Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Stop Following Me! Social Distancing with Ducks (Susquehanna River; Athens, PA Feb 25, 2021)


While hiking along the Diahoga Trail this morning my friend Donald and I enjoyed watching ducks on the Susquehanna River. Today we were in the company of two species of diving ducks; a loose flock of common mergansers and a lone common goldeneye. These birds have wings that are specially adapted for propelling themselves to the bottom of rivers and lakes in pursuit of fish, invertebrates, and plant matter. It's entertaining to observe them disappear beneath the water for what feels like a long time and then to see them emerge usually not too far away from where they went under.

One of my favorite moments of today was the interaction I saw between one of the female common mergansers and the common goldeneye. 

The goldeneye made his way toward the center of the channel, but when the merganser approached from the opposite shore the goldeneye quickly turned to swim away from her, but not too quickly. It was like watching two magnets of opposite polarity repel each other. 

The goldeneye paddled upstream angled away from the merganser. After 50 feet or so he circled back around to the middle of the channel headed downstream with the merganser still in tow. The goldeneye made a quick spiral turn like someone dancing in water doing a twist. The two headed back upstream again. Eventually the merganser went to the middle of the channel and the goldeneye went back to his original spot between the shore and where the water starts to get deep. 

It seemed to me that the merganser was asserting her dominance over that particular fishing hole; or could it be that she was curious to meet a goldeneye who insisted on social distancing? 

His behavior reminded me of the strategy I typically employ when someone I'm conversing with encroaches on my personal space continuing to move closer and closer to me with every backwards step I take. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a conversation that begins in one corner of the social hall and ends up looping around the room three times while I behave like a goldeneye being pursued by a merganser; and to the astute observer it's likely just as entertaining to watch!

There's a lot that can be learned by observing ducks on the water.

Sometimes they're intriguing.

Sometimes they're inspiring.

Sometimes they quack me up.


Common Goldeneye heads toward the middle of the channel

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 1

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 2

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 3

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 4

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 5

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 6

Merganser (left) in pursuit of goldeneye (right) 7

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