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Title: The Ducks of Aspinwall 

Oil on canvas 24" x 36" x 1.5"


I have a pond behind my house/studio and it's full of ducks. Free models. I feed them as payment. It's okay, the local bird sanctuary has given me permission as long as we're in a drought and I know the special food to get. Apparently, they said bread is not a good idea. Just so you know.


They now bring their babies and the little ones peck on my glass door when they get hungry, which is fine and to be expected, they need to learn to fly and quickly because we've got a female bobcat who's been hanging around here trying to pick them off so if they don't fatten up and learn to fly quickly, well... 


The other morning I noticed three baby ducks instead of four. We originally started out with, I don't even know. It was like trying to count popcorn while it's popping. They were in and out of the water when mom duck was trying to teach them to swim for the first time. So we are now left with one male baby and his two sisters who he seems to be quite fond of. Both the male and the larger female sister can fly. They practice by climbing up onto the large rock outside my studio window and making the short flight onto the pond and then the flap around and congratulate each other while the parents look on from the opposite bank. 


The morning that the fourth duck went missing the brother really pushed the smallest sister to fly. He pushed and coaxed her up onto the rock. I was in the kitchen but I heard the commotion so I came out to see he had her by the neck and was pulling her across the lawn. I tend to stay out of these skirmishes. They happen quite a lot out here. He nudged her until she got up onto the rock, then he hopped up there with her. He bumped her with his butt but she didn't move. She stomped her feet tentatively, she knew what he wanted but she didn't have the courage, she's noticeably smaller than the other little ones. He took off and gracefully floated downward to the pond. She watched him, stood there for a few seconds stomping from foot to foot and then stepped down. She didn't get back up.


That evening I saw her across the pond all by herself. Usually they're all together and they float on the pond protecting her while the dad stays in the trees as lookout but they were all gone. They'd left her. She just sat on the bank and I could see she was terrified. I made sure she had food and I noticed in the morning that she hadn't eaten it. She was still there in the morning, sitting in the same spot but I had been worried about her all night. 


Later that day the whole family came flying in. I saw them circle over the pond and land next to her and they all went into the lake. Everything was fine. I didn't see her take her first flight but I'm sure she must've found the courage after surviving that night. After a night like that, how hard could flying be?


They flew away after that, probably to the city park around the corner from here which has over a hundred different ducks all living together along with random shore birds who swoop in from time to time, just like our pond, to check it out. 

Two Ducks on a Pond

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