I'm just back from my constitutional saunter round Carlton Gardens, where it's yea verily spring. The lilacs are a-bloom, the bees are a-buzz, and the ducks are a-drowning each other in their aquatic fornications.
We Harlots are some of nature's great zoological voyeurs. On more than one occasion, mine own mother has beckoned me into the garden to watch the slow slimy romancing of amorous snails, and when I see a uxorious pigeon bobbing about his lady friend, I generally cancel all engagements and stick around to see what happens. But these ducks! I don't think life'll ever be the same again now that I know what has to happen to bring ducklings into the world.
So she's going about her business fossicking lunch from the bottom of the pond. The drakes are churning through the water like paddlesteamers on steroids, trying to keep each other from getting to her. Then one of them hops on her back, grabs her head in his beak, pushes her under water, and goes to it. Now, while he's too preoccupied to watch his own back, two others pile on top and her whole body, her head, everything, is submerged. Somehow, minutes later, they reach some sort of resolution. The duck emerges, frisking out her wings, unpanicked, as if this sort of thing happens every half hour.
Meanwhile, your bespectacled observer has been turning moral somersaults on the grass. Should she intervene? Is the duck being assaulted? Is she anthropomorphising the duck? Is it wrong to anthropomorphise ducks? Would it be wrong to intervene? Is the duck drowning? Hang on a minute, I'm serious, is she drowning?
She wasn't, and I just watched, but drowning looked like it was a serious possibility. If any of you ornithologists out there were to tell me that ducks regularly die mid-copulation, I'd be none surprised.