Friday, December 19, 2008

Ducks can communicate, I just needed to pay more attention!

I got a call from a nervous farm hand who told me that he had seen a head of a large python lurking from our Lotus Pond at the farm. I left immediately, and my driver, Liberto was peeding down the highway to get to the farm before the snake would be caught. I wasn't necessary alone on a Sunday morning, heading for the upland country of Tagaytay. This was happening during the year, where prices of oil hit $100 a barrel. This crisis caused a downward trend in the economics of the country. There are less people on the road joyriding! Only the more serious commuters take to the highway at 8:00Am Philippine time.

I reached my small organic farm located in a glen beside the Biluso River. The rainy season has just ended, and the lots around mine have grown wild and bamboo thickets have reached my wall. Below this bamboo thicket is my Lotus pond where I keep my ducks and geese in a safe enclave with enough water for them to play and wander about.

This morning, the ducks were looking very happy frolicking back in the water they dreaded to enter a few weeks before.

I now know the "duck language" is expressed in their behavior. They form tight groups, and their heads all turn at once, their body language is pronounced in a fear that I thought was because I was coming into their space. They huddle together, all taking steps in formation as if they were one large duck coming towards me and away from the pond. I noticed it, but didn't think much of how ducks communicate, but now I understand they had been telling me and everyone that there was a snake growing larger and larger in their area.

I once found that the most cruel predator in the Philippines, is the large, water- monitor lizard. These giants have the habit of ripping the belly of their pray. They will leave their pray lying on the ground, their middle sections torn open. The monitors eat the softer parts, internal organs, then leave the rest of their carcass to rot, thus softening the harder tissue for a meal another day. Believing in the natural way of life, I discouraged my farm hands from killing and eating monitors when they caught them. Against good advise, I often ordered to release them back in the river and hope they will not return to my duck and geese pond.

Well, now I am a seasoned farmer, and know that monitors and pythons are not endangered and they must be taught never to come near our farm. I have changed after seeing my lovely geese, ducks and chickens lying silently on the ground, their abdominal cavities empty and ravaged by a savage reptile. I am now for duck rights and geese preservation, which means any reptile or wild animal coming to my farm for free food is going to end up as appetizers for my farm hands.

The 12 foot python managed to drag himself to the storm drain. He swallowed an entire chicken whole. He tried to escape but the large lump in his belly would not pass through the storm drain after he ate his meal. The snake was not able to drag his big belly out of the pond and into the safety of the bushes where he could hide.

This time, the python was discovered on an early morning after swallong whole, a single pullet that prefered to stay out at night.

The ducks were silently sitting far away from the vicinity of the ponds and avoiding the large storm drain at the side of the chicken barn. Their posture signaled to me that they were communicating something sinisetr was lurking in the chicken house. The ducks silence was meant to focus attention on the pond. My farm hands said, they saw the python, lying still, and stiff posing for the bright light shining directly into its eyes. What a dreadful threat waited for these ducks in the pond!

My ducks were telling me somthing. They, along with the chickens are being raised for their eggs, not meat. Now that I recognize that ducks can communicate, I know what the message "SNAKE" is and I did understand why the ducks refused to enter the small pond area and swim. They knew, and they were telling me that for years that damn python was growing and eating their ducklings and our chickens too stupid to realize the predator was harmless when fed, and even content to wait until its hunger pangs drove them to kill again.

I know pythons may be fascinating to some who are into reptiles, but this one is long gone and hopefully there are fewer of its friends who would come by my farm. Crows, chickens, ducks, geese feed on tiny serpents they find in the ground or in the water, but a large python this size could kill a dog and grow to its full length of 15 feet and weigh as much as 400 lbs. Risky to have such a threat around when we have the children of the farm hands, not to mention our dogs, cats, ducks, chickens and geese to protect.