Three Dead Ducks


On a recent walk along the Emerald Necklace in Boston I was unfortunate enough to come across a few gruesome sights. Walking along the Riverway I noticed a dark shape by the side of the path under one of the bridges. It turned out to be a female American Black Duck lying on its back, wings tucked in at its sides. There was no obvious reason for it to be dead, but it was hard to tell in the gloom under the bridge. Walking further in the direction of Leverett Pond I spied what looked to be a clump of leaves with a branch protruding into the air. Upon closer inspection, the branch reaching upwards was a spine with each vertebra picked clean. The 'leaves' were the remainder of the Mallard below in the snow. There was no head in sight. Another dark shape in the snow caught my attention in the Arnold Arboretum. Slightly off the path, I walked over and through the snow to get a closer look. What I found was half of a duck, lying flat with feathers strewn here and there. It was a female Wood Duck, the delicate bill and breast patterning still visible although it certainly was not fresh. The bottom half of the bird was missing, hopefully eaten by the predator that killed it.

The purpose of my expedition was actually to photograph (live) ducks. As you might have guessed, seeing as I'm relating my encounters with dead ones, that I failed in that matter. A drake Northern Pintail that was supposed to be in the fens was absent, and only one drake Wood Duck was at Leverett Pond and was not photo friendly. The local Wilson's Snipe (pictured below) in the Arboretum kept me photographically entertained for a while near the end of my walk, and it was nice to hear Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins in the conifers.


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Avian Obsession © 2019 Evan Lipton

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