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My Life’s Birds: #344

October 1, 2009

December 6, 1994 – Greene Co, Mo – There’s a small and largely unimpressive pond just off of the busy Battlefield Road exit of Highway 65 in Greene County.  It’s surrounded on two sides by massive and grotesque McMansions with their treeless yards and on the other two sides by the road itself as it makes a 90 degree turn away from the city, back into the hollows and streambeds that you can still find nearby if you look hard enough.  But we didn’t need to go that far, the birds we sought were comfortable enough on the pond, not 200 meters across, but packed with several species, including a single male Canvasback.  A high-bred noble among the dabblers of more uncertain parentage.

800px-Canvasback_pair2Most ducks have rounded heads with stubby bills giving the impression of daintiness in human eyes.  Dare I even describe them as “cute”?  Certainly not the Muscovy, but there’s no doubt that there is a classic profile that registers as duck to birders and non-birders alike.  Not the Canvasback though, whose proud outline is unique among Anatids.  Whose long, steep snout would be described as Gallic if attributed to a person.  Cyrano de Bergerac himself, rendered by forces of evolution in the form of a duck, and since the Canvasback undoubtedly came first, perhaps de Bergerac would be better described as Canvasbackian.  Perhaps the average French citizen would not take kindly to the comparison of a national literary hero to a duck, but what a duck!  There’s scarcely one to which I’d rather be compared.

We’re not far, once again, from the time of year when Canvasbacks show up on North Carolina’s lakes and marshes.  I’m looking forward to it. Vive la Aythya valisineria!

Photo from wikipedia


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