If our idiom-coiners are to be believed, ducks have only death to look forward to. They are doomed, and in this they are not alone.
This morning I looked out on our pond and saw an inert object adrift in the middle. It was too small to be a bit of Malaysian jumbo jet. A breakaway clump from Bulrush Island, perhaps, floating free like an iceberg in the Arctic. Several ducks were paddling about and pecking at the thing, in what looked more like concern than hunger.
I went out and confirmed the identification: female mallard. Upside down with her legs in the air, she had most definitely dabbled her last.
“That’s terribly sad,” said wife. There was no easy way to blame me or the children for this reverse. “Get rid of it.”
Could a heron have done this, or a mink? Did the duck perish in a heroic attempt to defend her eggs? It’s that time of year.
“Perhaps she just died,” said daughter. A good suggestion: after all, every duck is going to be a dead duck sooner or later.
But we have lived here for more than ten years, I look at the pond many times every day and there are always ducks on it or sitting in the sun beside it. And this is our first dead floater.
Could it have anything to do with the female tufted duck that arrived last Tuesday? I am more inclined to suspect the moorhen. This unpleasant bird has spent the last week steaming around the pond in angry pursuit of the tufted duck, which is a slower swimmer but always sees the moorhen coming and simply dives to escape its aggressor, and pops cheerfully up on the far side of the pond, often with a tasty titbit in its beak, much to the moorhen’s annoyance. The moorhen would be quite capable of venting its frustration on the poor mallard.
I fished out the corpse and gave it a resting place in our Cimetière des Innocents, alongside the polecat that ate the rat poison and an assortment of rabbits regurgitated by our dogs.
When the time comes, where does a duck normally go to die, I wondered.
By googling dead ducks I find that others have asked the same question. No answer, however.