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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Not Without My Ducklings

Posted by on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 10:21 AM

A mother duck and seven baby ducklings were swimming around one of the little round pools between the black hole sun sculpture and the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park around dusk last night. Because the ducklings were entirely adorable—they were duck-toddlers, really, about pool-ball-sized, able to swim on their own but unable to scale the cement lip of the pond, making the whole thing a giant playpen of sorts—a group of people had gathered around the pond to admire them. Most of the ducklings hewed closer to their mother, but three were orbiting way out at the edge of the pond, with the bravest one attempting these cute little hops, trying to get out.

Suddenly, a brown-and-white heron unfolded out of the sky and stood next to the pond. People chattered excitedly about this: Most had never seen a heron in an urban environment, and the tall, confident bird looked out of place standing on concrete. The heron stood still, watching the pond out of one giant eye. The mother duck became agitated, blurting abrupt little quacks directly at the heron. All seven ducklings gracefully swam toward the center of the pond in formation, clustering around their mother and swimming in tight little circles. The onlookers assumed that the heron was eyeing the koi fish in the pond, but the mother duck felt otherwise, becoming more and more aggressive, quacking angrily. The ducks tried to swim away from the heron's eyes, but the heron stalked after them on its impossibly long legs, keeping exact pace, measuring them up.

Without a sound, the heron took to the air, hopping straight up, spreading its wings and flexing its neck. It looked ready to dive. The onlookers spontaneously shouted at it, like an eager audience at a children's theater: A young couple, who may or may not have been there on a date, shouted "NO!" in unison. An older man snapped, as if to a disobedient dog, "No, heron!" Someone else moaned "Go away!" Everyone had gathered to admire something adorable, but it seemed as though they were about to get a lesson in how casually brutal nature could be.

But then the mother duck sprang into action, flying at a bird three times its size and recklessly snapping at the heron's ankles. The heron made a few stabs at the mother duck with its beak and issued a puzzled sort of wobbling noise. Then it seemed to do some math and flew away, over the museum. The crowd spontaneously broke into applause for the mother duck, which then decided to puff out its chest and issue a few victorious quacks at the receding heron. (The urge to preen in victory, to announce "Yeah, you'd better run" to a fleeing opponent, it seems, is universal.) Within a matter of seconds, the ducklings had assumed their usual positions in the pond, with a few brave ones testing the perimeter again. The onlookers, having witnessed a perfect happy ending on a beautiful summer night, dispersed.


Comments (42) RSS

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jBee 1
Meanwhile, in the Heron's nest Mama Heron and her chicks wait hungrily while Papa Heron tries to bring something, anything, home to feed his family.

"Will we have supper tonight?" Young Herald Heron asks.
"I don't know, son. I just don't know."
Posted by jBee on July 2, 2013 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 2
If anyone wants to see this end in another way, here is a nature film of a heron eating a duckling. Warning: nature and stuff.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on July 2, 2013 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 3
@1 good for nothing ducks living off of the public teat and camping out at Duckville encampments in Volunteer Park, while hardworking herons struggle to make ends meet back home. The City Council should pass a $500,000 bill to relocate these ducks to private shelters.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on July 2, 2013 at 10:36 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 4
Only humans add judgment & emotional content to the interactions of nature. The both the heron & the duck, there is no 'victory' or 'loss.' It simply is. Today, the heron doesn't eat. Today, the duck doesn't get eaten. Animals don't look upon themselves as 'good' or 'bad,' they are simply fulfilling their nature, becoming what they are w/ every breath. Only in the human world is their preening & ego-thumping or wailing & cursing after a simple natural interaction. To the animals involved, they're just doing what they're doing.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on July 2, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
Posted by Pierrot Lunaire on July 2, 2013 at 10:40 AM · Report this
Seven kids are too many.
Posted by DOUG. on July 2, 2013 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Poor heron
Posted by Seattle14 on July 2, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Report this
treacle 8
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.

Also, what @4 said. Animals are just in zen space, all the time. It's we humans who are confused about the order/nature of things.
Posted by treacle on July 2, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Report this
PETA lovers are silly
Posted by Seattle14 on July 2, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Report this
Hernandez 10
I'm decidedly pro-heron, if only for the fact that the park patrons felt the need to try and shout it down from following its natural and undeniable instinct to eat.

You're in a park for chrissakes. Let nature run its beautiful, occasionally brutal course. I'm sure it was a remarkable sight either way.
Posted by Hernandez on July 2, 2013 at 10:58 AM · Report this
ScienceNerd 11
I'm actually worried about the ducklings stuck in the fountain. We had several stuck in the big UW fountain one year. A couple of them drowned before we could find someone to build the little duckling deck they always put into the fountain since that year.
Posted by ScienceNerd on July 2, 2013 at 11:04 AM · Report this
Anne18 12
@4 - Yes, humans are the only animals that can feel. The mother duck didn't care or fear. What an extremely arrogant - and convenient - human concept.
Posted by Anne18 on July 2, 2013 at 11:05 AM · Report this
horatiocain 13
@4, you dumbass, have you ever seen an animal?
Posted by horatiocain on July 2, 2013 at 11:10 AM · Report this
@12 the mother duck felt and cared, okay?

so what?

jesus the vegetarians in this town are truly aggressive and judgmental. let the fucking heron do its heron thing folks, that would have been far more instructive and enjoyable. what, it's a carnivore you say? tough shit. carnivores have innate value and deserve to be respected, especially by those species that got ahead by developing the rock and spear throwing bodies that humans have. at our core, we are killers.

