In which I fall into the pond

April 28, 2020 • 1:30 pm

Only twice before have I actually gotten into Botany Pond: once to recover a dead duckling, and once to put bricks in the center circular “baths” to build them up so that ducklings could climb out of the shallow wells (the dead one had gotten trapped in there and drowned). The pond is cold, slimy, and grubby:  the bottom is deep mud and not cement. It’s not something I’d want to do again.

Well, I did—this morning, and inadvertently. The reason was that I was eager to photograph the last improvement that Facilities made to the pond before Jump Day (probably this weekend).

After I asked Kevin Austin, Director of Building Services, to soften the top of the small fence designed to keep people off the north end of the Erman Hall landing strip, he assigned his team, headed by Barry O’Quinn, to put some rubber padding on the fence lest ducklings be injured if they jumped and fell on it. (O’Quinn’s team also built the awesome mulch-containing trampoline under Honey’s nest as well as padding the entire area).

I went down to photograph the job, and you can see the rubber-topped fence below. I was pleased. You can also see the bubble-wrapped metal pylon that’s been padded in case a duckling lands on it, as well as the thick layer of mulch that extends to the pond edge This area is directly under Dorothy’s nest.

This area is supposed to be off limits to everyone, but I have a certain latitude to enter occasionally to make sure things are okay. When I was exiting around the pond side of the fence, where there’s a narrow egress, I slipped on the mulch and fell into the pond up to my thighs, drenching my jeans (but not my phone, thank Ceiling Cat) and of course filling my shoes with slimy mud. I had the presence of mind to toss my camera onto the dirt as I fell, but it landed on the cement. It’s badly dinged and doesn’t work so well. Fortunately, I have a spare.

My jeans are drying now, soaked to the zipper and muddy:

And I’m a bit scraped up below the knee. I washed it and put 70% ethanol on it (what I use to disinfect, OW!).

If you’re a visitor to the pond, and reading this, THIS is why you should not go beyond the fences (we’re having “do not disturb the ducks and ducklings” sign put on each of the three fences this week). Enjoy the ducks, but do not feed them, chase them or bother them. Ducklings need to get out of the water and dry off once a day, and chasing them back into the water is really bad for them.  If you have a dog, keep it leashed and do not let it go after the ducks—and BY NO MEANS let it go into the water! (This happened last year.) I am told that someone falls into the pond about once a year, and I hope I am this year’s allotment.

But I’m fine, and it’s all in the service of my beloved ducks. Indeed, I’ve been baptized in duck water!

Here’s the most beloved: Honey greeting today’s sunrise:


33 thoughts on “In which I fall into the pond

  1. I washed it and put 70% ethanol on it (what I use to disinfect, OW!).

    Yeah, 140-proof disinfectant? I reckon that would pack a sting.

    1. PCC(E) said “OW” but if you’re used to it the alcohol doesn’t sting at all.

      I’ve been using 91% or 70% isopropyl alcohol to disinfect things (including my scrapes)and I feel nothing.

  2. One thing I believe can be said for sure. Professor Coyne is not your typical high ego university staff. Were he that – we would never hear the story we have here today. Hopefully all is well and the camera can be fixed.

    1. Nawww, I’ll have to buy another (I do have a backup but I always like two in case one craps out). Fortunately, it’s an old camera and so can be gotten relatively cheap on Amazon.

      1. Having just recovered from a fall myself I am can sympathise with your pain and distress. Alas, you are now at that age where falls of the type you described can be a serious matter. The fact is a year or two ago you would have easily recovered balance before hitting the water. I would bet that from the moment of initial slippage to rising from the depths of the pond you have no recollection of ‘what your body was doing to save you’. The simple answer is your body did nothing, because the reflexes you once relied on are not working any more. Henceforth plan your moves into strange places with great care; we need our good professor to be around for many more years yet!

    1. Yes, she did. In fact, I’m not sure Dorothy was off her nest yesterday, as I didn’t have my binoculars to check. I assumed it was her. But this morning both hens were on the nests, and when I went out to my car to go shopping, I heard ANOTHER hen quacking like the one yesterday afternoon, who flew from ledge to ledge screaming her head off. This morning she was standing on the second floor of Anatomy facing 57th Street, quacking her head off.

      Given that the hen in the pond yesterday solicited copulation, and indeed mated, I suspect that there are three hens around, and we may have another nester like we did last year. I can handle three broods, but no more.

