When Sampson met Delilah

 

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DEDICATED...

To all Talls and Smalls

who believe they are no taller or smaller

and no more or less important and deserving of respect

than the creatures we share our world with.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Christine Larsen. All Rights Reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form,
stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
without written permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.

 

 

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One: A Couple of Wise Quackers

"Oh no! No! Stop it! That one nearly hit me." Delilah tried her best to duck the attack of sticks and stones, turning and weaving every which way to avoid them. But finally, a stone scored a direct hit, and it hurt. She was unable to fly, but her stubby legs and broad webbed feet powered her quickly through the water. As far away as I can from those dreadful smalls, she thought. And I imagined they were going to feed me.

Delilah wuk-wuked sadly to herself remembering that day - and her fear and pain. A whole year ago, but she hadn't been able to forget her shock and outrage. She couldn't fly for over a week, and it was SO hard being content with the briefest of paddles. Her pain had worsened when they had laughed cruelly at her.  Laughed!  With their weird "haw, haw, haw" noise. She couldn't help a loud and resentful "WUK, WUK" at the thought of them!

Today when she first saw the new humans in the third shack on the waterfront, she'd had a panicky moment or two. "Great Duck of All Waters," she'd prayed. "Don't let it be them come back again. Please… not again." And her prayer was answered. They were all brand new humans this time. All of them friendly and kind - the talls as well as the smalls. She wucked happily to herself. They seemed quite duckish, actually.

Delilah Duck was delighted. She visited Cooringie Lake each season, timing her arrival for the 'Man' time of year.  How clever they are to know the best times here, she thought.  I wonder what they love best? Bug breakfasts, snail snacks, fly feasts? Maybe mosquito munch-outs most of all?

Delilah didn't care about other ducks calling her 'dizzy' and sniggering in their beaks behind her back because she trusted humans.  I don't give a worm what they think!  If they're too bird-brained to understand that these humans love feeding ducks all kinds of tempting treats… well that's just their muddy luck! Delilah paddled around and around in tight, cross little circles.

I've told them often enough, she thought, as she remembered trying to entice the other ducks with a tiny share. But they wouldn't take any. Yellow-bellied cowards.  And so they missed out on all that dry white fluffy stuff that duckish humans always threw to them.  And they missed out on the delicious mush it made, rolled around in the beak with a goodly shloop of water.

There was no way a simple duck like Delilah, suffering the typical condition of ducks everywhere - namely greed - could possibly appreciate that man-made foods were totally inappropriate for ducks. Even deadly, it had been discovered - causing some ducks in intemperate climates to stay on longer than their migration laws dictated, finally perishing from the extreme cold they were meant to escape. Other poor souls were victims of the dread FFSS (Forgotten Feeding Skills Syndrome).

She "wuked" quietly with happiness. I know I'm being fearfully greedy, but I do hope the new smalls give me more.  As she absent-mindedly picked at the grassy bank in case the odd worm might pop his juicy little head or tail out, the smalls were suddenly back again.

They have that funny thing with them again, Delilah thought. The one they kept filling up with sand and turning upside down to make clever shapes. She couldn't work that one out yet, but there would be the whole season ahead to consider it. But what is this?  They're calling me and throwing something.  For a horrible moment she panicked.  It wasn't a white something… in fact, it looked brown and hard, like a stone. No… please… not a stone!  She started to back-paddle just as one landed right alongside her. Habit made her quickly swipe it with her beak, but she was smart enough to roll it around her mouth a few times to check it. Wait a minute… it's not a stone at all. It's a... a... snail.Oh, joy and duck delights!  

She was so surprised, she dropped it, but a graceful duck-dive rescued the juicy morsel before it could sink too deep.  Oh bliss. What flavour.  What fantastic smalls they are.  And there came another snail – and another!  Delilah felt embarrassed by her disgusting greed, but she couldn't help herself, until finally she absolutely couldn't fit anymore.  Not even a baby snail.  Not even a chip off a shell. She tried to tell the smalls how wonderful her feast had been, and how grateful she was, but she wasn't sure if they understood.

Ohh my tummy! It's protesting loudly. No way I could possibly fly for a while now. I'd never achieve lift-off with this load!  There was only one answer - a long, steady swim far out into the lake… but not too vigorously. Many paddles later, her short legs felt ready to drop off and she didn't have a "WUK" left in her. Delilah rested, gently bobbing up and down on the wavelets. Oh this is lovely, she thought as she settled her feathers down for a duck-nap.

She dreamed she heard a deep, interesting-sounding "WUK, WUK".  The dream felt so real, she woke and peeked carefully through one eye, just in case… and suddenly came fully awake. Right in front of her, studying her with deep concentration, was the most handsome drake Delilah had ever seen. Gorgeous, she thought. Look at those eyes. So dark and compelling… and they look like he's really interested in me. Ohh… I think he's actually making duck-eyes at me! Delilah ducked her head in sudden shyness.

For a time they paddled around each other, saying "WUK, WUK" softly and politely - learning the sight and sound and smell of each other.  Then the handsome drake spoke, in a deep, wonderfully smooth voice and Delilah felt truly dizzy.

"Good afternoon, my dear.  Do you come here often?"

"Uhhm yes. Every season, actually.  But I don't believe I've met you before?"

"Oh no my dear.  I would certainly remember such a charming face." He smiled, and Delilah ducked her head shyly again.  Suddenly his face changed to an expression of disgust.

"How beastly of me," he said.  "What a worm.  Unforgivable manners.  I haven't even introduced myself."  And he did two duck-dips before her, to show his respect.  "Sampson Duck at your service, dear lady."

 "It's a pleasure to meet you.  I am Delilah."

"Delilah!  What a perfect name for a perfectly lovely lady.  May I swim alongside you while you tell me all about yourself?"   And Sampson politely back-paddled a little, to give her the choice of leaving him behind if she preferred.  But Delilah mirrored his movement and continued to swim by his side.

"Shall we go back to the waterfront?  I have many friends there."

"Anything your heart desires, my dear."  Then he frowned. "But not too close."

Delilah couldn’t understand the 'not too close' business, but she duck-shrugged the thought away.  I will get to know everything about this fine fellow in time. I know I will. And her heart beat a little faster with anticipation.

As they paddled along Delilah chattered happily about the farm dam where she spent winter; of its marvellously muddy banks, rich in worm supplies.  "My pantry," she called it.  And the large swamp filled with mysterious and protective tall grasses and reeds, “… so safe. Such a welcome home when the winds blow strongly and the coldest, darkest nights come down."

And she told Sampson of the great gum tree growing alongside the dam - "my friendly giant, rustling in the wind.  What a welcome landmark he is from long flying distances away."    And the special humans living there who never harmed any birds - who seemed to actually welcome feathered visitors. Suddenly, Delilah realised that Sampson had slowed slightly, dropping several paddles behind. He had become quiet again, frowning again.  Oh dear, have I been talking too much? Delilah felt worried. Gently she said, "Sampson?  I'm sorry.  Am I boring you?"

Sampson gave a slight shake of his feathers, as if bringing himself out of a duck-dream.  As if he had indeed been bored, and nearly gone to sleep.  But no. What he said was, "No, no, my dear. Please continue.  I find this all very… interesting!"

Delilah wasn't convinced but thought it best to change the subject, describing instead the delights of the small beach they were heading towards and her marvellous new human friends.  Again she chattered on, her eyes fixed on the distant shore. As she stole another glance at Sampson, she stopped abruptly, back-paddling on the spot. His frown was so deep it was as if his head could split in two.  And his eyes!  Blacker than midnight, gleaming angrily.

"Sampson!  What IS the matter?"  Delilah's heart thudded almost painfully in sudden doubt.  I don't know him very well at all yet.  He could have a really violent temper… or anything.  Delilah shivered, and her quills quivered as a tremor ran through them, right out to the tips of her wing feathers. This looks bad, she thought. Out loud, she said again, "Sampson? Please tell me."

"It's humans, Delilah!  Humans!  That's what's the matter," growled Sampson.  "They are the most terrible creatures on Earth.  And you talk about kindness… and friendship?" He harrumphed loudly several times in disgust. "I can't believe you, Delilah.  Don’t you know yet that humans are our enemies?" And he shuddered all over, as if from an electric shock.

"Enemies, Sampson?  No.  You're wrong.  Some small humans are silly and thoughtless, even cruel sometimes, but all the others I've met have been good to me." Delilah wasn't sure which was worse, her confusion or her distress. "I don't understand. Why do you hate them so?"

"Very well, dear lady.  I'll tell you.  But I fear it will offend your delicate senses,” he said grimly.  "Am I to understand you do not know about the duck shooting season?"

"Duck shooting?"  Another wave of alarm flowed through her body.  This doesn't sound too healthy, she thought, and swam a few tight, agitated circles around Sampson.

