The ducks of the Grand Canal

I share the area in which I live with the most endearing companions: lively and feathery , the ducks of the Grand Canal never fail to raise a smile amongst even the most sombre ofcommuters, even on a dark Monday morning. The segment of the canal between the Leeson and Baggot street bridge locks is one of my favourite places in Dublin, and home to a great number of our webbed feet brethren. Year in year out they are born and die there, bringing up their young in the shade of the trees and the reeds that line the banks. Lively and inquisitive, they are not scared of us humans, peacefully living as hordes of office workers exit for sustenance at the call of noon and trample down the banks of the canal in noisy groups. Those ducks are keen judges of character, quick to spot the soft hearted individual who may be coaxed into parting with a crumb of bread or a chip from Beschoff’s chipper across the road.

It is my firm belief that the ducks are one of the most important features of the Grand Canal today, along with the renovated barges that reside or moor in that segment. The Grand Canal, open in 1751, had fallen into disuse since the 1960s but has thankfully enjoyed somewhat of a revival in recent years, since it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1986. The canal was recently dredged and hosts barges such as the RIASC, home to the renowned La Peniche restaurant, which takes diners on a leisure trip on the water a couple of nights a week. Another beautiful renovated barge calls the canal home; going by the name of Cadhla it is a replica of a 1920s Guinness barge. And this summer for the first time, a German repurposed police boat named Lucy joined the mismatched little clan and was moored in the area for a few weeks.

Duck and barge cohabit in somewhat peaceful harmony. It is amusing to observe the ducks in springtime with their young, when the barge is taking a trip: nervously chaperoning eight tiny balls of fluff, mother and tots dive into the reeds at the slightest turbulence in the water. The ducklings squeak, the mother quacks, the old barge grumbles and settles as it smoothly leaves the bank… once peace is restored, the mother duck exits and with dignity, swims out to the centre of the canal as if nothing had happened. She is followed by her ducklings, practising their diving skills as they go, unaware of their own weight as they miscalculate their rise to the surface and shoot up into the air like turbo-charged pinballs of down.

Early one morning, as I walked down the banks of the Grand Canal, I came across the strangest thing. My eye was caught by something on the bank which seemed to be a living brown furry carpet the size of an old LP. As I approached, I realised that the carpet was made up of many tiny ducklings, all deep in sleep, huddled together to keep warm. Their mother was beside them, also deep in sleep. During rush hour. The ducks of the Grand Canal are a sight to behold.


About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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