Crossing the road

For several hours I watched the red-shouldered hawk nest hoping Artemis would shuffle to a new position that might afford me some photographic opportunities.  She habitually settles too deep into the nest to be visible from the ground, let alone photographed, so eventually I walked away resigned to seeing only her mate as he patrolled the area, visited her, and played cat-and-mouse with the local crow ensemble.

Walking up the hill alongside the park entrance road, home visible at the edge of the open woods, I paused at the slightest bit of movement hiding in my peripheral vision.  Something lurked on the side of the road.  I knelt at the edge of the blacktop to watch.

A male and female pair of mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) wandering through grass (2010_03_14_051464)

By no means a rare encounter as mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) are year-round residents, I still found myself intrigued and beguiled by what most would consider a pedestrian species.  Call me simple, but to my mind the common is as breathtaking as the once-in-a-lifetime.

I settled beneath a canopy of sunshine and watched them as they meandered toward me.  Amazing how nothing more complicated than ducks tending to their day can be such an entertaining show.

Finally she turned and started across the road.

A female mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) crossing a road (2010_03_14_051483)

He followed.

A male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) crossing a road (2010_03_14_051493)

But she reached the opposite side quickly even as he paused to inspect some shiny trinket.  And this allowed just enough room between them for a car to intersect their path.

Having seen me and having realized I was watching something around the bend that he could not see, the driver slowed as he approached.  This gave him the opportunity to stop when he realized the ducks were in the road.  Stopping, I should point out, which resulted in the automobile resting between the drake and hen.

And the drake did not like that.

A male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) with his head lowered in challenge (2010_03_14_051499)

He lowered his head and gave a brief charge coupled with a hiss.

The driver, an elderly man smiling with the energy of a star, recognized the predicament and reversed for little more than one full turn of the tires.  The distance was right.  The male responded with a quick prance across the road.

A male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) crossing a road (2010_03_14_051514)

Where he rejoined his mate.

A male and female pair of mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) crossing a road (2010_03_14_051516)

They wandered off peacefully, waddling down the opposite embankment and vanishing from sight.

I turned to the man driving the car, gave him a smile and said, “Thank you.”

His smile brightened such that I might be staring into the sun.  He waved as he replied, “My pleasure.”

Then we both went our separate ways.

Now days later as I relive those brief moments, I am reminded of the day a few years ago as I drove my parents to the airport to pick up Sharon, my aunt who was flying in from New York.  Mom sat in the back seat, my dad belted in beside me in the passenger seat, each of us giggling like school children in the face of constant levity.

On a rural road barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, bright summer sunshine pouring down just as it had on these ducks, our laughs halted as a coyote dashed across the concrete in front of us.  At speed, we would have hit it.

I braked with fervency, an act that just about threw my mother into the front seat, and we came to a stop beside the coyote.  I could have tossed a feather onto the canine’s back for its nearness.

And in that moment we looked at each other, the three of us humans and one lone coyote.  None of us moved.

Stopping.  So simple an act of kindness.

We drove away after a few moments.  In the mirror I could see the coyote where we left it, still standing in the tall grass, still watching after us as we vanished in the hazy heat of the day.

“Thank you,” I heard it say.

“My pleasure.”

19 thoughts on “Crossing the road”

  1. What an enjoyable story! A thouight rendering reminder to slow down in life, and not just when you are driving a car! Thank you for sharing. Swamp4me sent me over from her blog and I’m so pleased to be here. I look forward to perusing your archived posts at my leisure! Hope you are having a wonderful day. ~karen

  2. aw, this is a great series. Sure, mallards may be common but they are still awesome! I love the little guys and come on, the males are just gorgeous. Funny he gave a little hiss! Love that last photo.

    1. I’m with you, Jill. Mallards are adorable, and the males have all the flashy show you could ask for while the females have a subtle beauty I just love.

  3. Great series of images accompanying this story! Where I live (in the boonies), I’m at far greater risk of hitting wildlife than pedestrians…this week alone I’ve braked for birds, deer and even a fisher!

    1. My parents live in the boonies as well, C, and when I’m driving in their neck of the woods I have to keep a close eye on wildlife. I’ve had to navigate carefully to keep from hitting vultures, deer, turtles, coyotes and all manner of critters. Even out on those rural highways that seem to stretch through endless expanses of nowhere, there’s lots of life to watch out for.

  4. I am one of those strange people who loves ducks. I’ve had serious birders tell me they are ‘junk’ birds and that gets me pretty testy. But when you have a pond you can see from your kitchen and have spent lots of time watching them, you can’t help but love them or at the very least realize that some of their behaviors are as interesting some of the ‘real’ birds. You told a great story…….Michelle

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  6. I so wish that all humans were as kind as that gentleman and you. In my area most people simply drive straight into the animal, very few bother to brake .

    Great photos as well by the way.

    1. I agree, Kerry. Too often I see the result of people just not caring, as if being mindful and considerate is too much trouble. It’s very sad.

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