We hadn’t been birding in a while because of miserable weather, so we were anxious to get out last weekend and see the ducks and geese that take up residence on Maryland’s eastern shore every winter.
We could hear the Canadian Geese as we approached the Wye Island refuge just off the Chesapeake Bay — literally thousands of them filled waterways and fields. There were also supposed to be lots of Black Ducks, Mallards, Tundra Swans and Buffleheads.
Then we turned a corner and saw two or three dozen Canvasbacks visible through the marsh grass in an expanse of salt water a few yards away. We pulled off the road in a rush. I went to the back of the car to set up my camera while Beverly grabbed her binoculars.
Luckily, a thick wedge of grasses hid us as we crept up. It was windy and overcast so the light wasn’t favorable, but it looked like we could get closer than we’d ever been to this large of a flock.
I started shooting before there was even a clear view: You never know when they’ll take flight, so I wanted to be ready. Beverly headed one way and I went the other as we gradually moved to the edge of the marsh for a direct look.
Even as we got close, the ducks didn’t seem fazed. The waves kicked up in the wind, but they held their places as if they wanted to be sure we got a nice photo. I finally found a break in the reeds and managed a full look at our quarry. The realization hit me.
They were decoys. Every one of them. Bobbing in the water trying to fool their fellow ducks.
Beverly saw it at the same moment. We were standing on the side of the road watching fake ducks. It was impossible not to break out laughing, which we did as we hustled back to the car before anyone saw us.
This website is devoted to what the birds have to teach us. This time the lesson was rather blunt: We’re not quite as smart as the ducks – who at least on this day weren’t falling for the decoy’s ploy. Not a single real Canvasback swam among them.
We all need to be humbled at least once a day.
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