A Northwoods Gathering

I awoke early at our Northwoods cabin and walked outside to let my four pet ducks out of their pen. I nicknamed them the “Dabblers” after I brought them to the lake for the first time and they ignored the pretty lily-pad laden lake, choosing to play in a puddle instead. The Dabblers happily splashed in the water and pecked at the grassy bottom where they found insects, rootlets, and plant seeds. They occasionally glanced up to check where I was and to give me a contented gabble. I’ve raised pet ducks for many years and the Dabblers are among the sweetest and friendliest. They’ve wormed their way into my heart.

With their crops full, three of the four took flight landing in the neighbor’s yard. The fourth, the only female and the smallest, hadn’t flown with the others for some reason. She quacked in panic to be separated. The three faithful drakes waddled their way back, and she met them with an excited quack. A happy reunion.

I led them down to their favorite spot on the shoreline, the boat launch area where they can either rest in the sunshine or find shade in the tall grasses. They chose napping in the sunshine until the haunting call of a loon sounded. All four duck heads turned to watch the loon.

The handsome black and white checkerboard-patterned bird dove and popped up close to us. It seemed to be checking out the mallards. I hope this loon will stick around and teach the Dabblers how to acclimate to the wild, join others, and fly south for the winter.

Friends recently sent me a link of a Northwoods loon who had lost her chick and adopted an orphaned mallard duckling. Loons have a flat back and their chicks often ride there to warm up. “Hitchhiking” also keeps them safe from snapping turtles and large fish like musky. I decided to go inside in the hopes that the loon will swim in closer to my ducks.

While brewing a cup of coffee, I flipped on the radio. I winced as the news reported on another mass shooting and racist activities. A politician talked about the complications involved in solving the problems.

Steaming coffee in hand, I return to the peaceful lakeshore. The loon is gone, but a great blue heron flew overhead landing near the boat launch. It startled the ducks, and they ran to me for protection. I chuckled to myself and then seriously shook my head. “You guys have a lot of growing up to do before winter.”

The weather was a perfect 70 degrees, and my husband and I decided to take a bike ride to a favorite restaurant for lunch. After returning, I checked on the ducks. They were gone.

I frantically searched their favorite places: under the picnic table, in the big puddle, and the shoreline closest to the boat launch. Finally I looked by the garage where they go when they want to be tucked into their pen for the night. No ducks. My stomach churned with worry.

My husband and I jumped in the boat and cruised the shoreline, but we didn’t see them on the lake either.

Soon after we’d docked the boat, my husband pointed toward the woods. “They’re coming back.” All four waddled toward us. But what was this? A fawn, summer-gold and still sporting a few spots, followed closely behind. A second fawn stepped out from behind a tree and cautiously walked toward us. “Well, hello there,” I said. All six creatures moved into the yard.

“I bet the ducks followed the fawns into the woods,” my husband said, “and now the fawns followed them back.”

Two different species getting along, I thought, remembering the news reports.

The first fawn spread its legs like a giraffe will do to graze on the grass and then it suddenly sprang up. Its twin joined in the play. When they finished, the ducks flapped their

wings as if showing off their new flight feathers. The fawns watched, tails wagging in what seemed like admiration for the ducks’ talents. Fawns and ducks enjoyed the pleasant summer day together.

My husband and I headed toward the cabin where we would listen to the news and hear more about the complications of our country’s problems with racism and violence. Before stepping inside, I paused and glanced back respectfully at the ducks and fawns intermingling happily. They have figured it out.

One Reply to “A Northwoods Gathering”

Sue Berk Koch

What an idyllic scene. Next time, keep the radio off for a bit longer!

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