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Canvas-Back and Red-Heads

by Isaac McLellan

Canvas-back (Anas valisiteriana). Red-head—Pochard (Anas ferina).

In sharp November, from afar,
From Northern river, stream, and lake,
The flocks of noble canvas-back
Their migratory journeys make;
The frosty morning finds them spread
Along the flats of Barnegat,
Where grows the Valisneria root,
The duck-grass with its russet thread;
But chief where Chesapeake receives
From Susquehanna brackish tides.
By calm Potomac and the James,
Feeding at will from morn till eve,
'Mid those aquatic pastures green,
The ribbon'd grass and bulbous root,
Where slant the reedy edges lean.

By thousands there the wild-fowl come
To taste the rich, delicious fare:
The red-head and the canvas-back,
The widgeon, with his plumage rare;
The ruddy duck, the buffel-head,
The broad-bill and Canadian goose,
Loving o'er placid shoal or cove
Their flapping pinions to unloose.
Through all the day, dispers'd around,
They swim and circle o'er the bay;
At eve, in congregated flocks,
To months of creeks they take their way;
While some a wakeful vigil keep,
Others at anchor float asleep.

When winter early sharp sets in,
And frozen is the river's face,
To its salt confluence with the bay
The flocks seek out their feeding-place.
And where across the ice a pool
Of open water they discern,
The hungry flocks their flight suspend
And toward the friendly pasture turn;
And there the lurking gunner waits
(Amid the ice-blocks hid from sight),
With heavy gun and deadly aim
To thin the numbers that alight.

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