The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 21st, 2010

cry fowl, and let slip…

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

This threesome was observed recently, hanging around industrial Queens. Two males and a female, it seemed that they were up to no good, and didn’t have a reason for being in the neighborhood. There was nothing specific that drew my suspicions, let’s just call it instinct.

from wikipedia

The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the best-known and most recognizable of all ducks, is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and sub-tropical areas of North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, New Zealand (where it is currently the most common duck species), and Australia. It is strongly migratory in the northern parts of its breeding range, and winters farther south. For example, in North America it winters south to Mexico, but also regularly strays into Central America and the Caribbean between September and May.

The Mallard is the ancestor of all domestic ducks, except the few breeds derived from the unrelated Muscovy Duck (Cairinia moschata).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When confronted and questioned, they claimed that coming here during the winter months is a family tradition. The place isn’t what it was in the time of their grandparents or great grandparents, they asserted, but nostalgia compels them to visit the area annually. Additionally, the subjects said that the place was once a paradise.


The Mallard is our commonest duck, the one you are most likely to be greeted by if you throw out food at your local park pond. Some Mallards have been domesticated and so you may also see Mallard-like hybrids showing bewildering colours from khaki brown to pure white. The displaying male Mallard shows his colours very clearly as well as the diagnostic curly black uppertail feathers. The female Mallard is the standard dabbling duck against which all the others should be compared. Mallard in flight can be told by their relatively large size, the contrastingly dark-chested appearance of the males and the fact that the white borders on either side of the dark blue speculum are both equally obvious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They alleged that just before the civil war, there were oysters, deer, and forests in the area- and their extended family would join them here for feasts and bacchanal.

from wikipedia

Ducks exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small molluscs.

Diving ducks and sea ducks forage deep underwater. To be able to submerge more easily, the diving ducks are heavier than dabbling ducks, and therefore have more difficulty taking off to fly.

Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water or on land, or as deep as they can reach by up-ending without completely submerging. Along the edge of the beak there is a comb-like structure called a pecten. This strains the water squirting from the side of the beak and traps any food. The pecten is also used to preen feathers.

A few specialized species such as the smew, goosander, and the mergansers are adapted to catch and swallow large fish.

The others have the characteristic wide flat beak designed for dredging-type jobs such as pulling up waterweed, pulling worms and small molluscs out of mud, searching for insect larvae, and bulk jobs such as holding and turning headfirst and swallowing a squirming frog. To avoid injury when digging into sediment it has no cere. but the nostrils come out through hard horn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

But, their story doesn’t feel right, they were up to something. Call it a hunch, but I don’t trust those ducks at Dutch Kills. Not the first time that a duck has been involved with trouble around these parts.

from the annals of Newtown

The barn of Thomas Woodward, a worthy inhabitant, who lived where Mr. Victor now does, in Newtown village, was used by the enemy as a hospital for the sick soldiery. On a winter’s night Mr. Woodward was aroused by a noise among his ducks, at the rear of the house. Opening the back door, he could see no one, for the night was foggy. He however discharged his gun at a venture, expecting only to frighten the intruder, but the next morning a soldier was found dead a short distance from the house, with a duck under his coat. The soldiers were so exasperated at Woodward, that he continued to be in great fear for his life. It has been said that he was not called to account for this deed, but from the nature of the act, and the wrath excited, such an omission would have been extraordinary. Besides, I find him arraigned “a prisoner” before a court-martial, April 26th, 1782, though unfortunately the offence is not stated. He was favored in this case by the intercession of Serj. Major B. Rathbone, of the grenadiers, who had quartered at his house.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 21, 2010 at 1:21 am

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