It has been a busy spring and we have been away from the blog for a few weeks. My husband was gone on business for a couple of weeks, and after that we had friends and family come to town, so we played tour guides. Our kids and our grandson visited, and we got in some fun babysitting time and playground time while the grownups did… grownup things. Then we had a week back in the US for our youngest daughter’s graduation. Now as the schedule settles back to normal for awhile, we are heading from early spring toward another hot and humid Tokyo summer.
One of our hobbies here is bird watching. Something that I also enjoyed back in the US, but it is a new hobby for my husband. Living so close to the bay, we mostly see water birds here — ducks, gulls, and cormorants. In the winter, we have many different species of ducks that live sheltered along the canals. But these ducks start moving on to their breeding grounds in early, early spring, leaving behind a contingent of Spotbill ducks that prefer to hatch and raise their babies along the canals.
And so it is that we are now seeing the first ducklings on the canals. I went out for a run earlier this week, and spotted two batches of baby ducks sitting on the riprap where the effluent comes in from the water treatment plant. The ducks love this location so much, that we have come to call it the “Duck Bridge” during the summer months. (Although, at night we call it the “Bat Bridge” because so many bats fly and swoop around it, and in the winter — along with the many species of wintertime ducks — it is the “Seagull Bridge” because of the huge flotilla of gulls that like to hang around there.)
We always look forward to baby duck season on the canal, and we see babies of various ages all through the summer and even into early fall. Lots and lots of little Spotbills get their start along these canals. The two batches of babies I saw on Monday, were probably about a week apart in age. There were four in the older bunch, and nine(!) freshly-hatched babies in the younger group.
Alas — nature can be cruel, and on Tuesday, I could see there were fewer babies in the younger group. I couldn’t count them accurately, because they were still sheltering under mama duck most of the time. Such tiny little babies often fall prey to the predators along the canal. There are Black Kites flying among the high-rise buildings, and cormorants that could easily snatch a tiny baby duck or two. Also, we see many large fish in the canal, so the tiniest baby ducks often have a tough time surviving.
Today, as I walked along the canal, I found the older group of four baby ducks sitting on the rocks, but only one of the younger ducks was out on the rocks. Maybe they were there somewhere — resting on the rocks in a sheltered place where I couldn’t see them — while their one brave sibling sat all alone on top of the rocks. I hope they were still there somewhere, but I am doubtful.
Life can be harsh, and I am sad about the loss of this first batch of babies, but I am sure we will be seeing many more baby ducks here this season.