Not a duck

posted in: Birds, Wales | 0

“Look over there,” I whispered to Baby B. “Can you see that big bird? Right over there, on the other side of the canal? He’s called a heron. He’s standing veeeery still – can you see? He wants his ninner, but he has to catch it himself, so he’s waiting there, very quiet and very still, to see if a little fish swims past, and if it does he’ll try to catch it and eat it. Can you see him?”

Baby B pointed the peremptory finger, and said “A, a.”

“Well,” I replied, “that’s a good suggestion, but I don’t think he does say A, a. It’s ducks that say A, a, isn’t it? Actually, now you mention it, I don’t think I know what herons say.”

After giving this due consideration, Baby B announced, “Ee, ee.” Which is what birds that aren’t ducks say, and means that he’d processed the information I’d given him, and correctly assigned the heron to the Not-a-duck category. At seventeen months old. The child is clearly a genius.

As well as the heron, there were plenty of ducks at Forest Farm today, and B (whose throwing arm is getting dangerously good) fed them some bread – though most of the seeded wholemeal crust R and I had brought from home went into him, with only very small pieces pulled off and thrown to the ducks every now and then. L, used by now to him rejecting the crust of any piece of bread, shook her head in bemusement about this, but if anything was more surprised to hear that he’d shared (and in fact eaten most of) my lunchtime banana – fruit currently being viewed in their house as the Work of the Devil.

As a parent you’re well aware that your very small child is working out how to press your buttons, and then delighting in playing little tunes on them, but it’s so exhausting trying to outsmart and outmanoeuvre them all the time, that you end up letting them getting away with far more than you know is good for either them or you. Or at least, that was what it was like for me, being L’s mother. Now I’m finding that one of the joys of grandparenthood is these little moments, when the Beloved treats you with a kind of sweet reasonableness that he wouldn’t dream of weakening and showing his parents. It feels like a long-delayed payback.

By the way (because I know some people were worried about them), what we didn’t find at Forest Farm this morning were last week’s moorhen family, though their nest was still in place. Nor did we bump into any of the family’s human well-wishers, to ask what had happened to them. But given that the entire group has disappeared, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the parents have taken as many chicks as they eventually managed to hatch, and moved them to a quieter (and hopefully safer) branch of the canal. Obviously they face many dangers – not least Mr Not-a-duck here, who wouldn’t think twice about taking a moorhen chick or three for his ninner – and that nest is in a very exposed spot. So if the parents have now found somewhere with more reed coverage, in which the chicks can hide when danger comes calling, they will have improved their chances of survival.

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