I spotted my first migratory ducks on the urban shores of Elliott Bay last week. The new arrivals are on edge -- wary and easy to flush. Lifting my lens is enough to send them skittering to the middle of the bay, and I can only imagine what sights and sounds have jarred them into high alert on their long journey home.
This is my annual re-post -- on the first weekend of waterfowl hunting season in both Washington (where I'm living now) and California (my home). I've been lightly tweaking the post each year, adding new information or links. My reason for re-posting this piece is to bring attention to some of the lesser discussed aspects of duck hunting. The most significant issue for me is the enormous injury rate in all wing shooting -- a facet rarely brought forth voluntarily, and one that's inadequately studied. I provide additional details on that subject in this post.
Smith Cove Park is populated only occasionally with dog walkers, cruise ship aficionados, marina boaters and a few transient souls who stop there by way of a nearby bike route. I went there for the waters -- and for the salt air -- without expectation of wildlife. But, that was about to change -- one late April day.
They'd collect, huddle and preen on this mud peninsula. Then, on some cootish signal, they'd head out again to forage before either flapping or swimming back toward us and to their refuge again.
I wondered if they were, as Jung suggested about human dream states, creating psychic wholeness by connecting their conscious and unconscious realms. Externally, for us, there’s serenity in birds flocked together for slumber … Canvasbacks revealing just one wary red eye, Ruddy Ducks spinning with their sail of a tail, Scaup males waking before the rest and rustling the females to breakfast and mollusks. They utter the lightest peeps in their own language as their unconscious dream life meets life’s surface tension.