Posted by tribal cultists applauding heronhunger on July 2, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Only humans add judgment & emotional content to the interactions of nature.

My judgment is that they both look delicious.
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on July 2, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
mikethehammer 16

Animals feel fear. Sure, they may not be self-aware of the feeling or emotion they're experiencing, but to claim that they can't feel seems a stretch.
Posted by mikethehammer on July 2, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
horatiocain 17
"Only humans add judgment & emotional content to the interactions of nature"

@4 How in the world could you possibly think this? When you display a lot of emotion without concealing it, you can be said to be acting like an animal. Christ, you're the worst troll ever
Posted by horatiocain on July 2, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Report this
I always wonder why humans so often identify with and root for the prey animal rather than our fellow predator.
Posted by pox on July 2, 2013 at 11:19 AM · Report this
What a bunch of pissant killjoys.

I think it's a sweet story.
Posted by LMcGuff on July 2, 2013 at 11:22 AM · Report this
Puty 20
Sheesh, you are a bunch of miserable, duckling-hating grumps. It's wrongheaded to assume humans are the only animal that has emotions. I've seen both indisputably happy and clearly distraught animals, both pets and in the wild. The vastly greater complexity and nuance of humans compared to animals is mostly a difference of (admittedly very large) degree, not of kind. We're animals too. We have more in common with that mother duck than we do with, say, a cloud or a rock. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that and enjoying the mother duck's victory. SO THERE.

Anyway, I'm sure that heron found a nice fish later. (Scientific fact: ducklings > fishies.)
Posted by Puty on July 2, 2013 at 11:26 AM · Report this
Puty 21
@19: YES.
Posted by Puty on July 2, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 22
#1 we have Libs saying how its part of The Science to believe in evolution, but when it comes down to natural selection in process, they interfere with it.

It's been a tenet that mothers, in the wild, produce more offspring than can be fed or cared for. The heron was doing the entire species a favor.

Maybe someday when the Agenda has spread its umbrella to cover ducks, and feeds the duck parents hormones to reduce fertility and gives each duck a guaranteed college loan...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 23
Slog comments, red in tooth and claw.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on July 2, 2013 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 24
"brown and white" heron?

was it a great blue, or an american bittern? cuz if it was a bittern in a crowded, urban place, THAT WOULD BE INSANE.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 2, 2013 at 11:54 AM · Report this
WFM 25
I would have rooted for the Heron. We have enough ducks.
Posted by WFM on July 2, 2013 at 12:12 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 26

I was surprised to learn you can now download a App that does the work of a Peterson's guide...using facial recognition technology to identify trees by leaf.

Wonder if there's the same for animals. Take a picture next time and have it look it up...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 2, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
"a perfectly happy ending"

That poor, hungry heron.
Posted by treehugger on July 2, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Cracker Jack 28
@22: Yep, just like gay marriage bringing on the bestiality, we just can't differentiate between animals & people and would try to give a duck a college education. Thank god for people like you to sort us out... herp a derp...
Posted by Cracker Jack on July 2, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 29
Now you know why the duck lays 10 eggs, hatches 8 chicks, and protects 3 to adulthood. Yes, for the amusement of humans.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on July 2, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 30

You're right.

If you don't get the analogy, you probably wouldn't be able to differentiate.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 2, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 31


True, aren't those protecting the duckling pretty much the same as a bunch of middle aged white males standing outside an abortion clinic?

Aren't those park goers really Social Conservatives yelling at the Mom for her right to reduce her nestling size in order to have a better lifestyle?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 2, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
@23: LOL
Posted by Eric from Boulder on July 2, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Report this
@30: No, we totally get that you're calling the ducks blah people. You're just not witty.
Posted by treehugger on July 2, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
blip 34
@4, Science does not agree with you.…
Posted by blip on July 2, 2013 at 1:35 PM · Report this
@24: Probably a juvenile great blue heron... which means, come to think of it, that it probably didn't have any babies of its own to feed.
Posted by tim b on July 2, 2013 at 1:43 PM · Report this
mr. herriman 36
I don't understand what everyone is getting so worked up about. Nobody is anti-heron! We all know that they need to eat. It was a rare opportunity to watch a mother duck being a total badass! I can see that perhaps the people there shouldn't have interfered, but it turned out that mother duck didn't need them anyway. And most anyone would have spontaneously vocalized at the heron if that situation were unfolding right in front of them. Relax, people, it's a cool story. Wish I could have been there.
Posted by mr. herriman on July 2, 2013 at 2:03 PM · Report this
I love the description of the old man scolding the heron.
Posted by Lori E. on July 2, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 38

I ate the Bones....I ATE THE BONES!

Check out gruesome duckling-eating heron:…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 2, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
Well done, Paul - a lovely and evocative short snippet of a story. Well done.
Posted by DawginExile on July 2, 2013 at 7:40 PM · Report this
@1 So funny. "I don't know, son."

I feel bad for the poor starving herons. Pretty soon they'll be forced to dumpster dive. You can't eat a stinking duckling in this.

Good story, Paul.
Posted by floater on July 2, 2013 at 8:33 PM · Report this
Kunst Frau 41
Vivid description Paul. Thank you.
Posted by Kunst Frau on July 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Don't F*ck with mama duck!
Posted by eric1972sea on July 5, 2013 at 10:13 AM · Report this

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