"Oh dear me, Delilah.  Your education has been neglected rather badly, I'm afraid." The deepest sadness Delilah had ever seen in a duck's eyes now replaced the anger she'd witnessed moments ago.

"Duck shooting season happens once a year when Man decides the duck population needs pruning.  Humans gather in large numbers in many places, and from the first weak light of dawn on a certain day, they turn peaceful lakes into killing fields. The rest of the year they pretend these are bird sanctuaries.”

“Some die quickly,” he continued, “… like my third cousin, Rupert, who simply exploded in a whirlwind of feathers.  Others disappear in the confusion, never to be heard from again.  My great uncle Archibald was not so fortunate. He had a leg shot completely off, plus serious damage to one wing.  Sadly, his survival was so badly affected he eventually became a fox's supper."  Sampson laid his head back along his side, and brushed away a tear.

Delilah needed to duck her head completely underwater to wash away her tears.  When she felt a little calmer, she glided alongside Sampson to comfort him, gently nuzzling her beak in under his wing feathers. The slight quiver through them showed Delilah her small, kindly duck nibbles were giving him goose bumps, but he didn't seem to mind at all.

"Poor Sampson. I am so sorry for you and your sad times.  I see why you feel that way towards humans," and Sampson nodded sadly in agreement. "… but you're wrong when you say that makes ALL humans our enemies.  And I'll prove it to you!"  Without another 'wuk', she suddenly surged ahead. Sampson was left bobbing up and down over the small waves she caused. With a shock, he realised they were much closer to the end of one of the small jetties than he preferred.  He'd been so involved in memories of long-lost relatives, he hadn't noticed how near they'd come to those dreaded humans.

Sampson was deeply distressed. "WUK WUK," he said. "WUK-WUK-WUK. Come back Delilah. Danger! Danger!" But Delilah swam directly to the water's edge where two smalls were hopping around excitedly. To his horror, Sampson saw two talls stood there as well.  His distress caused him to puff up his feathers, and his quivering caused small ripples to surround him.

Of course, Delilah didn't know the talls had learned about the dangers of white stuff, and initially she was deeply disappointed… until she saw they were carrying small buckets of snails. Sampson's worry turned to amazement as he saw both the smalls and the talls throwing Delilah one snail after another. He couldn't help admiring her skillful capture of many as they flew through the air. And her graceful duck-dives for the morsels that plopped into the water.

"WUK WUK?" said Sampson.

Delilah confidently turned her back on the humans and joyously swam towards him, carrying some snails in her beak.  With eyelids fluttering, she dropped a couple in front of him, saying, "Try them Sampson.  Quickly, or you'll lose them in the bottom mud.  You'll see how wonderful they are. You will believe what kind humans these are."

Suspiciously, Sampson nuzzled one, then carefully rolled it around in his mouth, until finally he couldn't help himself and he munched up the whole lot.  Oh… there was no doubt about it. This was great.

"Come on Sampson.  Don't be chicken!  Come closer with me," said Delilah cheekily.

"Harrumph" said Sampson. And he thought to himself, chicken? No self-respecting duck could overlook a challenge like that.  He shook every feather into smoothest place, lifted his head high, almost swan-like, and though his heart thumped loudly, Sampson swam bravely towards the humans.

Plip!  Plop!  Plunk! Snails rained down in a torrent.  Almost too much to cope with really, but with Delilah at his side, they dined lavishly, in high style.  Sampson kept a careful eye on the humans, still fearing an evil 'gun' thing might appear, but it never happened. These humans were indeed kind.  Perhaps Delilah is right. Perhaps only some humans are enemies.  This was a tremendous thought for a duck of Sampson's experience to accept, but it did seem to be true.

Finally, with stomachs almost uncomfortably full, Delilah and Sampson lazily paddled away.  Delilah could see the confusion of happiness, contentment AND amazement in Sampson's eyes, and she was delighted.  I'm SO proud of my humans. They behaved so well towards him.  He'll soon accept the smalls and the talls as friends.  I just know it.

Delilah was a clever duck. She knew the exact place for Sampson to feel safe while he sorted through this new knowledge.  My favourite place, she thought. Within hearing distance of human voices so he can get used to them.  Delilah's happiness grew as she led Sampson to the reedy island across the water—a safe place for all birds. Even if humans came around in boats, they couldn't land. They couldn’t walk through the swampy ground and tall grasses. Best of all, no horrid nasties like foxes could swim the distance from the mainland. Mm-m-m… it's like a dream come true. Safety and shelter and the best of friends around you. Sampson is going to love my corner of the world.

