Sometimes I think we tend to underestimate the intelligence or acumen of some of the other creatures that share our planet with us; often they can do something that is difficult to explain away as instinctive or unreasoning. Take this little example for instance: on my way home each day, I usually stop off in a little car park at Penmaenpool for a few minutes to see what’s going on around the area. It commands a spectacular view across the estuary to the hills in the distance and the often flooded fields and mud flats near the lovely old wooden toll bridge are a haven for all sorts of bird life – Red-breasted Mergansers, Herons, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Rooks and of course always the ubiquitous Mallards.
A couple of days ago I had pulled in there, and a dapper looking male Mallard accompanied by his more soberly attired female were waddling around the car park picking over any scraps which had been left behind by the untidy visitors. I had some of my sandwiches left over, so I wound down the window, broke off some bits and threw them out, much to the delight of the two ducks, who rushed over in that comical gait that they have and got stuck into them.
The following day, I drove into the carpark at about the same time and parked up in roughly the same place – now there were several other cars there, some of them with people in them, but the two Mallards were sitting quietly on the grass ignoring them. But as soon as I stopped they jumped up and came waddling over to the car as if they recognised me – again I wound down the window and was starting to rummage in my bag for something to give them, when the female decided I was being much too slow and took a flying leap up onto the window ledge of the car, perching precariously there for a couple of seconds, flapping wildly, before over balancing and tipping forward into my lap. The next few moments were a bit frenetic to say the least as she flapped around furiously and started pecking at the bag on my lap, mainly missing the bag and making quite painful contact with a rather delicate part of my anatomy. Eventually I managed to open the door and get her outside with her husband but she seemed completely fearless and I had to restrain her from getting back in to the car. She wasn’t content until I’d tipped some food onto the ground for her. These weren’t domesticated birds mind you, they were properly free and wild – in the case of the female exceptionally wild!