Mother Duck and ducklings arrive near our patio
We live in a golf course community overlooking a pond at the 13th hole and one day in April we were surprised to find a mother duck nesting under bushes near our patio. She had found a well hidden spot to build her nest against the side of the house tucked below a hedge. After a week went by we watched as the nest grew from one egg to 11 lovely eggs neatly nestled and well protected. We used Google to learn about ducks hatching and our neighbors joined, all of us developing a warm and protective feeling for the ducklings. We were all hopeful the mother duck and her ducklings would be our new neighbors for a while.
Mother duck was diligent caring for her eggs, but unfortunately the nest was attacked by a large black garden snake who diminished the number of eggs to six. When a neighbors learned that ducks like the herb lavender and snakes do not, we sprinkled cuttings and planted lavender around the nest hoping to prevent any more snake attacks.
We watched the mother feathering her nest by pulling feathers from her breast to insulate and protect the nest. We learned ducklings incubate for 28-30 days before hatching so we counted the days. We calculated the eggs were in place by the third week of the month so 30 days from then would be the fourth week of May, a likely arrival date for the ducklings. Occasionally we all had sightings of a drake who flew by, assuming he was taking his paternal duties seriously.
We read that normally newborn ducklings remain in their nest for a week for their mother’s warmth and she keeps then close for about two months. That’s about when the fledglings attempt to fly and take their first flight after developing wing feathers. Soon they become more independent and join a flock of other juvenile ducks – I think of them as teenagers – for a year or two. Then they look for a mate and continue on with their life hopefully warding off danger and predators.
Unfortunately, we don’t know about the future of our ducklings. We do know that Mother duck completed the incubation period only to be attacked again by a snake as her eggs were hatching. As her ducklings were being born she roared up and we saw the snake and four surviving ducklings.
A lot of commotion followed. Gene grabbed garden loppers from a neighbor to kill the snake. I ran for an ax and Mother duck left with her ducklings close behind. Gene tossed the remains of the snake into the woods while I followed the new duck family to a nearby stand of trees. I was surprised to see the severed snake was still alive so Gene finished the job with the ax.
I’ve been prowling the woods where I last saw the ducks and scanning the pond, but no ducks in sight. Our hope is Mother duck guided her waddling brood to edible food like duckweed, worms and insects or to the pond for algae and aquatic plants. Our experience with Mother duck and her ducklings reminded us that survival in nature is not easy for many creatures. But I continue to be hopeful and on the lookout for them.