Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Duckling Disasters and Foul Fowls

What a difference a day makes. One day we were happy and confident in this year’s duckling population. The next day things changed.

We woke up last Thursday in a hurry to take off for Green Tree Elementary School at Lake Saint Louis, where Gerald was to be an honored guest at the fifth graders’ luncheon. This event climaxes the biography project, and the students present the honorees with spiral-bound books of their life stories.

As we both frequently do, I started my day by looking out our bedroom window. Gerald likes to see the large carp feeding in the lake early in the morning. I always hope to catch a glimpse of the multi-colored ducks with their amazing and beautiful feather patterns. That morning I was wondering if any baby ducks might have hatched overnight in the nest below our window. Sure enough looking down, I could see movement of baby ducks and felt excitement at their birth. Then to my horror, I looked up and several feet away in a weird position the mother duck was lying motionless. I ran calling Gerald, who always gets up hours before I do. He hadn’t looked out the window that morning. We ran outside to find the mother duck was headless--we blame an owl. Gerald gathered up the eight ducklings (altho he could not get the little wiggly things counted right then) and he took them to a warm overhead light in a pen in his shop, gave them water, and starter mash. He had not planned to mother any of our ducklings this year; he was going to let nature take its course under the mother ducks’ watch. However, there was already one duckling there under the light in the little pen.

Why? Well, we’d been bragging on the first mama duck who had hatched her eggs this season. For several days, she had been keeping all eight ducklings alive. Even the afternoon before, we had looked out and enjoyed seeing the mama duck walking across the lawn. Only five babies were left to follow her, but that is better than most of our mother ducks have done, so that was good enough to make us happy. And they were so cute. We noticed a couple of drakes nearby.

It had started sprinkling, and we were leaving the farm to go look at plant nurseries for some flowers to put in the new rock garden Gerald is creating beside his shop. As we passed where the ducks had been in the lawn, there were the five little ones huddled together and no older ones around. Gerald was upset, but I wasn’t. In my heart, I was confident that mother was probably close by in the shrubbery or someplace. I could not imagine her deserting those tiny fluffy little ones.

When we got back home, one baby duckling was alone on our patio. Gerald caught it and cuddled it and rode all over looking for the mother and the others thinking it may just have gotten separated from the gang. Not only did he not find the deserting mother and the four other ducklings, neither was there any sight or sign of the second mother duck who had hatched about the same number of little ones.

So we left for Lake Saint Louis with heavy hearts altho our friend Scott and little Katie were to look out for the ducklings in the shop while we were away. They did a good job, and we had eight ducklings under the light when we checked on them Saturday night.

Sunday morning I started that day by hurrying out the front door to check the setting duck under the azalea bush. I stopped abruptly. Our front sidewalk was covered with droppings. And our front porch. Not a pretty sight. I had been so amazed that with all these ducks around, our patio and front porch and sidewalk remained clean. Our experience with the geese years ago at the other farm house had not been so pleasant. I found it odd that after four years we suddenly had this problem. But I got a bucket of water, soap, and a broom and cleaned the area. (What I did not know was that Gerald, who had gone downstairs when he got up, had seen the same thing all over our walk-out lakeside patio. He cleaned that with a hose later in the day.)

Not too much later, I looked out the front door again and there on the sidewalk were the two parent geese and their seven children, who are now quite gawky and amazingly large. When I started out the door, the nine geese ran off and oddly have not been back on the sidewalk or patio since. I guess our being away lured them up to our quarters to investigate. Although the ducks are all over our yard, usually the geese have kept their distance at the edge of the lawn down by the lake.

So now I know one important difference in ducks and geese: ducks have better potty habits. When we walked around the lake the next day, I loved seeing the two adult geese guiding their seven goslings off the island and into the water. I just hope these geese continue to know their place!

No comments: