up on a tree than to sneak up on a duck. In factand I wont charge extra for expanding on thisits all but impossible to sneak up on a duck, whereas its all but unnecessary to sneak up on a tree. You follow me? No, of course you dont, and dont look at me like that. Thats just how the doctors looked at me before they put me in the Bad Place.
Let me explainabout the trees and ducks, I mean. Ive always been a tree man. That is, as an adult, Ive always been interested in trees. Or, more accurately, Ive always felt a need to identify them, to know one specimen from another. I have no idea where this fetish comes from. I just know its there, and that Im in the process of wearing out my second copy of the Audubon Societys Field Guide to North American Trees.
Birds, until very recently, havent had that effect on me. Its not that Ive ever had anything against birds, mind you. Theyre splendid creatures, and lovely neighbors here on the creek. But Ive never been particularly specimen-minded about them. I sense an awakening, though, bird-wise. It probably began when I came here to Reed Creek. How could I not come awake in a place like this, where the herons do their slow-motion stilt-walk across the bulkhead and the cormorants perch on the pilings and the swallows build nests under the pier? I am indeed more aware of birds now, here and elsewhere.
But what really brought this into focus happened just a few days agoand a very interesting convergence of events it was. In the morning I had read the final version of Marty LeGrands excellent article, Wings on the Bay, which begins on page 56 of this issue. And I had said to myself, Hmm, maybe you should do that this summerstrap a kayak to old Ink Pot and go birding on the Bay. Make a note of it. That very evening I arrived home to find a veritable convention of ducks on the creek. There must have been 3,000 of them, which is not in itself unusual; duck conventions are fairly common on Reed Creek. What is unusual is that, inexplicably, I now needed to know what kind of ducks they were.
I walked out to the end of the pier to get a closer look, but the ducks
didnt like that; the whole immense throng radiated away from me as I neared the end of the pier. So I went back to the house, got the binoculars and a bird book and settled in on the deck, determined to identify these critters. Okay, white body, reddish-black head, black chest, dark tail feathers. Must be . . .
canvasbacks. Yep, theyre canvasbacks. I wonder why they
As I watched through the binoculars, the whole bloody flock took off at once. It was a remarkable scene. First the water boiled under them, then the air filled with a tremendous fluttering roar and then they were gone, soaring over the trees toward the Chester River. Well, I thought, when they decide to go, they dont fool around. Then I saw the kayaker, paddling around the corner from the cove. Aha! So the ducks didnt just decide to leave; they were spooked by the kayaker, who I silently chastised for his intrusion. Jeez, pal, I muttered, you cant just go sneaking up on canvasbacks like that. What do you think they are, trees?