Morning, Duck!

I went out for a morning walk today also, right after B. left for work. Short one today, round to the river by Duck Island and along the river path to the big weir and then turned about and came home. The light was very flat, I took just one photo, of the water coming over the edge of the weir, curved, glossy and faultless, the stone it rode polished to an incredible smoothness. I looked across at the allotments, thinking they still looked a bit forlorn, and how I’ve never yet seen them quite chirpy; an absence of sheds makes it all a bit low-rent too, although I know the rents are probably huge, or at least that’s the word on the street. I like how allotments, like the rear-view mirrors in taxis, become graveyards for CDs.

The Big Weir

There were a couple of dog walkers about, which is always a bother for me in a ‘state’ sense, particularly if my aim is to be mellow, absorbing and open. I see a dog off a lead and I just think, oh crap. I try to remember stuff from the Dog Whisperer on TV, having caught a few episodes after I read Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on him, and on bad dogs with badder owners. It’s a pity this is my only positive behavioural reference, dog-wise, but the fact is that I’ve no life experience of them; have avoided them since a small child, and run from them as a paperboy, and in adult life have reached an arrangement of just letting them climb up my legs (which isn’t far) while I cuff my hands inside my sleeves and wait for them to get bored. I’ve never been bitten or attacked, or even particularly confronted close-range, but I think it’s something about what I perceive is their unpredictability that sets me on edge, unpredictability plus teeth. I know they’re largely looking to us, and even me, for guidance on how to be – or at least that’s what the nice Mexican man makes clear. My dad was bitten on the arse when he was a kid, maybe that’s it. All the dogs this morning were okay, and I always do a perky ‘morning!’ to the owners.

I sometimes think I overdo it on the ‘good morning’ front. I get that from my dad too. At work it became an issue for me, which is to say I allowed it to be, and I’d get annoyed when co-workers didn’t return a basic greeting. Sometimes they’d look at me like I’d spewed insults in their faces and upon the graves of their departed, when all I said was ‘morning!’ I never understood that. But now I don’t have to. Maybe that’s how dogs feel with me, when they’re just saying a simple hello, and I’m rejecting their every good intention.

But the deal of the morning was the birdsong. There was a lot going on above the river, in the thin but high cover. Robins can seriously blast some tunes. Saw a couple of greenfinches zooming about the big weir – love what they’ve done with that understated olive. They’d flit to and from the garden of the big house by the weir, quite respectfully using the driveway, I noticed, which is to say as low fliers they’d nip in and out between the gating hedges. I reckoned they had it made; probably some serious bird feeding kit in that garden, and they got to do the Countryfile calendar stuff by the river too. Good work.

The day had already got off to a birdy start. Brushing my teeth I was looking up out of the toppermost window and watched what I thought was one of the big wood pigeons landing on the chimney pots on the east wall. But as it stretched out its neck I saw it was a duck or grebe-like bird, with a sharp bill and head-crest and a pinky grey head and neck. B. didn’t make it in time to see it with me – it’s not unusual for one of us to try summon the other with a gob full of Listerene (mouthwash moments are funny; once in a rented bathroom I did a sneeze with a mouth full of the pink variety, try that some time), and then having to explain what the hoo-ha was all about when the hoo-ha has just legged it. Of course, I mistook it on the chimney pot for a grebe, as if the very word ‘crest’ demands it, and in fairness ‘this common mistake’ was sensitively dealt with in the bird books I later consulted. It didn’t stay long up there – ducks’ feet really aren’t designed for balancing on chimney pots. So, it was a goosander, and very glad I was to see it and to learn of it too.

A goosander duck on a chimney pot. It’s going to be a good day.

Goosander female. Image courtesy

© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012


About Stevie Mitchell

I come from a long line of cartoons and beer. I was once peed on by a tiger. Hoping the resultant super-powers are yet to come, cos if these are they, then, grrrr....
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