Sunday, May 3, 2009

Make Way for Ducklings!

Here, on Chincoteague Island, ducks rule! They are everywhere -- people even stop their cars to let them cross the road. We coexist with them and as a result, the wild ducks have become semi-tame.

Before I moved to the beach full-time a few years back, I made the house available to vacation renters. Somewhere along the line, someone apparently started feeding the ducks. So, my first spring here, ducks started showing up at my door -- literally! One I named Fiona was so bold that she would bang on it with her beak! Over the years, some have come and gone -- such as the sweet Daisy and Dartagnan, who were such regal older ducks.

This little duck mommy is called Tess and these are her twelve -- yes, twelve -- ducklings who showed up at my house on Wednesday. Tess had been coming here with her mate, Ted. Then, I noticed that they started showing up separately. What that meant was that she was on a nest somewhere. I don't know if the mallard males sit for females when they need to eat or stretch their legs. If so, that would explain why they no longer came together.

In any event, it is now Sunday and all twelve have survived to this point. There are many hazards to these darlings -- snakes, cats, and most of all, gulls. In fact, one gull swooped down while they were feeding that first day, but I let out a scream and it flew away. My cat, Lola, has watched them curiously, but has not made a move toward them. I am hoping the fact that she will soon have kittens is making her maternal in some way toward Tess. I think the reality is that she just feels like a big whale at this point and doesn't have enough energy to do anything more, which is fine by me. In actuality, neither she nor Zane, my other cat, have ever brought home "presents", which I appreciate!

Two other mallards, Dirty and Diana, were recently trying to look for a spot in the backyard to nest. That attempt lasted about two days, thanks (or no thanks, actually) to Syd, now nicknamed "Syd Vicious"! She would have no part of these interlopers and relentlessly chased the two from the yard until they finally gave up. Phoenix was terrified of them and kept her distance! (FYI, poor Dirty, who has been coming here for about three years, got his moniker because his face always appeared to be dirty. When I was finally able to get close enough, I could tell that the "dirt" was actually color variations on his facial feathers. But, by then, the name had stuck!)

Back to Tess...she has been faithfully bringing her babies here several times a day to eat. Then, she travels with them about 200 feet to what I would describe as a marshy glade. In this sheltered spot, the ducklings can swim and are much safer from cats and gulls.

In any event, I will keep everyone posted about their progress!

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  1. How very cool that you live in a wonderful place with DUcky Codes that everyone lives by. Even the cat. I love ducks and think they are darling to watch. We have them nesting near our lower pond but no babies yet. Soon, I suspect!

  2. And I hear they eat slugs too!

  3. Maybe you can inspire the local government to invest in a bronze sculpture of your photo for the public to view at the beach or a park - like Make Way for Ducklings in Boston's Public Garden!