Friday, March 14, 2008


Hi Folks!

Thanks for joining me today! I know it's been a while since I posted my last blog - I've been stuck in the grip of the winter doldrums. Heck, just about everyone here in Northwest Ohio has had enough of winter. I bet you have, too! The good news is that spring is on the way.

You may well be skeptical about this, given the massive dumping of snow the entire midwest endured recently. I think some areas got four inches. That's the least amount of snow that fell. Here in Whoville, it was more like eight or nine inches, with blowing and drifting winds.

I was so disheartened by winter's insistence on sticking around that I laid down on the couch, put my head on my boyfriend's lap, and slept an entire afternoon away. He didn't mind too much because the remote was nearby and some Nascar race was on t.v. Even so, that's a good four hours of my life that I'll never have back again!

In any case, the temperature outside has been creeping up ever so slowly, the past few days, and there's finally a promise of spring in the air: some of the summer songbirds are back already, waking me up too early with their cheerful music; the air itself smells of the rich, damp earth and hints at the blooming season to come; I can finally stop wearing my coat with the 800 geese-worth of down in it. But none of these things confirms that spring is coming quite like my ducks do.

As critters of the wild, they see and hear and feel unknown-to-me signs of the changing seasons. Maybe they, too, smell something in the air, but they clearly operate on a different timetable, a different schedule, than we humans. Indeed, all animals seem to know things that we don't. For instance, I've noticed that some years, the horses at the Healing Barn grow their wooly winter coats earlier than other years. And sometimes those coats are extra-shaggy, too. I always assume that they know something about the winter to come that we humans don't.

So I've been mindful of the fact that while winter seems to not want to let go anytime soon, the ducks are behaving as though spring is already here: Freckle Duck, who enjoyed a certain amount of independence during the cold months, is again being shadowed by the three optimists who staked their claims to her last year. Where she goes, those three big drakes always follow - a thing that never fails to amuse me: it's nice to see that she's got a fan base!

Pretty Boy and Girlfriend Duck spent the whole winter hanging around together, but now Ducky has joined them. I'm not sure why, though it's possible that Ducky is vying for Pretty Boy's attention. And while some of the other Domestics may not have paired off yet, they've begun the spring ritual of dividing up the turf nonetheless.

I assume this has to do with staking a claim to a nesting site. Everyone wants their own bit of property, and eventually, there will be nests hidden all around the far side of the pond. The Ethels will nest close to each other over by the fence near the interstate. Pretty Boy and Girlfriend Duck like the shrubbery under the "McKinnon's Pond" sign near the parking strip. Pretty Lady likes the shrubs under the apartment building windows. Freckle Duck likes the clump of wild bushes growing right next to the water.

Once Officer Jeff showed me how to find the nests, last spring, I faithfully made the rounds five days a week, picking up all the Domestic duck eggs and disposing of them in a respectful fashion. Since the Domestics are all prolific egg-layers, it was the only way to control the population. I picked up eggs every week day for three months!

Since the ducks have already begun to pair off, I've been wondering how soon I'll need to start the routine again. This year, though, in an effort to keep the ducks from going off in search of better nesting sites (that I won't be able to find!), I've decided to try replacing their fertile eggs with fresh-from-the-store chicken eggs.

My understanding is that the ducks won't know the difference, and will eventually give up on the eggs when they fail to hatch. This approach makes more sense than simply removing the duck eggs, which just encouraged the ducks to lay more eggs. I'll let you know how the experiment turns out!

Anyway, even though the weather may still be dicey where you are - and the forecast here for the next few days is promising increasing cold - know that the most important signs of spring are well in hand and already happening, even if your thermometer says otherwise! I'll trust my ducks over the local weatherman any day!

That's all for now, Folks. Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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