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SEVERAL YEARS ago we moved out of the city so we could be closer to nature and away from the traffic and the crowds. Now, we live in a little old house on a big lot with a creek and a small pond in our backyard. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy nature.
I love our pond. I’ve waded around its edges, looking at the minnows and crawfish and tadpoles and frogs and turtles. In the summer, the frogs hide in the reeds and grasses that border its muddy bottom. Painted turtles sun themselves on the big rocks that line the shore, and a snapping turtle or two suspend themselves just beneath the surface, their wrinkled heads appearing float on top of the water.
Our pond has frequent visitors, especially every spring when the birds are migrating north. My favourite time of the year. I keep binoculars near the window so I can look at the ducks and the geese and the other birds that drop in to have a drink or to splash in the water.
Yesterday I saw a pair of mallards on our pond. The big male had a bright green iridescent head. The slightly smaller female was almost completely brown, well camouflaged for sitting on a nest of eggs and raising ducklings. I’ve seen mallards many times, but yesterday these two were behaving differently. I watched them for several minutes before I figured out what they were doing. They were mating.
Initially, the male travelled in circles around the female and then he closed in on her. Not my idea of foreplay, but reminiscent of my high school dances. Approaching from behind, he climbed on her back and pushed her underwater. Then he vigorously pecked the top of her head for what seemed like several minutes. It didn’t look like a lot of fun for the female. “Love hurts,” people say. I guess this is the mallard equivalent.
I couldn’t watch the whole show. It was embarrassing. I had to put down the binoculars and walk away for a few minutes. They wouldn’t be happy if they knew I was looking at them in their act of procreation.
When I picked up the binoculars several minutes later the male was swimming around the pond, his head held high. It looked like he wanted to brag to his buddies, except there weren’t any other male mallards around. He’d chased them all away so he could have some alone time with his lady. And his lady? She splashed and preened and splashed and preened. This must be her version of, “I’m gonna have a shower.”
But I knew what they’d done. Feeling guilty once more, I put the binoculars down. And a few minutes later, overcome by curiosity, I picked them up and scanned the pond but I couldn’t see the mallards. They must have been finished with their aquatic love-making. I searched the edge of the pond, although it was probably premature for them to start building a nest. Perhaps they were hiding in the long grasses along the pond’s perimeter, relaxing or maybe having a nap. Eventually I found them, celebrating what they’d just done, standing on the shore and smoking a cigarette.