Dave and I took advantage of a wafer of sunny February weather and walked to the Rhododendron Garden. It’s a bit over six miles away. Twelve mile walks are no big deal for us; there’s a brewpub in this town every other block. And they’re really no big deal if you’re going to see a mandarin duck, which ordinarily requires a trip to Asia.
Nobody knows where this mandarin duck came from. They’re not subtle. The Rhododendron Garden is slathered in ducks, with an emphasis on wood ducks, which are stupendously gorgeous birds, unless they’re paddling next to a mandarin duck. No fair, the stupendously gorgeous male wood duck thinks, then. Might as well wear an old sweatshirt. The females of both species look a lot alike, and you gotta figure some of those female wood ducks couldn’t help but notice. You could at least make an effort, they’re thinking.
The species are a bit similar though and are related. But the mandarin duck doesn’t normally live here. People are so impressed with them that they get scooped up as pets, and sometimes those get loose. There are a few small populations in other places, notably England, where some of the looser ones did some raping and pillaging. Ducks are not nice birds, sexually. Ducks are among the few birds with penises and apparently being a dick about it comes with the package, as it were.
I guess this particular mandarin duck left in December. One does wonder where he went. If he were to show up at some random wet spot along the flyway, you’d think somebody would’ve noticed. This is why I think he’s probably in Vegas with the show girls, blending in. Any time a rare bird is found, word gets out. We had a stray indigo bunting here at a refuge a few years back, just sitting in a tree bunting away, and the parking lot was stuffed with birders, because they don’t belong here. I’d just come back from West Virginia where you dang near had to scrape them off your binoculars to see anything else, so I was pretty serene about it, and set off in search of a bittern.
So if anyone is keeping track of the various perambulations of Dave and Murr, we have now walked twenty miles to not see a platypus at the zoo, and twelve miles to not see a mandarin duck at the Rhody Gardens, both of which feats could have been accomplished in a lot less time, with the same amount of beer.
Let’s review. The wood duck is as snappy a dresser as you can get outside of the tropics. Green helmet with white chin straps, pale sidewalls with racing stripes, bronze breast with stars. The mandarin duck has all that plus three colors on the helmet and a purple breast and full golden beard and a giant bustle off the butt you don’t ordinarily see outside of Project Runway. Presumably the bustle is made of a matched pair of overachieving individual feathers.
Look at that, the female wood duck says to her mate. If you’re just going to let yourself go, you could bring around a couple of snails now and then. To which her mate replies: He’s obviously compensating. And snails? I ain’t no chickadee. Screw you. And then he does, because he’s a dick.
I once saw a group of male ducks basically trying to gang-bang a female duck who seemed unable to fly at a pond in Cape May. At the time (this was decades ago) I didn't realize that this was just how ducks mate, and I was extremely upset. Even knowing this now, I still find it upsetting. I hope that the female duck doesn't find it as horrible as I did.
I've read that female ducks are not infrequently drowned due to excessive male attention. Cruel.
Well, only once per duck.
"If he were to show up at some random wet spot…"
Do you think it's possible that he may have contributed to the random "wet spot"?
This is the reason for penises in ducks. Get 'er in there, and not all OVER there. For birds that don't cork around in the water, evolution has snipped the penis.
Just a bit jealous. I am afraid stopping for beer along the way would totally slow down my pace…if I drank beer…which I don't. But that duck was so worth it.
I'm not saying our pace isn't slowed down…and we didn't see that duck. That was an Internet Duck.
Hubby and I have been watching a pair of red-shouldered hawks making whoopee in our yard. They have learned to grab frogs out of the fishpond. Poor frogs, just coming up from their winter hideouts and BAM. You're breakfast. Eaten raw and still wriggling.
The hawks are spectacular though.
I watch Eagle cams. I'm squeamish enough when they bring in fish that are wriggling. When they bring in a turtle, I shut off the computer. It would haunt me, I know.
Sounds like a taco!
They are spectacular. As are most birds.
I am chuckling at the juxtaposition of ducks, dicks and wet spots this morning. And feeling for Mrs Duck. And Ms Duck.
Many of us need respite from the real-life dicks in the news.
An avian Hobbs Cross. Google won't be of much help…try The Deeper Meaning of Liff
Aaah, I can come up with a word for anything.
"he's obviously compensating"
That, plus the orange sweep of feathers, reminds me of something . . .
That butt bustle just gets me.
Dave and I walked to the zoo to see a platypus, but they didn't have one, so we didn't go in and we walked back home instead. 20 miles.
Someone in the Forest Park neighborhood on Nexdoor just posted a picture of a beautiful male Mandarin duck who had landed in her pond to join the usual old sweatshirt-clad Mallards. Perhaps this is our wayward boy?
Hey! That sounds close enough!
Well, now, I feel compelled to stick up (as it were) for all ducks, who are not all dicks. Seems y'all are juxtaposing your feelings about MALLARDS onto all ducks. Yes, male mallards have been known to gang-rape and even drown females in their zeal to reproduce. But you're not going to catch a pintail or a wood duck or a green-winged teal engaging in that kind of stuff. I think there's something a bit off about mallards when they are in unnatural concentrations, as at city parks. But that doesn't splash onto other species of duck. Signed, Yer friendly neighborhood other duck advocate, Zick
Okay, this makes me feel better! Thank you!
Me too. When I look it up, it usually says "ducks" but one site singled out "mallards, and some other ducks." I happen to believe YOU.
Male mallards will jump anything, including other male mallards, and other dead mallards.
Okay, I feel better now, Zick. I'm afraid that I got my information by way of Isabella Rosselini's "Green Porno" videos on YouTube. She kind of painted ducks with one brush.
I know nothing about duck varieties, the ones my mum raised for Christmas dinners were all white, so when you said Mandarin duck I thought that handsome fellow with the green head and bronzed chest was it. So the multi-coloured bearded boy is the Mandarin?
Yes, the bearded boy. The other DULL one is a wood duck.
Another beautiful duck is the Harlequin, which I was fortunate enough to see several times while working in Los Angeles. It was a "lifer" for me, as were the Anna's hummingbirds that nested on my apartment patio and the Eurasian collared doves that nested in the apartment complex, but are not fairly routine here in Kansas.
I'm blaming auto-complete for screwing up my last sentence, above. (You expected me to take responsibility for my errors?) The doves are now fairly routine here.
I was going to say–per the doves–if they're not routine now, they will be.
We have harlequins out on the coast. Pretty snazzy all right.
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