Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Parhelion: Learning from Ducks


I took notice of her, then she took notice of me, and we studied each other

I greet ducks. There, I said it. When I ride past them on my bicycle commute, I often call out greetings to them. Hello, ducks! Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Duck! Why hello there mama duck, nice hatch of ducklings you've got there!

It's not like I expect them to answer me directly, or at length. I don't expect them to tell me that the scientific name for a sun dog is "parhelion," for example. For that sort of elucidation we require other humans. For the most part they lack language, and on the other hand/flipper we lack feathers, wings, bills and quacks. But as fellow living creatures I do sometimes hope for a bit of sensory interaction. Also, they appear to be such proper birds, dressed so sharply, standing upright, a bit brave and territorial in their conduct, I just feel compelled to not pass in silence.

Not just due to appearances, though, but also because I seek to learn from them. A while ago, I meditated on the idea that a mama duck protecting her babies on the canal bank is an example true toughness and strength, in "What is Tough, What is Strong?"

This one, this day, had the capacity to say something to me about nurturing. After snapping her photo, I kept thinking about nurturing, about taking care of the young, raising, feeding, protecting, and teaching them. It seems so important, the skill(s) of nurturing, but who teaches that? How do we pick up nurturing itself? Is it something you can even learn? Something so important, with so large an impact on our future world, I would think perhaps we would place more conscious focus on it. More importance.

Mama duck seemed to be getting nervous about me standing there on my bicycle so close to her and her babies so I moved on after calling a soft greeting to her: nurture them, so they grow up strong, swim fast and far, live well, and fly off to a far pond lit by a glowing sun dog. 

The scientific term for sun dog is "parhelion".

8 comments:

  1. Lately, I've been paying attention to crows as well.

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    1. Legend has it that crows are among the smartest birds, and that they have prospered in the wake of the explosion of the human population. There are allegedly more crows now in North America than there were when the pilgrims landed. I am still confused about the true connection between ravens and crows--same thing? different? cousins?

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    2. Both crows and ravens belong to the same genus -- corvidae. In other words, they are similar yet different. The rules of thumb are that adult ravens are way larger than adult crows, neck and throat plumage and wing construction and wing size differ, different vocalizations; ravens actually soar but crows just aren't into that (maybe the difference between a bmx bike and a road bike??). I've seen (I think and hope) both crows and ravens in Arizona's White Mountains and Blue Range. Their mitochondrial DNA (which is not a human-created thing) differ as well.

      See: What is the difference between a crow and a raven?

      at

      http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm#raven

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    3. If your local library has it, "A Murder of Crows" is an EXCELLENT DVD documentary on the subject. Over time, there have remained about one crow per 10 humans in the US - and they are VERY smart. I apologize in advance if I have infected another with a fascination with crows.

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    4. Thanks Don and Steve, it's excellent comment like that which give me enjoyment from blogging. I appreciate the info. Steve, I will seek out "A Murder of Crows," it sounds right up my alley. Don, I've seen alleged "ravens" at the Tower of London, and giant crows soaring low over the Painted Desert in Arizona. Hopefully your guidance will assist me next time I attempt to make the distinction.

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  2. A great post! It made me remember a favorite book from childhood; "Make Way for Ducklings". Steve's right about "A Murder of Crows". Once you see it you'll greet the crows too.

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    1. Thanks Melanie! I also meant to mention in this post that monogamous duck couples going around together sometimes remind me of old married couples. It's absolutely NOT true that male ducks don't quack. However, it does seem that the females quack more, and more at the males. But being all dressed up, I wonder where they''re going together, too.

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  3. Crows, on the other flipper, recently completed 4 out of 6 Aesop's Fable tasks having to do with water displacement. Slashdot: Crows Complete Basic Aesop's Fable Tasks
    There should be an upcoming post here on crows, I would guess.

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