Eiders have trouble figuring out bipeds

What's really strange is when they walk with quadrupeds

Hank McFarland

Every December the Audubon Society holds a bird count in the state of New Hampshire.  The state is divided into 21 diverse regions, and the birds are counted by volunteers. They attempt to total the birds found within 15 miles of the center of each of these regions. One of those regions consists of the Seacoast, with the center in the North Hampton area.

The following imaginary conversation occurs between two ducks by the name of Ernie and Eva Eider, and it takes place on the 20th of December somewhere along the rocky coast of Rye.



Ernie and Eva Eider.  (photos by Magnús Sveinsson, Ólafsfjürður, Iceland)

“Ernie, the days are getting shorter and shorter. They must be coming soon.”

“You know, Eva, they usually pick the day with the least amount of daylight. I think you’re right, it will be soon. We had best be on our guard.”

“Look Ernie, right where the road makes a corner. There’s a van pulled over and look what’s getting out of it. I see two, three, no four bipeds all bundled up against the cold. See, they’re carrying something. It looks like a three-legged stool. They’re setting it up beside the road. Look at the old guy with the scarf wrapped around his neck. He’s trying to fasten something to his stool.”

“Get down, Eva. Maybe it’s a gun. Even if it’s not a gun, we don’t want to be part of whatever they are doing.”

“What in the world do you think they are doing, Ernie? It’s making me nervous."
“According to Grandpa Elwood Eider the bipeds have a hobby of showing up at the coldest time of the year and counting eiders. As a matter of fact, grandpa thinks they not only count eiders, but they count all birds, even the ones living far from the water. He tells of them being seen in the woods, on top of hills, just about any place you can imagine.”

“Why in the world would bipeds want to count birds, Ernie? Don’t they have better things to do in their world?”

“Eva, you have to understand, bipeds are much different than ducks, or even other species of birds. Grandpa says that they count much more than birds. He has seen bipeds taking a little package from their pocket and counting the slips of paper they have stored in them.”

“Is that true, Ernie?”

“Sure. And that’s not all the counting they do. About a moon ago they were looking for someone to be the top duck of their flock. All over the land bipeds went to special places and got behind a curtain to make their choice for top duck. And guess what? They picked a biped that is sort of like me, a combination of black and white.”

“A black and white biped … that must be interesting. Ernie, I hear that bipeds just can’t leave well enough alone. The top duck has not even taken over, and already other ducks are fussing around trying to get in a position to take over the flock.”

“That’s the way bipeds do it, Eva. It takes years of maneuvering to get into position to be top duck, and before you even take the position more ducks are trying to take over.”

“Keep down Ernie. I see more bipeds. They’re looking our way.”

“Ernie, what else do bipeds count? Counting seems to be a really funny habit. If we eiders spent time counting, we would end up starving to death.”

“Grandpa Elwood says that bipeds have games that they play. Almost all of them involve counting. There’s one game where they hit a ball with a little stick. The idea is that the biped who hits the ball fewer times than the other bipeds he is playing with wins. Grandpa says that sometimes the counting that goes on is not very accurate. Another game revolves around two groups of bipeds trying to move a pig up and down a field. Grandpa says it is very hard to keep track of the count, because they don’t just count by one at a time. Sometimes they do something worth six points, sometimes one, sometimes three.  Sadly, some of the bipeds go out of their way to smash each other’s bodies. It’s all quite confusing and adds to most eider’s skepticism about bipeds."

“Ernie, we’re just lucky that we are not bipeds. We spend our days swimming, diving, eating, and sunning ourselves. We never count anything. Bipeds could learn a lot from us.”

“You are right there, Eva. Bipeds have some really strange habits. Have you ever seen a biped swim, Eva?”

“Well, yes, I have seen little bipeds swimming off the beach.”

“Then you must have noticed all the splashing they do. When eiders swim they just paddle their feet, and without any large exertion they cover a long distance in a short time. Bipeds swim with great violence. The water splashes all over the place, and they bob up and down like corks. They kick their feet and flail their arms around. It’s not a pretty sight.

"Then there are other bipeds that like to use logs to ride waves along the beach. As you know, when an eider rides a wave it just drifts along on the current. Bipeds, on the other hand, climb onto their logs and try to pull themselves forward with their arms to gain the same speed as the oncoming wave. Then they jump onto their log and attempt to ride it to shore. When they are successful it looks great, but many times they go beak over tail feather into the water."

“That is so funny, Ernie. I love to see the bipeds take those falls. Ernie, have you ever watched a biped try to catch a fish?”

“Yes, Eva, isn’t it hilarious? They stand on a rock along the shore and try to throw some object into the water where they think the fish are waiting. If some fish does happen to grab hold of their object they get so excited that falling into the water is a real danger. It certainly would be simpler for them if they followed our example and just dive under the surface and catch them with their beaks.”

“Ernie, every morning when I wake up I see bipeds on the beach, walking with quadrupeds. Sometimes the bipeds are moving slowly and deliberately while the quadrupeds are running in circles around them. At other times the quadrupeds are tied to the bipeds with a rope, and as they run they wrap the rope right around the bipeds. I even saw one biped that got so tied up that it fell onto the sand. Occasionally the bipeds are running as fast as they can and the quadrupeds are keeping time with them. What do you suppose the bipeds are thinking of when they exhibit this behavior?”

“Eva, Grandpa Elwood says that we must not judge biped behavior as we would eider behavior. Eiders are practical. We swim, we dive and catch fish, we nap in the sun … everything we do is in harmony with the sea and nature. In contrast, he says it is in the biped’s nature to try and do everything in the most difficult way possible. If it can be done with little effort, bipeds try to use maximum effort. If it can be done in a short time, bipeds make it last and last. If it can be done safely, bipeds make it risky. They are a contrary species to say the least.”

“Ernie, it looks as if the bipeds are finished with whatever they are doing. They are picking up all their stuff and leaving.”

“That’s a wonderful thing, Eva, because I was getting tired of crouching behind this rock. What do you say we jump into the water and catch a little dinner?”

“Last one in's a biped”



In a parallel universe, December, 2008



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