12/7/08 11:52 am - ducks on ice
the canal's been pretty well frozen over where i walk across it, these last three-four mornings [a], and this gives the ducks a bit of a hard time. they can cope with the cold ok, though they mayn't really like it (they have heat exchange systems between their feet's blood vessels and that of their main body in their legs, which stops their bodies getting chilled so easily - at the price, presumably, of permanently cold feet [b]), but it makes life a little difficult for them, as it forms a duck-proof barrier between them, and most of their food [c].
the ducks cope, of course, being a proud gloranthan people, so long as there's some fresh greenery available by the canal banks, especially near and under the bridges across it, where the water tends to remain unfrozen save in a fierce frost: but it places an increasing strain upon their green food supplies in such areas, as the duck population crowds into them, and upon their tempers: for, though sociable, duck are also, in their own way, quite quarrelsome.
this thursday morning, though, a couple of ducks had cracked it.
no, not the ice - they'd seemingly had, or shared (they were a couple, a duck and a drake), a duckish brainwave: they'd clambered out of the rather crowded remaining open water around bank on the city-side, under the bridge, and were, somewhat gingerly, walking around on the ice, feeding upon the fresh greenery caught in the ice, when the water froze, trapping weed just below and above the surface. and occasionally, if any daring relative tried emulating their trick, and looked like getting the hang of walking on ice, bustling (with the odd slip-step-and-recovery) over to shepherd [d] the presumptious uncle/aunt/sibling/off-spring/niece/neph
now, i've seen lancaster canal duck walking on the ice in previous winters, but i'd never before wondered: would these have been this year's crop of duck, still wet behind the ears (so to speak) when it comes to such skills - or do duck need to learn the trick of ice-walking afresh every time it freezes over?
[a] - and evenings, on my way back to lgg, but i don't get to see the ducks of an evening at this time of the year, as they've already gone home to bed
[b] - so who's going to offer to warm whose feet up at night?
[c] - and their bread rations are severely reduced, too, in this weather; only the hardiest of parents are prepared to oversee their toddlers feeding the ducks in sub-zero weather;
[d] - "duckherd" ?