Nature, red in tooth and claw

January 21st, 2011

Nature put on quite a display for the boys today. In the morning, the Boychen and I went into the woods to feed the mallards. It has turned cold again and the pond is frozen over except for a small patch of open water where a creek empties into the pond; well over a dozen mallards were clustered there. They hung back at our approach, which is unusual for them. They are not shy ducks – many people walk in these woods and many people feed the ducks – and ¬†they know my boys’ voices well; the bolder among them start swimming for shore as soon as they hear the boys calling “Enteli! Enteli! Mir hai Brot!” (“Ducks! Ducks! We have bread!” They always call to the ducks in German because, as Small Boy tells me, being Swiss ducks they do not understand English.) But today they were hanging back and even when we started throwing bread into the water they remained still. Even Boychen noticed and asked me why they weren’t coming.

Then I heard it, a squawking, a yipping, a howling almost like a cat, more squawking. On the other side of the pond I saw three foxes flashing through the underbrush. More squawking. Boychen and I went to investigate but were hampered by the fact that I was pulling him on a pedal tractor, and the pedals were squeaking. We saw one fox again, but never did find the scene of whatever it was that happened. I’m assuming the foxes succeeding in killing a duck.

Then at lunch time I picked the Small Boy up from Kindergarten. The kids were all outside already, bundled up in their winter clothes and heading into the playground with the teaching apprentice who is spending this week in Small Boy’s classroom. They were hanging up a bird house or bird feeder. Suddenly two birds of prey – I think they were red kites but it happened fast and I’m not good at distinguishing between the kites and the buzzards that also live around here – fluttered and swooped and one of them nabbed a bird and flew away. They were about ten feet away from the kids. Small Boy went running after it, yelling “Hey, Vogel, los lo! Los lo!!” (Hey, bird, let it go! Let go!) but predator and prey were gone.

They boys know about nature. They know that animals eat other animals. They know that things die and they know that things get killed. I’m not entirely sure they needed such a close-up display though.