The rain threatens to get heavier as I slog my way through the already muddy Brand Park, Elmira NY. I’m here to see a duck. Or rather: not to see a duck. I’m here to see where a duck isn’t.
The most distinctive feature of the Labrador Duck was its wide, flat bill. Along with the black and white stripe pattern of the male, this was a duck that stood out.
But it was always rare. Its bill had probably evolved to help its specialised diet of shallow-water mollusks. And when man came along, he started eating the mollusks too, he started changing the landscape to fit himself. And the ducks died out.
I slog my way through the muddy park to see the final place the Labrador Duck was seen alive. It became extinct in 1878. I look at the statue of the duck, head tucked in as if protecting itself from the rain or from the world around it.
It didn’t survive. And this monument in this lonely park on this rainy day reminds us that once things have gone, they can never come back.