Delilah had one more secret. On the far side of the island lived the Reverend Christopher Duck - a kindly old minister who specialised in memorable weddings and charming christenings.

Delilah Duck WAS delighted!

 

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Two: Precious Producktions Inc.

"Now shush… ALL of you. NOW!"

"But Mum… Oh please listen, Mum… Oh Mum, I just want to tell you… I'm scared Mum… I don't wanna…Ouch, Simon's pulling my tail feathers…"

Ten little voices wucked their shrill protest and the babble of small voices continued, until Delilah creased her forehead into her most impressive frown and said, "That's IT. I'm going to call your father…  Sampson? Sampson? SAMPSON, I NEED YOU!"

A quiver rippled through the family and a nervous silence fell upon each one of them. It was not that they were really scared of Sampson, but they did respect their handsome Dad, and they did take notice when he lifted his beak in a certain stern way, swung his head from side to side and then fixed them like statues with his beady stare.

You could have heard a pin feather drop as Sampson came ashore, leaving a sharp V of ripples fanning out into the still waters of the lake behind him. Normally Sampson's voice was softer than Delilah's -  firm but always fair. The kids called it 'stroft'. But today's message was important, so he sharpened his quack almost to distress level, demanding his children's full attention.

Delilah had difficulty hiding the twinkle in her eye and a lift of the fleshy corner of her beak. The babes had never seen Sampson's devastating charm back in their courting days, several  months before; the flapping of wings and bursts of super-duck speed as he circled around and around her, causing small wavelets to spread in every direction. All that preening and smoothing of her feathers as well as his own; while he wooed her with a deluge of whistles and grunts. He captured her heart completely with his winning ways. Once again, her heart hammered in her small chest as his songs of love echoed in her mind. Theirs would surely be one of the rare pairings for life she had heard her Grandma and old Aunt Gladys speak of, once upon a time. Their eyes would mist over as they reminisced about their Duck Dreamtime.

"That's more like it!" Sampson's 'tough Dad' voice startled her, but now he had her full attention again, as well as the rest of the family.

"Your Mother has some exciting news… "

A hubbub of quacks and wuks and nickerings (even a gurgly kind of giggling) drowned out his voice, so he had to shout, "QUIET" and frown even more severely.

"Now. She's not going to say one single word…" he peeked slyly sideways at Delilah, who had stretched her neck and head back in shock. Me? Me not say a single word? Her eyes spoke volumes. Sampson continued hastily "…UNTIL – I have my say about mothers in general. And your Mother in particular. What I'm looking for here is a whopping serve of RESPECT!"

The babes couldn't help themselves. A great gush of  soft "Ooo-oo-oo-oo's" broke their silence.

Now his voice became most definitely 'stroft' (although a whole lot more strong than soft, this time). "I want to remind you what a great Mother she is and why you should always listen to her  - especially in the days ahead."

All the kids shimmied and shuffled until they were tucked up happily alongside each other. They didn't need to do this for warmth any more like when they were small balls of fluff. No, they didn't need to, but it was nice, and comforting, and chummy - even though they did have all their big duck feathers now. A little quiver of joy ran through the group. This sounded like Dad was going to tell them another story. They especially loved when one of Mum or Dad's stories were about them, when they were only little fluffy ducks.

"I know, I know… you love stories about yourselves." And he did know. Just like most Mums and Dads, Sampson had this amazing way of seeming to be able to read their minds. "But this time it's the story of before you were born!"

No outbreak of wuk-ing this time, but many gasps and much turning and shaking of heads and widening of eyes. Several of the kids mouthed 'BEFORE we were born?", and others breathed a quiet "Huh?"

Sampson ducked his head under his wing, making an important 'HARRUMPH' sound before he continued.

"Mothers always know when they're going to have babies… " and he flapped his wings out wide in a kind of duck-shrug as he said, "and don't ask me how - I'm not a lady," and he harrumphed again, and added, "… as you may have noticed." He stood a little taller, turned his head towards Delilah and actually smirked at her.

"Hmm, as I was saying - so your Mother knew her children were coming, but I don't think even she expected ten of you." Just a little behind him, Delilah shook her head. She had thought maybe six or seven… but ten? She shook her head again, remembering how much she'd had to fluff out her feathers to cover all those eggs and keep them safe and warm.