      So I’m not sure that the hen who was “off her nest” for a while yesterday afternoon was Dorothy.

      Stay tuned. Never a dull moment at Botany Pond.

      1. I’m so glad you thought to get that rubber padding added to the top of the one fence, PCC(E). I was concerned about the rebars when I saw your recent photos. Will the large fence be quite visible to naive fledglings? I don’t now how good adolescent Mallard eyesight/brains are. Is there any chance they could accidentally fly into it? (If so, a few dangly attachments would alert them, I think.) The adults definitely know how to navigate past this fence, as I saw, via the webcam, the drake adeptly navigating past it.

  3. You look after the healing. Any bacteriologist can tell you that there’s some nasty stuff in fresh water.

  4. Ouch is right! I guess we can blame it on our age JAC 🙂 I did something very similar at Christmastime – I was walking around my sister’s pool in Palm Springs using my iPad to show the relatives back in the frozen Midwest what they were missing. As I held the iPad above my head, I stepped into the corner of the shallow end, tripped, skinned a shin, and the iPad flew. Fortunately, it landed on the deck – unfortunately it slid right out of the case and into the salt water. RIP

  5. Ouch. But your phone may have survived the soaking if it’s one of the more modern iPhones as they are all water-resistant to at least 1m.

  6. You got something with 70% ethanol in it, and you save it for exterior application? Wow, I admire your self-control!

    Srsly, hope you’re OK, and that your tumble doesn’t cramp your style.

  7. Oh man, I hate falling in the drink. At least you weren’t wearing some of your fancy cowboy boots. 😉 Glad you’re ok as well as your phone.
    The photo of Honey peeking over the ledge is very adorable.

  8. The only positive angle I see is that, with campus closed, at least you had a smaller audience than you would normally have on a nice spring day.

  9. The custodial crew at your school is amazing. The amount of work they’re done for those ducks over the past year is really cool (I didn’t forget about the ramps!). Bigly respect to them!

  10. I am so glad your paternity interests are in the duckling grandfather stage. I dread to think you in a maternity ward. Especially if you were this involved in you 20’s or 30’s. Having worked in maternity many years ago I can attest there were occassions when the potential father was placed in a recumbent position.
    Sorry about you’re owie but it sounds as if you have that under control.
    I know this sounds obvious but does your spare camera have the appropriate film carriage in it and its charged. I ask because I have 3 cameras and none of them use another’s film cartridge. And I’ve walked off uncharged.

  11. Jerry, Glad to hear you weren’t hurt very badly. Very nice of U of C to put this kind of effort into helping ducklings!

  12. Have you thought about the evolutionary implications of Botany’s ducks’ choice of nest and their associated duckling landing spots? If ducklings were at risk of injury from their glide out of the nest, wouldn’t evolution work to make them better nesting spot choosers?

    I’m not suggesting that you have wasted your time on making their first “flight” a nicer and safer one. Even if evolution corrected this problem, doing so would involve dead ducklings which we don’t want. Perhaps evolution is just as likely to nudge the species into choosing university buildings overlooking ponds where nice professors will take care of them.

  13. I’m sorry for your fall. Here’s hoping the application of alcohol on the scrape prevents any further problems.

    As others here have said, or intimated, as we age, balance becomes less dependable and falls happen more. I recently took a fall down a staircase (11 steps) from upstairs to downstairs in my house. I had no awareness that I was so close to the edge. Fortunately, I went down feet-first landing on each stair with my derrière. Unfortunately, I broke my right humerus. I’m on a blood thinner, so turned a very ugly shade of blue on my landing surfaces, and arm to shoulder. I hope I don’t do that again as it’s painful, but I saw a certain amount of humor in it nonetheless. Having been a klutz all my life. I’m lucky that I’m still here and could laugh at my own pratfalls.

    1. Recently I tripped over a raised edge in our concrete driveway. I knew it was there but was talking to and looking at Xhimi our cat. Nothing but a nasty bruise and scrape, but I’m trying to be more careful in future. The last time I tripped and fell over I smashed my left wrist which required surgery to install a plate and screws to hold it all together, and then a second round of surgery to take out the metal work which couldn’t be left in place due to its odd position.
      I hope that you have no long term effects from your unplanned swim, Jerry.

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