The year is moving on toward mid-summer. The ducks that flew away last fall returned this past spring as regular as a clock. Fascinating thing, this business of instincts. With people, in many things it drives our lives, rather than the careful thought we imagine. Our ducks arrive because something drives them to leave their winter quarters and come north. Once here they attend to business. Pairing off, they assume the roles of drake and female. In due time their eggs become baby ducklings. Those who survive the onslaught of crows grow rapidly towards adulthood.
One of the spring crop of ducks is smaller than the rest, but just as quick. Time passes and suddenly we notice that she is hobbling about, seemingly in pain. It appears that she has been hurt. We continue to watch and hope for recovery, but her limping and our worrying both persist. Should she be put out of her suffering? Maybe, but apparently the duck has her own ideas.
No one can catch her by hand. The maintenance men are called in. They bring a catching tool–a long pole with a bag at one end—and a box to hold her when caught. We watch sadly as they make a successful catch. They are talking and looking carefully at her foot. What have they found?
“Aren’t they going to put her in the box?”
“Doesn’t look like it—Look, they’re letting her go!”
The men come in, and we all crowd around. Before we can speak, one of them does.
“Ladies, listen. When we finally caught that duck, we found a long piece of wire wound around that poor little thing’s foot. No wonder she limps! We’ve removed it and now we’ll have to wait. If it heals without infection, she is probably home free. Cross your fingers and hope!”
We do cross our fingers, and whether that makes any difference or not, our duck heals and grows to her adult size along with her siblings. At the end of the summer she flies off to spend the winter in warmer climes. In due course spring comes once more, and ducks arrive again.
How we duck watchers scrutinize every flock of ducks that arrives, looking for a smallish female, who limps! Eventually it happens, and you would have thought we’d won the lottery! All that summer we watch with affection as she and her mate make their home with us.
Since then I have seen her twice more.
Spring will eventually come to Vancouver again, and ducks will make a return trip as their instincts demand: When possible they return to the place where they were born. That raises our chances of once more seeing a small, determined, and limping female duck.