I’m getting too old for this kind of excitement. You know, the kind when it’s 32°F, you’re not wearing socks and you’re trying to defend your ducks from a pair of hawks diving by for a little breakfast.
Don’t worry–I scared them off. Well, sorta. I stood there with my camera* actually on and the lens cap actually off so startled by the sight of a Cooper’s hawk taking another pass at my equally flabbergasted waterfowl that I didn’t get a shot. (Photo, that is!) Then, as I unfroze and made my way toward the wildly quacking group, pivoting to watch the accipter peel off skyward, a second raptor launched from the pine trees and bee-lined at my birds. At that point I think I finally shouted “hey!” or something equally ineffectual. The ducks waddled toward me or, more accurately, toward the shelter of the coop and as I continued to stare (and still not take pictures!), they reached the hulking safety of the Yolk’s underbelly and then, only then, did the hawks depart.
The whole thing couldn’t have lasted more than 10-15 seconds.
“And don’t come back!” I should have shouted, fist in the air, but said air already had my toes in an icy vise and my fingers were not much better. The ducks stayed huddled and I with them until I was (reasonably) sure there would be no repeat performance. Ah, nothing like a birds of prey show on the morning of first frost to keep me on blue-turning toes!
As my heart returned to subsonic speeds, I tried to comfort the ducks and mulled over our soon-to-be-revised anti-predator protocols. For one, it looks like we’re going to have to add extra cover in the middle of the lawn. Per our town’s regulations we have sited the pen centrally to keep it away from property lines. But with All That Lawn (my nemesis!) it takes several duck seconds to get from pen to rhododendron and that might be a few seconds too many to keep out of talons’ way. Most dispiritingly, despite what we believed in the beginning, even midsize ducks in a group of five are tempting to a juvenile raptor. A hungry juvenile raptor, I might add. Two of them!
So just what did those guys think our backyard is, anyway? A drive-thru? Um, actually, it is. Or fly-thru, rather, as we live near Long Island Sound in a well-established aerial freeway for migrating birds. Many summer mornings I’d been charmed by osprey flying so low I could see captive fish in their claws. When the predator prefers birds, possibly our birds, much less charming. Yeah, yeah, I know they need to eat, too, but NIMBY!!!
So it looks like I’ll have to order a few more tarps and rig them up on each side of the pen for 360° of cover in the middle of the lawn. I should probably also think about creating a bird netted area around that, too.*** (It’s a big yard—ducks need one!) And, in the end, since I can’t always be on Hawk Patrol, I guess it’s just as well they were Saved by the Coop and not by me. Unless a hawk thinks a woman in clogs and LL Bean parka tossed over a flannel robe is threatening.
Well, you never know.
*Taking pictures for a different blog post. Hey, at least I was there!
**You should imagine the sound of the Cowardly Lion here.
***I have to buy more; threw the other stuff out–I can never untangle it once I use it!
Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes