Saturday, 13 October 2007

Mate on dry land, why don't you?

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.


TimT said...

I hope that this isn't too distressing on top of the Incident Of The Ducks, but another interesting news snippet came my way during the course of today which I feel honour bound to pass on to you.

Apparently, tofu is turning children gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that, obviously. Something to do with the oestrogen in them.

But it does suggest a method to combat these malodourous male mallards - ie, if you feed them tofu, they will suddenly find themselves disinterested in their ducky companions...

Fight the quackriarchy!

Martin Kingsley said...

Red rag, meet bull. Bull, meet...never mind. I'm not even going to click that link, I'm just going to end up wanting to set someone on fire.

There's a set of ever-swelling ducklings that follow their mother around the pathway to/from the 86, at the Trobe of La.

Thanks to this, a modern avian morality play, I shall never look at them the same way again. Oh, the humanity (duckanity/duckliness)!

alexis said...

So this is the strange thing, Martin, that the ducklings at Il Trobo don't just follow their mother around, they follow their mother and a bloke who looks like their mother's bit of crumpet. The Trobean ducks co-parent, which suggests to me that - at least for the season - they're monogamous. Or they think that they're monogamous. But there wasn't much monogamy going around in the Carlton Gardens duckpond. Very strange business. Maybe it's the difference between inner city swinger ducks and their more suburban and continent counterparts.

alexis said...

Nothing to do with the ducks, but I am suddenly reminded of Saint Augustine's prayer, "Oh Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet."

alexis said...

Timt, I read a more serious version of this article in the Good Weekend some years ago. It suggested that soy's phyto-oestrogens (which crop up everywhere, in chocolate biscuits, in the flesh of cattle who've been bulked up on high protein soy diets, in many sausages, etc) can compromise male fertility, by slowing down, not sex drive, but sperm motility. Apparently men who are having trouble conceiving are sometimes advised to temporarily cut soy from their diet - no mean feat, considering its prevalence in processed foods. Strangely, the GW writer didn't put the obvious case that men with reduced sperm motility are gay.

(I read another article, possibly also in the GW, many years ago, about hormones from human contraceptive pill use making their way into the Florida wetlands via sewerage [apparently the urine of pill-using women is high in oestrogens] and affecting the fertility of alligators. So thar ye go.)

prude said...

This is the sadness of society, Alexis. All these peoples puttings of chastity til it is too late.

Gosh it is difficult fighting for chastity in the face of such aversities.

First it was base sexual urges, then it was chocolate advertisements, now it is swinger ducks.

At least you is able to rely on the Penguins.

Bless the Penguins.

JahTeh said...

The duck's a female and is probably multi-tasking by combining copulating with scarfing her way through some delicious sustenance she's found by being bounced to the bottom of the pond.
It's the male that would drown.