Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vacations and Parenthood

Bass Creek empties into Lake Manitou at the fishing camp on Manitoulin Island. Fishing boats are tied up at night along the wooden docks at the mouth of the creek and muskrats swim silently through the dark water. Water levels are high this year and the shoreline was plowed back by thick ice this past winter. The usual rocky shoals where ducks could perch and feed from away from the shore are under water, marked only by bobbing orange buoys.

In the mornings I watched a female Common Merganser bring her large brood to the creek to feed on minnows. The little ones practiced their diving skills and would pop up and down around their mother. Occasionally, groups of them would become separated from her and would scurry across the surface, their webbed feet looking as if they were walking on water as they shot quickly by to catch up with the others.

The little orange-headed balls of down and feathers were amusing to watch in the silent early morning hours. The camp slowly awakened and fishermen gathered their gear and headed toward the boats. As the motors hummed to life, the family of Mergansers moved on to the next feeding spot. Those closest to Mom hopped on her back for a free ride.

Unscheduled vacation days are a luxury, even at a backwoods fishing camp. Sitting outdoors and drinking hot tea as the chill of night lifts from the water is not part of my normal daily routine. There was no vacation for the female Merganser as she cared for her large family singlehandedly. My vacation is over too but the peaceful images of the week remain in my mind.

And I can return there in my imagination at will...

This post is dedicated to parents everywhere! My niece, Jaspenelle is into her second month of motherhood, and my niece Damara gave birth to a little girl this past week. I am now a great-aunt three times over. I skimmed over a great number of blog posts today from my blogroll and had to laugh at the synopsis of a scientific study on motherhood posted by Femail Doc, Dr. Judy Paley.


  1. Goodness, that is quite a brood! Great pictures of them. Glad you have good memories to bring home. Welcome back.

    Did you build the cairn to mark your spot? Or did someone else do that?

  2. Did I count 16 babies?!? Very cute riding on mom's back.

  3. Glad you had such a memorable time Ruth. Love that mom and her babies, and I counted 16 too Lynne! Wow!

  4. Beautiful post! I hope your return to work goes smoothly. :~)

  5. You described and photographed a fine morning.

  6. What a cute family. 16...quite the grocery list they must have.

    That is a very nice cairn.

  7. Ruth,

    What a lovely morning. I love to go into the wilderness and enjoy the creatures early in the morning. The mom and her babies are awesome. Thanks for sharing. I hope to see more photos from your vacation.


  8. All those babies belong to one mama?

    Wow. What darling photos. You're so lucky to have breeding ducks where you are.

  9. What a very large family that is for the mother Merganser to handle all on her own. I love the photo of the baby Merganser on her back, I have never seen that. Great pictures.

    Also your last photo of the piled rocks and the waves coming in says it all; peace and contentment! This is a lovely post.

  10. NCMW- The little Inuksuk was on the beach built by someone else. Driving north through the great rocky Canadian Shield, you see these rocky monuments everywhere.

    Lynne- I believe there is one more fuzzy head of a chick sitting on Mom's back. I counted 17 at the lake.

    Jayne- I read that Mergansers have a clutch of 6-17 eggs. This one has a maximum sized family, if they are all hers.

    Evelyn- Thanks- I am actually looking forward to work again.

    AC- I am sure you recognize a good cottage morning. Our north is lovely.

    SG- Maybe this is Daycare...

    Mary- I took plenty of pictures, and am still sorting them out. So much to see!

    Laura- We have Mergansers in SW Ontario in the winter, but they go north to breed. It was a treat to see these ones.

    Ann- There were plenty of minnows so perhaps this large brood will survive to adulthood. I don't know how the mother could keep track of so many. The babies instinctively keep track of her I think.

  11. Wow! that's a lot of baby mergansers. Maybe she adopted a few or some fertility drugs got dumped into the water.-Nice post.

  12. And your picture of the mama merganser makes me laugh. She didn't even have time to comb her hair!


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