heads.”

“Ohhhh. I see. You think the mallards will get most of the bread,” I said, feeling a bit out of my depth talking about specific duck species.

“Yeah,” he laughed, tossing some more bread into the water.

It was only then, while proudly looking at my ridiculously well-spoken son, that I noticed the amount of sweat pouring down his face could best be measured in liters.

“Hey, you look really hot. What do you say we stop feeding the ducks and go get a drink?” I offered.

“Okay,” he said. And just like that it was bye-bye mallards and hello orange juice.

I’ll probably wait until October to take my son to feed the ducks again.  Not only will it cool off by then, but it will also give me time to study up on water fowl taxonomy.