A conclave of male ducks was an oddity in my long history with ducks at Brant Lake. In past years I would arrive at Brant Lake in early June and I would be greeted by a mother duck leading six or seven baby ducks to my bird feeder. They would wait under the feeder for a Blue Jay to land on the feeder and shake seed that would then fall to the ground for the momma duck and her kids. Occasionally a mother duck would fly on to the feeder instead of waiting below but that was unusual.
So what happened this year? Because of the pandemic we arrived at Brant Lake several months early. Instead of seeing a mother duck only, the male ducks were present. This was a pleasurable sight since the males are more beautiful than the dull off-brown females. The males were dressed in cocoa with heads and necks of yellow and green.
Usually when I arrive at Brant Lake the males are nowhere in sight. Yet this year only male Mallards populated the feeder. Was my yard recently designated as a gay bar–or more appropriately a gay restaurant since ducks only drink water from the lake? And in spite of the pandemic, the males grouped closely together with no social distance. I was living in a Brave New World–or so it seemed.
As I pondered the reversal from female to male I remembered the words of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes “to everything there is a season.” Were April and May the time for males? I could picture an invisible sign that read “Males only. No females permitted.”
Concerned with the gender shift I consulted a duck expert. He laughed at my naivete. “Don’t you understand. The females are home sitting on their nests. The males already did the hard work and impregnated their mates. Their work for the season is complete. Now the males can gather with their brothers and share tales of the past year.
“Once the babies are born they will disappear, perhaps to a local boys camp, and the females will once again rule the roost, or at least the birdfeeder. It happens every year. The males may be more handsome but what would we do without women?”
The words resonated as I refilled the birdfeeder with the finest sunflower seeds. New birth. A new beginning. Isn’t that what all of us desire at this difficult time? Isn’t that what we always wait for–the opportunity to begin again.
All of us are waiting for a new world to emerge out of the present day. We wait for the shell of despair to crack. When that time finally comes all those male mallards will have disappeared and a family of little ones, call them hopes for the future, will parade across the lawn, a beacon of a new day.