Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hangin' with the Ducklings!

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by!

As I write this, my cat, Gracie Ellen Tripod - she of the three legs - insists on lying on my lap. I don't mind the company, but she sure can work up a lot of drool when she's in the mood! About the only time Gracie ever asks for attention is when I'm sitting at the computer, though, so I'm happy to oblige her.

I followed through on my plan to change out Freckle Duck's eggs yesterday. When I approached that fork in the tree she's nesting in, I saw four or five slices of bread - whole slices, not even broken up into duck-sized pieces - ranged around the perimeter of her nest. I know that the people who left them there meant well, but come on! No duck eats whole slices of bread. You have to break them up into small pieces. And even then, no mama wants food around her nest: it will lead predators right to it, for heaven's sake!

In any case, when I went to remove the bread, Freckle bit hell out of my hand. Repeatedly. Hard! Every single one of those bites hurt, too, and one of them scraped across my skin and drew some blood! I can certainly understand her desire to defend her nest, but things were getting painful in a hurry!

So I went 'round to the other side of the tree, reached into the fork and grabbed her from behind. I set her on the ground and poured out some cracked corn for her but she spent the time bitching loudly about the felon who was disturbing her nest. I ignored her squawking and set to work changing out the twelve eggs she's laid for the dozen I'd bought at the grocery store.

My friend, "Enslaved by Ducks" author Bob Tarte, has commented on duck bites in past conversations. He seemed to think that they could do some damage - an idea I dismissed at the time because Pretty Boy's bites were always fairly harmless. In retrospect, I'm beginning to wonder whether my favorite duck pulled his punches, so to speak, because Pretty Boy's bites never hurt like Freckle's did yesterday! I was quite surprised by the hostility in her attack. Then again, that's what mamas are supposed to do, isn't it? When I finished my task and walked away, Freckle climbed back onto her nest, none the wiser about the chicken eggs.

It was supposed to rain today, but when I got to the McKinnon's Pond, there was only the odd sprinkle. So I lingered for a time, sitting quietly on the ground as the other Freckle Duck and her ten offspring tucked into the pile of corn I'd set out for them off to my left, while black duck Baby Fuzz nibbled at the pile of corn I'd set out for her off to my right. Baby still has three ducklings, who are all cute as buttons and not nearly as nervous about me as Freckle's offspring. One of Baby's young has black legs and orange feet, which looks endearingly ridiculous, like day-glo orange shoes. I remember that when Pretty Boy was a duckling, he had similarly silly-looking feet.

Because I'm at the pond several times a week, I have the opportunity to see every stage of the ducklings' growth, as they go from tiny little fuzzballs, to awkward, gangly ducklings, to individuals with their own unique personalities. It's fun to be a part of, even if I'm just a spectator. And while Baby's young are fairly brave about being near me, Freckle's young are brave about everything but me!

Take today for instance: when I first spotted Freckle on the far side of the pond, she only had three ducklings with her. "Aw, jeez," I thought, "she lost seven young overnight?" Boy, was I wrong! Turns out the other seven were just off by themselves, looking into things. For ducklings who are barely two weeks old, that's pretty brave! But the minute they see me - that terrifying, hulking human - they all start peeping for mama! They have selective bravery, I guess!

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed today's interlude at the pond. The longer I sit there quietly, being harmless, the more Freckle Duck relaxes her vigilance. Baby Fuzz already seems to know that I'm only interested in taking pictures, and I've gotten some great ones of her and the kids. By the time they're grown, I'll have filled at least one photo album with pictures of them! Meanwhile, I hope you'll all join me in saying a prayer to the Gods that at least some of those little cuties will make it to adulthood.

That's all for now, folks. Thanks again for joining me. Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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