One experience can change a word forever. This experience took place in Venice years ago, on a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace. Our guide, who couldn’t have been more enthused about his subject matter, could not pronounce the letter “W.” So, we took note of the palace’s ‘ooden beams, the historic ‘ooden boats, and the ‘ooden prison stalls.
CUT TO: Seattle Arboretum 2012
There’s an area where the resident Mallards like to preen, in part because it’s a sweet and easy slope back into the lake, and in part because [although it’s not condoned], visitors sometimes stop with duck food at various spots along the way. The Mallards are on alert for potential handouts, so the sight of a human through the thickets sends a snack-alert signal through the community.
** My wildlife hospital training ingrained in me, the importance of not habituating birds. So, I don’t bring food. And there are plenty of natural sources for the ducks. **
I scan the bay with my telephoto, seeing a few Green-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers dipping for food in the distance. Otherwise, the waters are placid, breakfast is over. I hunker down with the Mallards for a bit of sun and quiet. The light is awesome: amber/golden in the way Seattle light is when the sun breaks the rains. Each Mallard who slips back into the bay, sends taffeta ripples through the pond.
An hour later, stage left, in my periphery and into the sun, a particularly vivid drake Mallard swims into this lusciousness. I train my lens on him and am surprised to see instead … the face of a Wood Duck … I mean ‘ood Duck (Aix sponsa). I haven’t seen a Wood Duck at this location yet, let alone a Wood Duck who doesn’t mind paddling in open waters with a camera pointed at him. He dips his bill in the water and his reflection beams back at him. I wonder if on this glassine pond, he can see how handsome he really is.