© 2009, Joshua Stark
My ducks represent the first time I've ever tried to raise anything other than a cat or dog, and the biggest difference I've noticed is the predator-prey relationship concept, and more specifically, I am learning what the world looks like through the eyes of prey.
When I step outside, for example, and my dog comes up to greet me, she walks straight at me, or at a slight angle, looking at me and wagging her tail. The ducks look at me sideways, and if I move straight towards them, they cock their bodies away from me, while keeping an eye glued to me.
In the yard, they always keep watch. Irma does, too, but more in a manner befitting a creature who knows its territory and wants to know who else is here. The ducks are keeping guard to prepare to flee from something trying to eat them.
Last night, I accidentally shined a flashlight into their pen. Don't do that. You'd have thought I threw a live - and angry - wildcat in there: much flapping and flinging into the wire, and very 'every duck for yourself!'
And as a prey-owner, I now start looking at things in a different light, too. Those rats that thwarted my trap? They may steal from my ducks, or hurt them. They are no longer a mere nuisance. And opossums and raccoons are downright threats to life and limb.
But yesterday took the cake.
Out in the morning, my eyes wildly scanning the walnut tree for signs of squirrels or starlings, I saw what I first thought to be my resident Nuttall's woodpecker, with its familiar stripes... he sure is bobbing funny, and kinda hanging in the air... I followed his 'back' up, and found he wasn't a woodpecker, but the tail of a hawk! I peered around the other side of the trunk, and there she sat, in the upper third of the canopy, watching my ducks like a... well, a hawk. She was also watching the squirrels, and I pushed them up into the tree a bit more by flinging some walnuts they'd dropped. Before I could get my camera, she flew off.
I have never seen a hawk like that. By this, I don't mean the species (it was probably a juvenile red-shouldered hawk), I mean the perspective.
Now, when Irma barks, I go look, I don't just yell out the window. When the scrub jays chatter, I hear the urgency in their voices when they are concerned, and I peer through the canopy, too. I see with different eyes. I hear with different ears.