Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Village of Juvenile Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (a Mamma's View)

The 2012 Summer Olympics finally got underway with opening ceremonies last night.  I’ll miss the social aspects of the workplace next week as I can imagine the cacophony of opinions that will be expressed about this particular ceremony.  I don’t have a strong opinion to share.  I was mainly impressed with the choreography of so many people and so much stuff.  I was especially impressed when I thought about how much time the night’s thousands of adults and children had volunteered, spending a lot of that time standing and waiting during rehearsals (and mainly keep their lips sealed regarding the event).  OK, ok, ok, I have to agree with Bob Costas--that really big baby was a bit creepy.

I must confess that my favorite part of last night’s opening ceremony was one particular Olympic-oriented commercial.  The commercial portrayed elementary-aged children as if they were competing in the Olympics. Each child-Olympian prepared for his or her unique competition, sporting attire that matched their particular event.  The premise of the commercial (from my knothole) is that mothers always see their offspring—no matter how old, and no matter how successful--as their children.  Motherhood and apple pie—how can you not smile?
Birds, like humans, possess an extremely diverse set of extincts when it comes to raising their young.  Some parents (birds, that is) simply push their hatchlings out of the nest as soon as their youngsters can fly.  Some adult females keep their juveniles with them until their offspring reach adult maturity (with dad no where in sight).  And then at maturity, the newly adult males are kicked out of the matriarchal society while the young-adult females remain and become a part of the social group (Red-winged Blackbirds are a great example).

Some Aves offspring never return to the original nesting grounds of their birth but make their way off and alone to find new adventures with their own to-be-discovered mate(s).  And some other Aves offspring become a part of a multi-generational village of birds, traveling, nesting, and living out their lives in the company of parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on.

Last night’s child-Olympian commercial made me think about a series of photos I recently shot at Brazos Bend State Park.   While walking around one of the park's oxbows, I came upon a village of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, overflowing with young juveniles.  My photographs don’t express the sounds of these hungry ducklings—their rapid dabbling for food instantly brought back the sounds of highschool typing class, where a gaggle of teenagers, in a 1970's classroom, were happily banging away on the modern-era's electric typewriters.  It turns out that the humming and clicking sound of a room full of electric typewriters is similar to the sound of a whole bunch of juvenile Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks dabbling in the green muck for their daily bread. 

A mamma Whistling-Duck looks on, and the juveniles feed with a typing frenzy:

I froze in place and tried not to move for fear the group would turn their backsides to me and swim toward the far bank.  Because I didn’t want to move about, I missed the ability to photograph the village adults—at least 6 mature Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks standing guard at strategic locations around this plethora of little ones.  Whether by accident or with intent, Coots and Little Blue Herons moved into the guarded “keep out zone” and were quickly chased away by the guards on duty.

I photographed the only adult (a Mamma?) that centered herself with the little ones:

My stealthy viewing was rewarded by this attentive mamma not turning away:

And one particular little one seemed especially curious about my presence:

Mother Nature gifted these Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with an innate nature to protect and guard their young.  Time will only tell the future story of these juveniles—and whether or not they grow up and become a part of this Black-bellied Whistling-Duck village.  Not all of us can grow up to be Olympic athletes.  But our mammas usually think we’re pretty special, even if we do wander about staring at birds. 

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