Back from another trip to CA, I was sitting at my computer this morning, working, when some movement out the window caught my eye. The first thing my brain thought was, “Snake!” The movement was quite similar. But when I turned to really look, I saw this:
It was a mama mallard duck and her ten babies! They were quite sneakily (or so they thought) snaking through the grass – mama had her head low to the ground as she quickly wound her way toward our driveway. I called for Brian to come look and I grabbed my camera, took a shot through the window for good measure (in case they hid and I never found them again – I needed proof!), and dashed out the front door to get some better shots.
Well, after an extremely poor night’s sleep, I had come straight down to work in my PJs and so there I was in our front yard in the chilly wind on a cloudy morning in my bare feet, lightweight cotton PJ pants and an old, very small tanktop, chasing ducks with my camera and hopping around like an idiot. Hopefully the neighbors didn’t notice. I did my best to video a bit and also to take some pics, but they moved quickly and it was low light, so I had limited success.
I know it’s blurry and crappy, but at least you get an idea. They made their way across our driveway and over to our neighbors’ little pond, which sits right on the edge of our property. I thought, “Cool, that’s that. They’ll live in the pond now and we’ll get to see them now and again.” Alas, it was not to be.
A couple of hours later, the same movement caught my eye out the window. It was her again, and she was going back from whence she came. However, there were two problems. Problem number one: she only had six babies now. It is sad but true. Somehow in those couple of morning hours, she lost four of her tiny babies. I went to the pond to look for them, but there was nary a peep.
Anyway, problem number two: she was extremely confused by our fence. You see, our property contains one of two large ponds in our neighborhood, built to hold excess rainwater runoff. Our pond is home to many ducks, including a mama and her babies last year who nested under the shed which is now our chicken coop. There is an old, gappy fence around our pond under which ducks and other critters (coyotes, for example) can easily walk into the “ag area” of our yard. However, our property consists of four outdoor areas: pond (surrounded by old, unsecure fence), ag area (veggie garden, fruit trees, chicken coop), backyard/dog area, and front yard. The three non-pond areas are all divided by our new, shiny black chainlink fence which is sunken 6 inches to a foot into the ground to prevent our dogs from digging out and other things from digging in. It was this fence that was causing the problem.
She desperately wanted to move her babies back to the larger pond (perhaps because she encoutered a predator at the little pond and that’s how she lost the other babies? Who knows.), only to find this frustrating fence in her way. She spent quite a while walking back and forth along the fence, nudging it every so often and trying to force her way through one of the openings. But, they were all too small. The babies fit through fine, but not her. Back and forth, back and forth. She was getting nowhere. Eventually she just laid down, right in the open against the fence with the babies. So, for better or for worse, we decided to intervene. At the end of this fence, where it meets our neighbors’ sheep fence, there is a gap that I can squeeze through. That would be plenty of room for a mama duck. We thought we would walk toward her and scare her toward the gap until she found it and could get on her way. After much hissing and hiding in the grass and going the wrong way, we got her to the corner gap. The babies happily went through to the other side, and what did she do? She stood there hissing at us instead of following them, and when we took a step toward her to encourage her through, she flew up into the air and over the fence into the sheep paddock. Oy.
She stood there, quacking, and soon the babies found their way through the holes in the sheep fence to be with their mama. However, now we had a new problem. That sheep paddock is sealed up tightly with nary a gap in the fence, too. Our neighbor made sure of that after he lost a lamb to a coyote one year. So now, she is in an enclosed area with no access to the pond unless she flies back over the fence. And with the babies by her side, she wasn’t willing to do that. So, I watched, with breaking heart, as she proceeded to do the same thing in there… she walked with her miniature troops back and forth all along the fenceline, looking for gaps and trying to squeeze through. This paddock is at least an half an acre and for an hour she went all along all the fences, back and forth, back and forth to no avail. Would she refuse to fly over the fence again and die in there with no access to water?
So finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and I went over and knocked on my neighbors’ door. No one was home. So, I let myself into the sheep paddock and headed her way. I thought if I could only scare her into flying back over the fence, she would be scott free. The babies would simply walk through the holes in the wire fencing as they had before to be with her. But… no one ever said ducks were brilliant. I walked up to her, and the babies nicely walked through the fence to the other side (with access to the drainage creek and pond). And then I tried to encourage her to repeat her flying act and hop over the fence to be with her babies. Yeah right. This time instead of just hissing at me then flying over the fence, she decided to attack me. Suddenly I was accosted with a blur of flapping wings and paddling feet. WHAM, she hit my legs. WHAM again. Geez. I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU, DUCK. Then, she started to walk away from me and the babies in the other direction. At this point I was afraid she’d possibly abandon the babies as a lost cause. So I gave up. As I walked quickly away so as not to discourage her more, I saw the babies come filing through the fence to be with her as they waddled into the sheep shelter. And that is how I left them. We went to lunch and I worried over them the whole time. I tried to build up resolve to go back over there with hat, glasses, long sleeves and gloves to attempt to get a hold of her and toss her over the fence. I mean – she’s not even as big as my young chickens – how hard could it be? But, when we got home from lunch, I couldn’t see them anywhere. No more line of duckies, patrolling the fenceline, looking for a way out. I am hoping they figured it out, or I will consider myself a needless duck murderer. And that is not something I want on my conscience.
Moral of the story: let nature do its own thing. That mama duck figured out how to get into our front yard all on her own, and she was going to have to figure out how to get back out. All we did was walk toward her and we unwittingly made the situation much worse.
Billions of Teeny, Metallic Spiders
Just now, I walked out the front door to survey the landscape and what needs to be done this afternoon now that I’m back from being gone for several days, and I noticed a cobwed had been built on some of my garden tools that I store by the front door. At first it looked like some old, brown plant matter had been caught in it, and I thought nothing of it.
But then it glinted, and so I squatted down for a closer look and found that it was actually a mass of zillions of teeny, tiny metallic gold spiders. I know in my pictures they look yellow, but I promise you they are very metallic in the sunlight. I tried my darndest to get decent pics of them, but my camera refused to believe that I actually wanted to focus on something that small. I can barely make out a spider shape on each one with my bare eyes.
I don’t know what they are, but they are very cool. Springtime is filled with all kinds of babies!
I am about to go out and try to get some good chicken pics and do some garden work, so hopefully I’ll have more to report soon. As I said, I’ve been away… so I need time to build up some good info for you :)
Until then, enjoy one of my Memorial Day roses (how apropos!) that I planted at my family’s ranch in California while I was living there. I picked this one one my trip this past weekend.