The Pond in the Forest

Above, a pond flows out between rocks to become a brook.

There is a pond in the woods near my home that I go to sometimes. Nothing much ever seems to happen there except the ageless round of the seasons:

I went there again a week ago and as usual it was very quiet. There were a few ducks on the still water, floating through reflections of trees. Among them were several Gadwalls, who for reasons only known to them were unconcerned by my arrival. I don’t see them very often, and they typically keep well away from humans. But that day was different:

In the gaudy tribe of ducks, Gadwalls go for understatement rather than glitz. The female resembles the female Mallard. The male is essentially a gray duck with a brown head, but he wears it well:

Note the details—the fine, herringbone pattern of his suit, the black accents fore and aft, the dove gray tertials sweeping over his stern, and those tawny scapular feathers. His brightest color is the yellow-orange of his feet, mostly hidden by the water. He shares the pond here with a more colorful American Wigeon:

The wigeon sports a white cap, a glossy green mask that sweeps to his nape, and a pale blue bill:

On the far side of the pond a heron keeps a vigil at the water’s edge. That’s another Gadwall in front of the heron—maybe you can spot the Mallard, too:

With a last look at the trees almost standing in the water, I departed, taking a path along the brook, down toward the creek it merges into. There is a footbridge there that carries me back over into the noise of the world.


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