"One of the many good things about this island is all the kinds of grasses, perfect for making nests, but firstly your Mother needed to find the exact right place. For ages she seemed to be shaking her head and saying no to one place after another - until finally, after searching and rejecting and searching some more, she finally found THE spot. It was cleverly hidden in a burnt out hole in a huge fallen tree branch. Your Mother was in the best spot to fight off any intruders… IF they could get past me." Sampson paused and tucked his beak down tight to his chest. His eyes took on their most fearful expression as he thought of their enemies.

"Ooo-oo-oow," breathed the babies, and again there was a little nervous and gurgly giggling, and a bit of fidgety burrowing under each other's wings.

"Your Mother made the strongest and safest nest in the whole world. You should have heard all the wuking that went on as she wove those grasses round and around, tucking in all the ends, like all Mothers do when they're making a bed for their kids. Your Mother did twice the work of getting reeds and grasses than me, because I was also keeping her fed with flies and mosquitoes, and treats of water snails. You know how she loves those little crunchers."  

Sampson waddled up and down in front of his family a few times and with another hearty 'harrumph', said, "And that's not all. Do you know what else she did?"

Ten little ducky heads shook "No" vigorously.

"After she had laid all her eggs, she rolled each one of your shells in mud!" And though Sampson didn't have eyebrows to raise, he managed to stretch his eyes wide open.

"In mud? Why Dad, why? Ewww, sounds yucky… " and the chitter-chattering began again.

"SHH-HH! It helped to hide you all - your shells were SO white and shiny, they put you in a lot of danger. Some terrible threats come from the sky, you know."

"Huh?" they all said. It sounded like one loud and lengthy wuk-k-k-k.

"Eagle hawks and Chicken hawks, my little duckadees." Sampson felt deeply distressed at the thought of losing any one of his precious family, and he needed to waddle a few steps away to calm himself.

As quickly as he could he changed the subject, seeing the sudden alarm spread amongst his young audience. "And," he said importantly, "your Mother pulled out SO many of her softest and smallest feathers from her chest to make the warmest bed for you, I thought she would end up topless… in public!" Sampson shook his head in disgust. The very idea!

"So Mum sat… and sat… and then she sat some more. Always and ever she was keeping you covered and safe and warm. And though I kept her well fed with all the foods she loves best, she slowly got thinner. It was for a whole month she smothered her eggs with warmth and love. She would NOT leave you, except for the quickest of 'nature calls', and then I'd watch over you. See what a Mother you have? Hey?"

Now the ten terrors looked ashamed, and most ducked their heads. Some even hid their faces beneath their wings in an ostrich-type escape - 'if I can't see you, then you can't see me'. It didn't work any better for the duck family than for an ostrich, but they did try.

"At last you hatched out - ten eggs and ten ugly, straggly, scrawny, yellow, yukky duckies."

"Oh Dad… NO! Mum always said we were fluff-balls… Oh come on Dad…" The ten terrors began their noisy protests again - until Sampson lifted one wing and flapped it down on the ground several times until they quietened down.

"Shh-hh. Let me tell you the whole story." The way Sampson settled himself down, the terrors knew there was a best part coming.

 "First there's a rocking and rolling of those eggs, all by themselves… and then a crack sneaks across the surface. And a tiny chip falls out and there's a little hole. And a beak, or sometimes a tiny claw pops out… only a little way. And it scrabbles around and another claw pops out, and maybe a whole head. Your Mother let you all just happen by yourselves, each one of you. She really wanted to help, but she knew your chip-chip-chipping made you stronger.

Patrick interrupted,, "…and that's why each of us had to do it alone. So we'd come out strong and tough!" He was always quick to understand new things - always eager to learn.

Alphonso, was another 'firster'' - he had been the first duckling out of his shell, instantly quacking to greet and meet his new world. He always wriggled and preened with pride when Delilah told him he was the 'big brother'. Although he couldn't honestly remember his earliest days, he puffed up his chest, stood taller and pretended.

"And you were ugly ducklings at first."

"Ohh-hh… " sighed all the young ducks. There was a great ripple of sadness through their group and quite a few beaks quivered as small hearts sank. "But… "

"No ifs and buts," Sampson said. His voice was stern, but there was a suspicious twinkle in his eyes. "You came out with your wet and yellow baby fluff all flat and stuck tightly to your bony little bodies. A bundle of soggy excuses for birds, that's what you were. Hmmph… only a Mother could have loved you."

"Ohh… but what about you Dad?" It was little Bella, usually the prettiest of the brood, but now her small face was creased with sorrow. "Didn't you even like us at all? Not even a little itty-bit?"

