Love Among the Ducks

spot-billedducksSummer at the lake is rippled quiet.

I stand by in the evenings and examine the water hyacinth field that fluctuates in size with the days. It is breeding season now, for some: with binoculars, I pick out a Eurasian coot nest, where two red bundles that look nothing like their suited parents squirm. The twilight-purple swamphens stalk unhurriedly through the green. Just behind them, black balls of fluff scurry, ragged-feathered. Just off the edge two watermelon-striped baby grebes follow closely behind their brilliantly red-headed father.

The egrets that blanketed the trees by the edge in winter have moved on now, onto other lakes perhaps further from people, or with more food available. So too have the teal that arrived in a huddled group one misty morning. In the bright hot afternoons as well the cormorants are not perched on the dead trees, wings spread as if embracing divine revelation but really just drying off the water from their latest dive.

And so but for the ducklings that startle out of the reeds and their anxious parents behind, the lake is nearly empty. It feels like siesta, in the golden evenings. A time for exhale. Walking by the edge, slowly, breathing in the cool air, I scare two Indian spot-billed ducks. They skim the surface of the water with their wings before landing gently near the center of the water. They feed close to one another, dipping their heads in and out of the water, kohl-lined eyes keen. Their movement draws concentric circles on the water that now has turned miror to the white sky, as if stretching downwards into eternity.

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