Thursday, June 26, 2008

And They're Off!

It took three weeks for them to hatch, 10 days for them to develop flight, and 7 weeks to be ready for freedom. Our nine little Northern Bobwhite Quail are the most charming little birds. They have been fun to watch and fun to listen to. Even though I wanted to keep them as wild as possible, I couldn't resist sitting a little way from their pen to watch them occasionally. We had to catch escapees no less than 4 times (which was easier than I would have thought).

When we opened the pen for them to enter their new wild home, they were a little confused at first, but caught on quickly. In the five days since their release, we have regularly spotted them wandering through the thick undergrowth at the edge of the woods, making very happy noises and taking dust baths.

Best wishes, little birds!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bye-Bye, Birdie!

There comes a time when all good things in life must come to an end. Of course, some of those things wear out their welcome before that time comes.

Since I began raising ducks in 2006, it has been a love-hate relationship all the way. Ducks are beautiful and fascinating creatures. Watching ducklings enjoy their first experiences with water is highly entertaining and seeing them fly for the first time is always remarkable.

However, ducks, though fastidious about their personal hygiene, create an environment that is completely filthy. They are violently territorial and deplorably unintelligent. My ducks have probably brought me as many moments of frustration as of joy.

In past years, we have had very high morbidity with our ducks. Out of the initial four we purchased two years ago, only one survives today. Of the three that were hatched last year, only one survives today. This year has been dramatically different. Our hen (last year's lone remaining hatchling) laid 28 eggs. With our help, she hatched 22 ducklings, 18 of which made it to the age at which they could leave their mother. To go from 2 ducks to 20 was a bit much for us to manage. Our duck pen simply could not accommodate that number of full-size ducks. We chose two to keep, and the rest we tagged and loaded up into the van.

I must say that I do not advocate releasing domesticated animals into the wild. Animals that have imprinted on humans tend to lose too much of their flight response to survive in a predatory environment. However, in the days leading up to the release, my ducks stopped following me, would not come to me for food, and would not really eat the food I put out for them. They stayed in the water and began treating me with great suspicion. It was as if some internal switch had been flipped in them. They were ready to fly the coop. Perhaps there is an optimum window of time for the release of domestically raised wild birds. Just as they would leave their duck parents, they were ready to leave their human ones, too. Even so, I selected a very secure location for them, in a park where the level of human activity keeps predators to a minimum and where there is an existing wild population of ducks with a lack of human shyness.

They took to their new home immediately and within minutes were following a group of older ducks--at a respectful distance, of course.

So, I admit, I was a little sad to see them go. It was the end of a big chapter in my world--my world which is a lot quieter today.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert (1950-2008)

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death today of political analyst Tim Russert. There aren't many news personalities I respect, but he was one of the few I did. Regardless of his personal political leanings, he was always unbiased and fair, honoring the truth above his own opinions.

I will miss the intelligence and character he brought to his profession and offer my condolences to his friends and family.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Illegal Homeschooling

In honor of having just finished my 8th year of homeschooling, I thought I would take a moment to reflect in horror on the recent judicial wranglings in California on this topic. First, California courts declared that homeschooling is not lawful unless the parent has formal teaching credentials. Then, after much outcry from the public, the ruling was vacated. The most disturbing statement to come out of all this is the declaration that the Constitution does not give parents the right to homeschool their children. How many people in our country believe that our rights come from the Constitution, I wonder? According to the founding fathers, our rights come from the Creator. The Constitution was intended to define government, put limits on its power, and, in so doing, protect the God-given rights of the nation's citizens.

The education of my children is my domain and my responsibility. How I choose to fulfill that responsibility is fully my decision. This is not a right given to me by my government and, therefore, is not a privilege that can be revoked. Even as I defy anyone to prove my children are not adequately educated, I reject the notion that anyone else has the right to make that determination on my behalf.

For those of you who do not homeschool, do not sit comfortably thinking that this does not affect you. Anytime the government makes a move to chip away at one parent's dominion over the rearing of her child, they chip away at the rights of all parents. It is only one small step at a time to lead us into a society in which the government is the ultimate parent with final say over how our children are raised.