Monday, June 8, 2009

We've Got Ducklings!

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by!

I don't know about you, but I was on pins and needles the entire month of May, waiting to see if any ducklings would hatch. Animal Control Officer Jeff and I had scoured the pond area in early May, looking for domestic duck nests, but found nothing. That in itself was unusual because those domestic ducks usually pick easily find-able nesting spots. We walked all the way around the pond, poked into all the shrubs surrounding the nearby apartment buildings, then threw up our hands in despair. Where had those sneaky ducks gone?!

There was one nest that I knew about from the start. Baby Fuzz - the last remaining black duck at the pond - used the same site she had chosen last year, a well-hidden spot under a very sharp and pokey evergreen shrub. Late in April, I replaced all but a few of her eggs, figuring, what's the harm in letting her raise a few; pedators will end up getting most of them anyway. Sure enough, last week Baby showed up at a feed with three ducklings.

All three are cute little nippers, with varying splotches of color on their tiny fuzzball bodies. Since Baby knows me well, she's approached me quite closely at feeds, letting her offspring know in the process that the big hulking human with the bag of food is relatively safe to be around. I hesitate to get attached to her young, though, because I've learned from years of experience that they won't all survive to adulthood. In fact, I've been surprised so far that Baby's managed to hang on to all three ducklings for over a week.

Another domestic duck at the pond had ducklings, as well. Because Freckle Duck is white, I felt sure that I'd be able to spot her nest, but I never did find it. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I showed up at the pond one day to find her with fifteen ducklings! How cute they are, each with their own distinct markings and personalities, peeping and paddling around and poking into things. There's just nothing more entertaining than a batch of enthusiastic ducklings!

As I write this, though, Freckle is now down to ten ducklings and counting, which confirms what I've written previously about all the predators at the pond. And, as sad as I am to see the numbers decrease, I'm also very relieved that over-population won't be an issue this year. I don't want to give the city of Whoville any reason to feel that they have to interfere with the goings-on at the pond. Better to keep the numbers low so as not to raise any questions, I think.

As I was hiding behind a tree today, angling for a better picture of Freckle Duck and her offspring, I heard a familiar huffing sound. I turned my head toward the fork of the tree, only to find the other Freckle Duck (hey - you try thinking up interesting names for every single duck at the pond!) sitting on a nest of her own, huffing at me in warning as she gave me that look which says, "Go away before I bite you to death!" Golly!

Well, there's nothing like hiding in plain sight, is there?! I can't tell you how many times wild mallards have used that same tree fork for their own nests - only to have the nest destroyed by neighborhood children who have nothing better to do with their time than be cruel to animals. Who knew that flightless Freckle could even get up that high off the ground to begin with???

"Rats," I thought, "I'm gonna have to get some more chicken eggs and change 'em out, here." I hope Freckle's eggs aren't too far along, but the deed must be done: it's my job to keep the numbers down, and I take the job seriously. It's not that I dislike ducklings (far from it), it's that I don't want the city of Whoville thinking they need to remove the entire gang from the pond. I've no doubt that they'd end up euthanizing every last one of them, and that would be heartbreaking.

So, it's a mixed bag for me this spring. I'm pleased as punch with all the new little ducklings, but nervous, as well, that the new lives might compromise the safety of the other pond residents. In addition, Pretty Lady has yet to turn up, which leads me to believe that a predator got her, too.

You may recall that Pretty Lady was Pretty Boy's sister. It's sad for me to lose that special generation of ducks, one of the first generations to be born to abandoned duck Missy Miss, all those years ago. Pretty Lady and Pretty Boy were practically fearless about approaching me at feeds, something they certainly never learned from Missy, who remained distrustful during her entire time at the pond.

Meanwhile, I confess that I'm secretly hoping for a duckling to take up where Pretty Boy left off. Not a replacement, of course, but maybe an alpha duck in his own right, trusting and open and ready to make me laugh. Wouldn't that be great!

Well, as with anything else in life, time will tell. I'll keep you posted as the ducklings grow, and, as always, I take loads of pictures of everything. Check out the "view my pics" area of my myspace page, it's where I post the majority of my critter photos.

That's all for now, folks! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters! And please, teach your kids to be kind to critters, too!

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