Monday, June 2, 2008

At The Pond

Hi Folks!

I'm glad you're here. Thanks for joining me again.

As you know from previous posts, I'm in charge of population control at McKinnon's Pond here in Whoville. It's my job to keep the Domestic ducks from having offspring, and the reason for that is because Domestic ducks lay a hell of a lot of eggs. One nest I found this spring had seventeen eggs in it! That's just from one duck! If you multiply that by the number of female Rouens on the pond, you'd get around one hundred new ducklings every single summer.

That amount of ducks on one pond is unsustainable, of course. They'd run out of food fairly quickly, and since they can't fly away, they'd be stuck at the pond, starving to death. Which is one of several scenarious I'm trying to avoid. Another involves the City of Whoville deciding to get rid of the problem (the ducks) altogether. As I've said before, there seems to be an unspoken understanding at some level of local government that as long as the number of ducks is manageable (and the person doing the managing isn't doing it on company time), then they'll be allowed to stay on the pond.

This spring, I decided to replace the duck eggs with chicken eggs because last year, when I removed the eggs and left nothing in their place, the ducks would abandon that nest and build another one in a different (and harder to find) location. I was thinking that if I fooled the girls into staying put, it would make my job a lot easier. You'd think it would be easy to think like a duck and find every nest on the first try, but you'd be wrong! Humans tend to over-think things anyway, and I was no exception: I kept looking in places that I thought would be good (under a shrub, say, away from local traffic), and kept coming up empty.

As it turns out, ducks don't seem to put that much thought into nest location. Indeed, several ducks chose sites that were far too close to danger for my liking: right next to an apartment building, for instance - entirely without cover and out in the open. That was Pretty Lady's chosen spot, and she laid twelve eggs. Even though they've been replaced with chicken eggs, she's still there, faithfully sitting on them, having no idea that they'll never hatch. Every time I feed the ducks, I walk around to the back side of that building, shoo Lady off her nest, and pour out a pile of food. She always gobbles it up like she hasn't eaten in days.

Another of the ducks - Freckle Duck, a hybrid Rouen who's mostly white with creamy spots, chose a clump of tall grass and saplings at water's edge for her second nest attempt. The first nest was disturbed - probably by neighborhood children - so she abandoned it fairly early in the season. Because her white feathers stand out like a sore thumb against all that green grass, she's ridiculously easy to spot.

Freckle's poor choice of location concerns me because children have an unfortunate tendency to tease the ducks, often throwing stones at them, or poking them with sticks. I sure would love it if every single parent on the planet spent time teaching their children about kindness to animals. Just think of how many less cruelty cases there would be if parents did that! Every day that I make my rounds at the pond, I worry about whether Freckle will still be o.k. She's just too out-in-the-open for my liking.

In any case, Freckle Duck is currently sitting on nine chicken eggs. She had laid twelve (which seems to be the average number of eggs laid per duck), but I ran out of chicken eggs at nine, and I'm pretty sure she can't count! Indeed, none of the ducks seem to notice that their eggs have been replaced with something noticeably smaller, and a different shade of white, too boot. Thank goodness for that!

Even though I've replaced all the duck eggs with chicken eggs, I still check the nests after every feed because the ducks have a tendency to keep adding more eggs to the batch. I collect all the duck eggs in a bag, then toss them one by one out into the pond. It seems a more appropriate and respectful resting place than the trash barrels the City provides.

At some point, as spring wanders into summer, Officer Jeff will drive by the pond and express his satisfaction that there are no new ducks to contend with. Don't get me wrong - Jeff likes the ducks just about as much as I do; he simply wants to avoid any unpleasant outcomes such as culling. Because if someone decides the flock needs culling, the job will inevitably fall to Animal Control Officer Jeff. And killing ducks is the last thing he wants to do.

For now, everything is going pretty much according to plan. I'm keeping tabs on five nests, and I'm watching to see where Ethel-Ethel decides to set up shop next. Some City worker with a weed whacker and too much time on his hands disturbed her first nest (which annoyed me no end: she'd laid nine eggs and had just started sitting on them). Hopefully, her next nest will be as easy to find as the first. The fact that she's not the brightest bulb in the pack definitely works in my favor!

Regardless of what happened to her first nest, though, Ethel remains cheerful and friendly, and always eager to approach me and my big bag of corn! It's an almost daily occurance to see her racing toward me through the grass, quacking boyfriend in tow. It's a sight that never fails to charm and amuse me.

So that's what's happening at the pond. I'll be sure to keep you updated as the summer goes on, because it seems inevitable that some sneaky duck will hatch a few ducklings in spite of me. It happened last year, and it's why the pond is now blessed with Baby Fuzz, who laid twelve eggs this spring, and Peepers, who will undoubtedly find himself a girlfriend next year.

That's all for now, Folks. Thanks so much for stopping by! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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