Pile drivers and backhoes have been rumbling just a hundred yards away, but the wild ducks on Sunset Lake in Oak Bluffs aren't budging. The fact is, while the streets in this town have been turned inside out with pipes, pumps and grinders to make way for a new sewer system, it's the ducks that appear to rule the road.
In storybook fashion, they venture across Dukes County avenue, bringing traffic to a standstill.
"It all depends. You have to wait at least a minute for them to cross," says Laura Johnston, the assistant town clerk, who encounters the ducks on her daily treks to the post office. "Once they get going, there's no stopping them."
The ducks - officially mallards - have their fans.
Down at Tony's Market, one shopper admits she's been secretly feeding them along the pond banks. They're partial to cornmeal, she lets on. One of the cashiers says she's been forced to wait for a couple duck crossings, but it's no problem. "You get caught behind the turkeys, too," she says.
But somehow, these fowl rate higher in the polls. "I love the ducks," says Annie Tuerff, as she counts out lottery tickets for a customer at Tony's. "I'd like to come back as a duck. You just swim around and waddle."
Indeed, it's the waddling that puts these ducks into public view. And wildlife expert Gus Ben David, the director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, has the answer to that proverbial question of why the ducks are crossing the road and heading into the Camp Ground.
"People are feeding them so they're getting habituated to that situation," he says. "People really aren't supposed to feed these so-called park ducks and geese."
The problem, in this case, is that as cute as ducks crossing a road might look, it's a simple recipe for danger. In Mr. Ben David's scientific lingo, "It creates a mortality factor."
For now, motorists seem content to brake for the ducks. And it can take some time. Based on one layman's observation, the ducks rely on a bold leader - the alpha duck - to step into the road first. This particular duck does not possess nerves of steel, though.
Right there in the middle of the road, she vacillates, turning back for a moment before continuing across. A few more ducks follow suit, and before you know it, they've reached critical mass into a full-fledged crossing, worthy of a picture book or a travel poster.
"It's a riot," says Mrs. Johnston. "Once they figure they can dodge the cars, they really get going, a whole flock of them."
To town tax collector Marguerite Cook, the ducks on Sunset Lake are a part of Oak Bluffs history. Her children grew up feeding ducks there, she says. "Everybody stops long enough for the ducks to go across the road," she adds.
And like a true civil servant, Mrs. Cook has given these ducks a classification. "They work for the park department," she says. "They keep the grass green."