poetry and prose about place

American Black Duck

with 6 comments

On our drives along the St. John River this month, we have tried to identify as many ducks as possible.  There are actually not a lot of species to sort through, but we are just learning.  Among the ducks we have seen this May are the American Wigeon (Anas americana), the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), and the American Black Duck (Anas rubripes).  These are all Marsh Ducks, surface feeders of ponds and marshes.  The species in this Subfamily feed by ‘dabbling’ and ‘upending’… delightful words!

One weekend, we watched a male American Black Duck for quite a while.  He flew around a bit, flashing his white wing linings, and then floated slowly along a back passageway through the marsh.  He was very dark brown, with a tan head, a yellow beak, and a bluish wing patch. The best part of the experience was his deep croaking, each croak about a second long, and sounding like a little like an unimaginative bullfrog or two pieces of smooth wood being rubbed slowly together.


The poem below requires a short explanation.  Two months ago, I attended a workshop on climate change at the offices of the North Shore Micmac District Council in Eel Ground, New Brunswick.  I was given a gift afterward, a calendar showing the names of the months in the Mi’qmak language.  The names are beautiful and describe well characteristics of the natural world during various times of the year.  For those of you who do not live in this part of the world, the Mi’kmaq are a First Nations people, indigenous to this region.



Frog-Croaking Moon – Etquljuikús

(Mi’qmak name for the May moon)


under the May moon,

bullfrogs glub-grunk,

underscore spring peeper trill


rasp of a Black Duck

rowing in the reeds



of fir and maple

grown to lean on one-another



©  Jane Tims  2012

6 Responses

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  1. Jane, Your drawing of the black duck is superb! And I am thankful for a new name for one of the monthly moons. Some of my friends and I collect these names that have been given so long ago. They make interesting poetry. This post is delightful.



    May 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm

  2. Jane,

    I’ve been remiss in not commenting on your wonderful blog!! It is such a treasure with your photos and poetry and artwork and all of the fascinating information you provide. You’ve been so generous with your comments on my blog and I so look forward to them. I was especially pleased to learn the name of the spring ephemeral “Quaker Lady” as I worship at the Quaker church. And learning of the lady in the violet – just FABULOUS! So thanks in a myriad of ways. All the best. Cathy



    May 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    • Hi. I look forward to reading leafandtwig too. Your poems and images pair beautifully with one another, and always leave me with something to think about. Jane


      jane tims

      May 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  3. Gorgeous drawing, love the poem and post.



    May 21, 2012 at 8:40 am

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