BOS 06 15 2022 doublesize
The first baby ducks appeared about a week ago. Down on the corner of the lawn near the shore sat a mother mallard. Nine tiny ducklings scurried around her. Soon, she led them down to the water. If I had been outside, I would have heard her quack and the little peep peep peep of the ducklings. They keep track of each other with these sounds. I hear this chorus quite often when I am kayaking if my arrival causes the family to change direction. 

A couple days later, a mother swam by with just one tiny duckling. This pair I see almost every day, though they have not come ashore here. The duckling gets a little bigger every day.

About the same time, a merganser came by with one duckling on her back and two others swimming behind. This family has not returned.

There are a few lone male mallards and one pair spending time here. I guess the female of that pair will be the one with the late brood. Every year, when some of the ducklings are about half grown, there will be one more family of hatchlings.

On the weekend, our yard was taken over by a pair of canada geese with three gangly goslings.  One of the parents would stand guard will the others rooted in the grass for insects. After a while, the other parent would take a turn keeping watch. They went out on the water for a while and then came back. They disappeared from view, then returned. They foraged almost right up to the house before settling down to rest in that corner of the lawn nearest the water.

Fortunately, the good rain we got washed away the evidence of their time here. My dog seems to think bird poo smells like a treat. I also feel fortunate that he does not mind the visitors to his territory. In the winter he barked at floating ice and a visiting racoon, but he seems to be willing to share the space with ducks and geese. Otherwise, he’d be barking all the time with no success at chasing them away given the is inside, and they are out.

I have heard that our near neighbour feeds the ducks. Other neighbours explain that this is why they are so unafraid of people. Last year, in that dry spring we had, I watered what I had planted every day. One morning, I turned around to find a mother mallard and her ducklings right behind me. She looked at me quite expectantly.

Walking across the lawn, the ducks are silent. It is when they are startled or when meandering on the water that mom quacks and the little ones peep. Once last year when out in my kayak, a single tiny duckling scurried away from me peeping in a way that sounded panicked. I could see no sight of a family group. Maybe the little one was headed in the right direction to catch up to them, but more likely I was chasing it farther from family. I turned around.

Sometimes I know where robins and grackles are nesting. The cedar tree at the corner of the house is a family’s choice most years. The nests of other birds are hidden in the depths of spruce or in places where the maple leaves are thick. The first sign of young robins is the appearance of a group on the lawn where the chest of some is mottled red.

I did see a half-grown grackle last week trying to fly. It lifted itself a little off the ground and moved away from me and the dog. Because I had the dog with me, I couldn’t get close enough to examine it. And I did not know where the nest was even if I could have caught it.

I have not come across a duck’s nest. Or a goose’s. But they leave the nest and head for the water quite quickly. Then, we get to watch the pattern of growth and family development. With so many others, we don’t get a good view of the young birds, just note the increase in population when they make it out of the nest.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation


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