Yesterday tragedy struck. It started out a perfect day, warm and sunny, blue skies with a light breeze. We went out to a lovely Mother's Day brunch, never suspecting the carnage we would find on our return home: a raven killed all our sweet innocent ducklings.
I saw the raven perched in the tree above the duck pen, and then watched as it flew a short way and landed at the end of the driveway. I realized that it was carrying something, but it still took me several moments to comprehend that it was a duckling. Ravens were simply not on my radar as a potential predator. I was dumbfounded as I watched it tossing the limp fuzzy yellow body around.
Conan saw it too, and realized at about the same time I did what it was. He shrieked and ran into the house sobbing. My heart broke knowing that I couldn't shield him from this grief, but I went after him and held him as he cried. I didn't think it could get any worse than seeing him realize that there was nothing we could do to save his duckling.
But it did get worse. Cary had gone out to chase off the raven and check on the rest of the ducklings. He returned with the simple, dreadful news that there were no more ducklings. None. We hadn't lost just one duckling, we had just seen the last duckling die. We had fundamentally failed to keep those sweet, tame baby ducks safe.
"Ravens are BAD! They stealed all my baby ducks and eated them! I hate ravens!" Conan sobbed.
I held him close and we talked about predators. We talked about how lions eat zebras, and the zebras don't like it, but that doesn't mean the lions are bad. They are just lions.
We talked about sharks and seals, T-rex and stegosaurus, cats and mice, robins and worms. Animals have to eat other animals, but it doesn't make them bad. They are just animals, doing what they have to do.
We talked about how the raven probably has a nest with baby ravens in it, and the baby ravens are happy now because their tummies are full. And the baby ravens aren't bad, they are just hungry babies. And the mama raven isn't bad, she is just a raven mama who has to feed her babies.
Once we had worked our way through the basics of predation, I said we would get more ducklings. "No mama" Conan snuffled. "The raven will come and eat them too."
So we talked about netting, and how papa was outside Right Now putting netting over the duck pen so when we got new baby ducks they would be safe. Because even thought the raven wasn't bad, we sure didn't want it to eat any of our baby ducks ever again. (No no no no no!)
We've ordered more ducklings from the farm supply, and on Wednesday or Thursday we'll have ducks again. We've learned some important lessons about life and death and daytime predators, so things should work out better.
And just to be on the safe side, we won't name the new ducklings after desserts.
5/15 Update: Conan told me this morning that he dreamed of the raven that killed the ducks. In his dream, he caught it "and it didn't even try to bite me!" I asked him what happened after that, and he said "Nothing. I letted it go. And it is my friend. All the ravens in the whole world are my friends now! All of them. And they are good, not bad. All the ravens in the WHOLE wide world are my friends and they are good." I asked him if he was still sad about losing his ducklings and he said he was, but "not as sad anymore now that I have raven friends."
What a sweet heart my little boy has. It seems losing our ducklings, though painful and sad, has taught us a thing or two about forgiveness as well as life and death.