Doing what comes naturally


We were in Castleton, hunting for props for the Feathered Seer. It was a cold, grey morning, but even so, the warm stone of the small Derbyshire town was inviting. We wandered through the streets, exploring hidden streets that we had not seen before and following the course of Peakshole Water, a tributary of the River Noe, that runs through the town.


The ducks were doing what ducks do best and performing their morning ablutions They are master contortionists when they are cleaning and preening their feathers, instinctively keeping them in perfect condition for their lives on water and in the air. Their faces always draw a smile… seeming to smile. They seem content to be no more and no less than what they are. We stopped for a while, watching and snapping away, under the eye of a curious robin.


We seldom go far without a robin showing up. The robin has earned its reputation for curiosity over the centuries that it has associated with humans. They are opportunists and, in Britain where they are traditionally welcomed and left unharmed, are very friendly birds. In other countries, they are more wary of Man, as we have hunted and killed them in times past. That knowledge has sunk in…they have learned from it and altered their behaviour accordingly.


My resident robin shows no fear at all and has been hopping up to the door since the first day I moved into my little flat. He was only a baby then and although they can be long-lived birds, they have a high mortality rate in their first year, so I have been glad to see him thriving through the winter. Instinct now brings the robins to where we turn the earth for them and put out food. Experience teaches them when it is safe to be even more curious and they will follow a friendly human around the garden and even eat from your hand.


As we left to continue our walk, a spaniel, finding a convenient hole in the wall, ignored his owner’s calls and dived gleefully through and into the water, just downstream of the little weir. We watched as he quietly crept to the perfect vantage point, before leaping out with obvious joy, to flush the ducks off the water. The spaniel was simply doing what comes naturally. We have bred and trained these dogs to flush out game for the hunters and, although most are now pampered pets, the purpose of their being still runs in their veins.


I wondered about that… The ducks were displaying a pre-programmed, instinctive behaviour that helps ensure their survival. The robin illustrated a learned behaviour in reaction to experience. But the dog was operating from something that was not quite either. The obedience we have trained into gun dogs was altogether absent, discarded in favour of choice. The chasing of the ducks by a dog who had obviously never even seen a gun, comes from a much deeper level than a simple, learned behaviour. And the absolute bliss with which chased the ducks into the air was infectious.

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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13 Responses to Doing what comes naturally

  1. Beauty at its best and such lovely darlings Sue. Great post.


  2. LeafyPineFlowers says:

    Cool pics!


  3. Some dogs have turned that into a game. They run back and forth yapping and the birds get pixelated watching them.


  4. Widdershins says:

    We can learn a lot from dogs, and ducks, and robins. 😀


  5. Pingback: The Devil’s Arse – France & Vincent

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