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Unnatural Selection

Bayou-Diversity (29 March 2020) A while back I wrote about the dispersal of white oak acorns and how they fell onto my new steep metal roof and launched themselves over the edge and into my yard. I did not realize at the time that I would soon involuntarily mimic the acorn act by launching myself from the peak of this roof, down the 7/12 pitch and onto the sidewalk below. The laws of physics functioned according to established equations, particularly acceleration—both positive and negative—and gravity. The density of mass was tested and as might be expected, that of concrete exceeds that of older human bone. Density = Mass/Volume, you remember. This incident stimulated me to the extreme and also boosted the local health-care related economy. The fall initiated a chain of events that involved among others an exasperated wife, a perplexed state trooper, and a very talented orthopedic surgeon. I don’t really have time here to go into the details except to say that because of all the metal screws and other foreign hardware now in my foot, airport security checks will never be the same for me again.

So how does all of this relate to the normal theme of this blog, which pertains to conservation and our natural resources? Here’s the nexus: A wild duck is to blame for my broken foot. It’s true. Two species of waterfowl common to this area build nests and lay their eggs in tree cavities. The hooded merganser is a small, black and white fish-eating duck that produces eggs, which are amazingly almost perfectly spherical. This species is innocent of the matter. The other local and very guilty cavity nester is the wood duck. Wood ducks will also readily nest in manmade boxes intended for that use and other manmade devices not so intended—such as my fireplace chimney. This aggravating habit predicates the need to cover my chimney each spring in order to prevent a chimney full of trapped ducks—which has happened by the way. Thus, no wood ducks—no need to cover my chimney and fall off the house in the process. Or is this really the case? If I had not built my house with its inviting chimney in good wood duck habitat, there would be no incident. By eliminating mentally unfit wildlife biologists from the population at large, perhaps this was nothing more than a prime example of natural selection at work. (Note: This happened several years ago and I’ve since shed my grudge against wood ducks. Adapted from Bayou-Diversity – Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country; LSU Press)


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