There are few things in the natural world that frighten me. I certainly do not consider myself brave or courageous in any way, but I’d like to think that walking the wilds for 30-something years now has made me aware of the dangers and the ways of avoiding them. I am cautious, I am vigilant, and I will go anywhere, so long as the place has birds. But there is one thing I would rather avoid at almost all costs – swimming in murky waters. I hate, absolutely hate, to not know what is below me when I swim. It makes me very nervous to have my head above the water, feel a slight movement at my dangling feet and not know if this was just a bit of vegetation or the bow wave of godzilla approaching from below. No way, no go, absolutely not. Unless crossing a murky stream was the only way of getting into the territory of a Banded Pitta, a purely hypothetical situation at present. Then I might consider it. Might.
This fear of the dark and deep is the reason why I am happy and grateful every day I wasn’t born a duck. Seriously, ducks must be the toughest creatures ever, the Chuck Norrises of the bird world, because they endure this thing all the time.
I am reminded of the ducks’ perilous and arduous existence on each family outing to Heidelberg Zoo. Despite being an ordinary family with the usual interests in elephants, lions, tigers and the likes (there are sadly no Banded Pittas at Heidelberg Zoo), there is one feature that has been our main attraction and focus for the last few months: the duck pond. This is especially true for my toddler son, who will rush there past the elephant enclosure and without giving the tigers as much as a casual glance. You might think now that it is due to his birder genes being hard at work drawing him there, but you’d be mistaken. He doesn’t go there for the ducks, but for the fish.
For some reason my son is absolutely into fish, and the duck pond might hold ducks of various species and sorts and shapes and colours, and pink flamingos too. But it also harbours carp of considerable dimensions who will compete with anything to get to some of the duck pellets tossed into the pool by unsuspecting children.
And I am forced to face my fears once more.
The Duck Pond of Heidelberg Zoo with camp Crystal Lake in the background
Little did Woody realize he was being watched – from below.
All is peaceful, all is quiet. And then comes the duck food:
First documented case of Anatidaephobia in fish
It was not until I turned to the next aviary of the zoo that I came to comprehend the true horror of the grasscarp pond: they are fattening the fish for slaughter!
Lol, I hear you Jochen…those are some creepy looking fish. The ducks are truly fearless to swim around with them below!!
Murky water-aghhhhh!! Grant crosses first and there has to be something REALLY good before I wade across-after I have seen how deep it REALLY is!
If the ducks breed what chance do the ducklings have with those fish!? They would be a little snack.
I hear you too on that one.
Not necessarily carp or fish that creep me out, but NOT being able to see whatever it is that’s in there, baeh……
I managed to get over my fears a wee bit while snorkeling in Sharm. But still. A lake where I cannot see what might bite my toes. Nope. No go.
And yep, that pretty birdy looks happy – does he see the kids feeding the ducks…uh, carp?
@Gareth: yes, the only reason for me to consider swimming through that pond would be to gain immediate access to Gemsbok NP in South Africa … hint, hint, hint! 🙂
@Clare: sure, send the husband in first. “Grant, could that be a Saltwater Croc there? Mind going in first to take a look?”
I am not entirely sure the carps would eat ducklings, but now that you mention it: I have never seen any ducklings on the pond. i might have to pay attention to that on future visits.
@Nicole: Graue Wintergrüße in denn sonnigen Süd-Osten!
I would probably do okay even in deep water so long as I have my head below the surface (snorkeling) and can see the sea floor. but then I would miss the terns and boobies and tropicbirds or whatever sea birds there are, so it wouldn’t be any good, ey?
And that pretty Steller’s Eagle does have a duck pond in front of it, but not the one with the fish. Last time I was there, he was sitting on a log two or three metres away from the edge of the aviary and feeding on a fully-grown hare the size of a little dog that the zoo people had fed to it. When we got there, he was about to tear out the animal’s long guts. Not a pretty sight, and we had a hard time convincing our young son that he was eating red cabbage (Rotkraut). 🙂
Oh dear, I can imagine that that wasn’t exactly pretty to see (Hare and Eagle…). I guess he would get too fat, if they’d put carp into the pond 😉
Well, not many birds in Sharm to watch (at least not where the tourists are snorkeling), so being with your head under water ain’t that bad 🙂
Sonnigen Gruss nach Heidelberg 🙂
@Nicole. Actually, I was a bit upset about this kind of feeding by zoo staff. It was nice to be so close to this extremely impressive animal, but it was definitely not a very pleasent sight especially for a sunday when the zoo was swarming with little kids. You know, three or four years is too young an age to teach kids about natural selection. I was glad my 4-year-old son himself, who didn’t understand the situation, came up with the “idea” that the bird was eating red cabbage.
Oh copme on, there have to be birds at Sharm? Considering I’ve only ever been to Israel, and that was back in the early 1980ies, I’d probably be thrilled by the most ordinary of Sharm’s birds.
Ja, ja, sonniger Gruß und so, das ist echt fies, hier ist es nicht nur grau und kalt, sondern so bewölkt, dass wir im Büro den ganzen Tag über Licht an haben. Ausserdem sind wir gerade alle erkältet.
I thought the same as you did, about the feeding. But maybe feeding him when the Zoo’s closed would be the wrong time of day for him?
And closing the enclosure for it might not be an option either?
Ich nehm aber lieber Euer ‘schlechtes’ Wetter als die 55C im Sommer hier und die Sandstuerme. Wetter war mir an sich schon immer Wurscht, nur extreme Hitze, darauf kann ich echt verzichten 😉
@Nicole: I feel they could have tossed the hare into the back of the aviary, cut it into small pieces and taken out the intestines instead of simply throwing an entire dead hare – as is – into the cage. It was really quite a sight. Oh well, all’s good.
Na klasse, und da suchst du dir dann Sharm aus!? Sandstürme sind echt doof, wir hatten mal einen kleinen in Namibia, und da geht echt jede gute Laune flöten.
That’s an idea. Maybe you could write them a note?
Achso Sharm und Voegel. Ja, Voegel sind da, aber halt nicht unbedingt da, wo die Touris schnorcheln.
Und die Sandstuerme und Hitze sind in Kuwait 🙂
Jetzt im Winter gibt’s (*toitoitoi*) nicht so viele bis keine Stuerme.
Ja, mit guter Laune hat’s sich da schnell. Bin mal gespannt, wie gut die Fenster in unsrer ‘neuen’ Wohnung abgedichtet sind *seufz* 😉