One of the expenses that my husband and I occasionally argue about is bird seed. He, at times, buys more bird seed than I think is reasonable. And at those times, I usually can convince him to cut back.

But I never convince him, nor do I want to convince him, to cut it out completely.

We live in a studio apartment. Yes, it has high ceilings, and that’s nice, but it is a single room plus a bathroom. It is a small space for two people to live, though not as small as the tents we use for backpacking. The front door looks out onto a concrete patio with other doors and metal stairs leading up to the second floor apartments that ring when someone runs up them.

I’m always a little amazed that this place rates a back door, but it does. We have one outside wall, two windows and a windowed door leading to a small concrete patio, sheltered overhead by a balcony, looking out on a grass ditch and a white fence that separates the apartment property from the sidewalk and the road. Across the street is a parking lot, more apartment complexes, some offices and a small creek. There’s a park with a pond beyond that creek, and, across another street is the Boise River.

All that water makes for good homes for ducks and geese. And it turns out that while I grew up giving stale bread to ducks, they really like birdseed. And when they find a reliable source of birdseed, word spreads, quacks perhaps. And they come.

And they keep coming.

They quack and squeak and grumble. They peck each other for access to food. They are nearly impossible to count, because they move and flow, sometimes jumping or flapping their wings to reposition themselves. They are fascinating and wild.

In a way, these ducks are the closest we have to pets. We feed them and they provide us with entertainment. A glimpse at the wild life we like to immerse ourselves in when we backpack. A reminder of what we’re missing when we’re at home. And a mystery when, as one, they fly off without warning.

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