Seen from a dock – territorial rights

Photo: Daniel Burka on

Dock sittin’

I’ve taken to the art of dock sittin’ like the proverbial duck to water. Dock sittin’ can be inspirational, educational and fascinating. Personally I like to sit on the dock and be distraction free. I prefer no interference from a newspaper, book, iPad or cell phone but it’s always good if a friend can share in the experience.

Winter, spring, summer and fall, each season displays its differences. Morning, afternoon, evening and the darkness of night; the sky, water and woods; the sights, smells and sounds. Nature defines all as the hands of time sweep away another day, another year behind us.

We live on a quiet lake with only the occasional boat or canoe passing by so you would think that not a lot happens here. There should be plenty of time to sit in quiet reflection wondering just how and why life worked out the way it did and what does life have in store for us next. Maybe write that book I’ve been planning or paint a picture of that great grey heron that fishes off our point but somehow I keep getting interrupted by nature.

Nature can make you believe in the graciousness of the world. Dawn peels back the layers of night, the pink new-day sky gradually taking on a blue hue. Fireflies blinking through the trees, memories of the once-held belief that fairies dance in the woods. Enormous flat bottomed, billowy clouds sail by overhead. Ripples of moon on black water. The taste of the air, the warm complicated aroma of damp earth and the mysterious smell of lake water. Quiet mornings, a light mist rises off the water, there is something new about it all. Trees, birch, hemlock, pine, spruce, growing out of the granite hillside, some trees as gnarly as time. Bird calls, early morning chatter and by midday, subdued and muffled. Sometimes when the wind blows a certain way, you hear a voice. Is that your mother calling your name? Maybe the trees are talking, visiting with each other or past spirits are walking the land.

Ducks in danger

Nature can be soothing and healing but as we all know there is a dark cruel side to nature and we had best be aware. The other day I was quietly enjoying my morning coffee on the dock, watching a merganser paddling along our shoreline with several ducklings in tow. I noted that last week she had ten chicks following along behind her but now there are only a few. I briefly wondered what could have happened to the missing ducklings. Before I could entertain that thought any further, there was an abrupt explosion in the lake.

The merganser was under attack from a loon and her chicks were in danger. I watched in amazement as the loon tried to drive off, maim or kill the mother duck and her ducklings. Beaks clashed and the water churned with their struggle. There was a lot of splashing and furious quacking, her wings flying out in defence of the loon’s attack. Mother duck made it up onto our beach. She had three chicks all huddled about her. Now I can’t be sure how many ducklings there were before the attack and I can’t help but wonder. The loon patrolled the shoreline but would not follow the merganser out of the water. Loons are at a disadvantage on dry land due to the positioning of their legs so far back on their body which makes it hard for them to walk on land. The loon eventually came around the other side of the dock, behind our boat and out of sight of the duck. Eventually mother duck waded into the water, quacking a stay-put order to her chicks. She swam out a few feet to check on the whereabouts of the loon. The loon immediately torpedoed out from under the dock and she quickly retreated back to shore. This ritual continued for over an hour until the loon lost interest, dove and disappeared. I watched then as the merganser and her three chicks swam cautiously up our shoreline. A quiet blessing for safety was whispered.

Well, who knew? Apparently the loon frowns on outside competition. (I know this must sound vaguely familiar.) Loons have been known to attack and kill adult ducks and their babies to protect their feeding grounds; the merganser is a fish duck. I love the loons and their haunting call but have a new found respect for their commitment to survival.

Nature really is amazing, you can learn so much just sittin’ on the dock.

Editor’s note: Every so often somebody in the Valley gets inspired just sittin’ on the dock. This was the result of one such moment. If you ever get inspired dock sittin’ please share those moments.

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