Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Duck Drama

The offices where I work are in a small house stranded in a large manufacturing parking lot across the street from the main facility. The lot is snug against a creek. Our windows look out at our tiny front lawn, where my co-worker and master gardener has created a ‘waterwise’ native garden. It’s always green and lovely, and there are lots of blooms. It also attracts a variety of critters; birds and squirrels. I’ve seen nuthatches, finches, kinglets, chickadees, bushtits, jays, flickers, woodpeckers—we have a book and we always check. We have feeders and suet; so it’s a lovely oasis, both for us and the city-weary animals around us.

Come spring, we become host to ducks. They just appear, usually in pairs (some that we recognize – the mallards can have distinctive and unique markings and traits… there’s one we call Nike, because he has a white ‘swoosh’ on his left cheek, for instance). Nike and his girl are usually the first to show. They waddle up to my co-worker’s window and demand food.

We go to a local feed store and buy a bag of poultry food every year. We set up the food & water station in front of my window, where I can observe the succession of pairs (and the violent process of mating). This goes on for a while. We feed them, they come and go... and then the babies arrive. Such a bittersweet time.

I usually pull up one morning to see a female hunkered on the grass, wings ‘umbrellaed’ around her sides. And beneath, I see the movement of little babies. There are usually twelve or so of the little guys. They are a mix of black and mottled colours, and they look like tiny fuzzy lemons with heads. God if they aren’t the cutest things known to man.

It’s always such a drama. We become instantly protective of our baby broods. But we are powerless for them. And every day, the numbers dwindle. Crows, whom I usually respect for their wile and cleverness, I despise during this time, because they are primarily responsible for the babies’ declining numbers. They are very clever about it to; one distracts mother while the others move in on the babies.

I have yet to see a brood survive. :( It’s very sad. Especially since the babies bring us such joy while they’re around. I really like ducks. I wish I could keep some; but I’m certain raccoons would think them their personal buffet like the crows. Even I cannot deny that duck is really delicious.

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