Beyond Good & Evil

A goose flew down from Canada for the winter.


The first thing he spotted was a single mom with a sizeable brood.

muscovy ducklings

Mr. Goose went about wooing Mama Muscovy with whirligigs and slalom-skids and flybys.


Then one quiet moment when she was dutifully impressed he leaned over and popped the question.

goose and muscovy

Okay, so maybe it was just rogue hormones kicking in but he took her under his wing, so to speak, and insisted on helping raise the kids as if they were his own.

Alas, Mr. Goose was unaware that mild winters attract all kinds of ruffians and ne’er-do-wells to Florida too.


Sinbad was a gypsy-drifter from Romania with no discernible skill except that he was an expert at disguising his intentions.

heronHe could stand straight and tall and dignified as a pallbearer.

He could wait silently and patiently and blend into the background for hours on end.

He had a pedophile’s lust for the young and a gourmet’s appetite for the plump.

He never bothered you until he did – and that was the problem.

At first Sinbad’s modus operandi was to belly-flop into the lily pads like any casual tourist might do if they were just out for a look-see.


But when he flew away there was always one less playmate for the siblings to tease.

heronOne-by-one youngin’s began to disappear. Mama Muscovy wasn’t good with numbers but she would count them each night and could tell immediately that something didn’t add up.

By my reckoning – and my math isn’t much better than Mama Muscovy’s – 16 ducklings dropped a whoppin’ 75% in less than a week! I was able to gather the final four together for one last family portrait.

muscovy ducklingsSinbad’s tactics quickly took an ominous turn for the worse. He had honed his evil eye and developed an addict’s taste for the forbidden, and stealth and cunning now seemed superfluous. He would barge in like a home invader and snatch a kid right out from under his parents’ eyes.

duck dramaMama Muscovy was too exasperated and Papa Goose too befuddled to effectively protect their youngin’s.

Four siblings became three in the blink of an eye.

heron with duckling

Incredibly, three became one when Sinbad snatched TWO in one fell swoop.

heron with two ducklings

I don’t normally take sides in Nature’s battles, but I found myself very much rooting for this last duckling – for her to be that “one child born [in] a world to carry on” as Laura Nyro (RIP) or BS&Tears would say.

Papa Goose made a defiant last stand, although his resigned expression betrayed a mixture of sadness and impotence.

Goose & Muscovy duckling

Mama Muscovy was not optimistic either, and seemed preternaturally resigned to the inevitable.

muscovy with duckling

😦 There are, of course, no happy endings in the Wild. 😦


😦 😦 😦

heron swallowing ducklingheron swallowing ducklingheron swallowing duckling

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

– Robert Frost –

10 Replies to “Beyond Good & Evil”

  1. Great shooting, but sad story…. those chicks are just so cute! And despite what Mr Frost had to say, in this case life didn’t exactly go on for the chicks. Boohoo!
    If I were Ms Muscovy, I’d move to another neighborhood.


    1. Sinbad-the-serial-killer is a drifter and an opportunist, remember. He’d find that new neighborhood. 😦 But you may be right, it might be time for her to move. The same scenario played out last year with this same goose and duck. They lost a lot of chicks, although I am not sure exactly how many met their demise.


  2. Remarkable series of photographs, John. It can’t have been easy to watch or record and I think you’ve made a rare, seldom seen document here.

    I really have to wonder about the ducks. Maybe drugged up from residue tossed into the lake? Totally docile, it’s like watching Congress.

    I’ve witnessed handsful of small birds drive HAWKS away from their nests, I mean a bombadier’s attack, taking to the sky and full bore scream and plunge… and the hawks left empty. Are these normal ducks? Something seems so wrong. Ducks will attack humans if they get uncommonly close to a nest or infants. What’s gone wrong with the parents.


    1. I noticed that the duck and the goose had a warning call to the heron but didn’t seem to have a distress call for the ducklings to come back close. They just wandered and strayed at will without a care for their own safety.

      Love the reference to “watching Congress”!


  3. Whoa…amazing. First the goose and the duck pairing up and then losing all 16 ducklings – holy buckets. Really, this is an incredible post.


    1. Thanks… Sometimes I get lucky with the pictures and they seem to tell the story almost by themselves.


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