As Delightful as Unsurprising

Quercus roburThis morning I walked through the Gardens on my way to accomplishing items on my to-do list. Along the way I met a birder.

Of course I met a birder. It is as delightful as it is unsurprising to me that I met a birder on my way to box-ticking.

I met her beneath the English oak closest to where I entered. I had stopped because I noticed about ten ducks either wading in the dew having breakfast or relaxing in a post-feeding stupor. Why this tree out of the dozens upon dozens of others? As though her binoculars allowed her to hone in on a particular bend of the rambling pathways of my mind as well as grant her vision to gaze upon branches furthest sprawling, I heard a female voice say Acorns. These acorns are different.

For about ten minutes she explained her observations that took us from her spending time with (and, erm, ultimately tasting) Andalusian pigs (who were fattened on this same variety of acorn) to the mealtime behaviours of the common grackle who laid claim to the upper reaches of this particular tree. Blue jays staked out the midland and knocked down many of the acorns when they got worked into a fluff over territory, and the ducks simply took sensible advantage of this winged vending machine that provided not only breakfast, but English acorns no less. Beneficially, the fruits of the Quercus robur are more elongated than they are round and the caps are prone to popping off.

I asked about whether this was the only example of this tree in the Gardens. The birder brightened. No! There are three, actually…one on the other side of the pond and one over toward the main entrance—but this one gets the most sun. This tree has more mallards because it produces more fruit. The others have more females because they don’t want to fight for their meal. They change ‘cafés’ as the sun moves.

We spoke for several more moments about our observations and gratitude for the Gardens and went our ways. One with a backpack holding an Ipad and a to-do list; one with rubber-coated binoculars pressed to her eyes and a mask dangling from her wrist.

Sitting and writing now, I can’t help but reflect on the mutuality of our own human encounter alongside the tree that cyclicly houses and feeds so many… Speaking, listening, sharing, sparking… And I wonder whether the ducks notice.

If they did, that wouldn’t surprise me either.

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