"Well it was tough at first, but someone had to be kind to you…" Sampson needed to turn his head right around and pretend to preen his back feathers, so the kids wouldn't see his wide grin. But when he faced them again, he couldn't control the pride in his dark eyes. And they knew it.

"Ohh-hh Dad!" Several voices rang out together with much sniggering and happy wuking once again, as Sampson told them how beautiful and precious they were… "as soon as the sun had dried you out," he said, and his feathers puffed up with pride to match the glint in his eye.

"A heap of little yellow puff balls, that's what you were," he continued. "Clambering up onto everything, tripping over the edge of the nest, somersaulting head over heels, time and time again. What a shermozzle!" A quiver of satisfaction and happiness spread through his eager audience, and knowing the excited babbling that would come next, Delilah took a few steps forward.

"Haar-hum." Delilah cleared her throat to make sure she had their attention. She gently nuzzled Sampson's wing as a reminder of the news they had to tell the family – the whole point of this family assembly.

"Uhrr yes. I'll just hand over to your Mother," and the kids hid their smiles in a sudden bout of preening. Sometimes they weren't so sure who the real boss was.

"OK my baby duckadees. Ready for the news?"

The babes were distracted for a minute. "Duckadees? Ohh Mum!" All the little voices chittered and chattered again. "We're not duckadees any longer… we're nearly adults now." And they turned every which way to show off their grown-up feathered coats.

"Is it the flying thing we've been practicing Mum?" And right out at the back of the group, Barnaby spread his wings and flapped them vigorously. This was too exciting for the others and they all had to copy him. In moments it was like a small snowstorm, as their finest and fluffiest baby feathers filled the air.

When Sampson shouted "AT EASE! RIGHT NOW!" and spread his own might wings to their widest, the noise died in an instant, although the downy feathers took a little longer to drift silently to the ground.

Delilah looked at each one of her brood lovingly as she carefully chose her words. "Yes Barnaby, it IS the flying thing. But it's much, much further than we've ever been before, and it's going to take all the courage and energy you can give, to get where we're going".

She looked hard and long at all of them and lifted a wing as she saw some take a deep breath, ready to break out their babbling yet again. She continued quickly, in her firmest voice, before they could start.

"We're going tomorrow morning, at first light, that some call 'sparrow-fart'."

The kids couldn't help it, there were sniggers galore and whispers—"Mum said 'fart'… oooh! wah!"

Delilah ignored them and continued, "Your father and I have decided that our home has too many humans coming here now. It wasn't so bad when they were those kind ones we've known, but the new ones are different. Remember last week, Ned? When that great noisy speeding monster nearly hit you? And the rest of you hid yourselves away for hours afterwards and cried. Remember?"

The babes looked at each other and shuddered. And Dad called them the ten terrors? They were just sitting ducks for these kind of terrorists.

 "That was just the last straw. Dad and I talked and talked about it and we've decided. We're leaving to make a new home for us all—far, far away. We'll have to have a couple of breaks in the trip because it's your first major migration, but we'll watch you carefully and know when it's time to rest."

Fabian couldn't help herself... she simply had to know. "But where, Mum? Where is the long, long way away?" She looked awed and excited at the same time. So did the others as they looked at each other nervously and then back to Mum to hear what she would say.

"It's South," Delilah said. "Deep in the deepest South of this country. It will take us all day, with  rests. Unless we decide to stay overnight somewhere along the way." She shook her head, knowing already what her brood were planning to ask next "It's called Lake McIntyre and it's a sanctuary... "

"Where dead things are?" Jamie's eyes were like saucers, not like duck eyes at all.

"No, silly. That's a cemetery!" Sampson snorted and shook his head. "This is a sanctuary for birds and nobody is allowed to harm any one of us who come there. Doesn't matter if some are only there for a night or two, or a month, or forever. They'll always be safe. It's human law."

Delilah chimed in, "The only shooting that's allowed is with cameras, to take photos. These are the kindest of people who welcome all birds. They even put up with those squawking scavengers, the seagulls. I heard they'd rather not have them there, but they don't want to scare away any other birds. Truly, they love birds SO much, they're not allowed to bring their cats or dogs with them, in case they worry us."

She smiled happily as she imagined the lake and islands humans had made especially for a safe home for birds. And her heart was filled with joy as she pictured her brood living and loving and growing old in this special place.

Delilah Duck WAS delighted!

 

 

 

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Three: High Flyers

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Four: Homeward Bound

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