A hiss of wind through pinions
The only sound they make;
Wingtips skimming sullen waves —
Daybreak on the lake.
The mergansers are passing through;
A spear of zebra snow
Lancing through the rising mist,
Silent as they go.
Tooth billed, hooked beaked and ravenous,
They arrow through the mere.
There’s many a carp in Candlewood
Will see no spring next year.
And I shall wait the whole year through
To hear their whirring hum;
The whispered call that mergansers
To Candlewood have come.
For sixteen years I have watched the merganser ducks arrive on Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. My small wooden house there perches over the lake, a large picture window affording a view of the westerly hills on the opposite shore. To the north, one can see several miles of uninterrupted water. The lake freezes over in winter, but just before that happens the mergansers arrive — usually unnoticed and always unannounced. Their absolute ‘radio silence’, before they have filled their bellies with fish, is eerie. One minute, the lake is an empty waste of iron grey waves, mist or snow. The next, I look up and hundreds upon hundreds of mergansers have filled the winter landscape. The only sound is that of their wing beats. It is this predatory, menacing quiet that makes their arrival such a thrilling event year after year.
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