Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Duck and Cover

A Mallard Duck couple has been checking out our property over the past week. We've had a few such web footed visitors over the years, but this duo has returned several times and looks as if they could be seriously considering moving in with us.

This would not be the first such instance of green-headed residents living in our neighborhood. A couple of years ago my neighbor E provided lodging for a similar (or perhaps the same) couple in one of the bushes in front of his white colonial house. The family of blunt-billed water birds remained incognito, except to E, until (at the appropriate time in their development) mama led the ducklings out of E's yard, down the street about two blocks, across a busy thoroughfare, and into our area's pond-centric municipal park.

Several years before that, another pair of mallards set up house in a shrub next to our town's Rose garden. The mens garden club of which I am a member maintains the this flower bed, and one Saturday morning, while we were busily dead-heading and weeding, one of the guys bumped up against the woody plant and spotted the brown female and her brood encamped therein.

We kept this discovery to ourselves lest some of the students from the nearby middle school, or others, disturb them. Like E's guest family, this bunch also gave themselves away when they paraded across an even busier roadway on their trek to a nearby (but not that nearby) body of water. My recollection is that they even made our local newspaper.

Our yard does hold a lot of standing water after a heavy rain -- and FEMA, when they redrew their maps after Hurricane Katrina, has declared that Mars and I, as well as several of our neighbors, are now in a "Flood Zone". This is of particular concern to those who still have mortgages since they are now required to purchase flood insurance at a pretty hefty price ($2K/year). But I don't think that makes any difference to the ducks.

My research on the Internet seems to indicate that these birds in general are not that discriminating in their housing preferences. Wild mallards typically nest on the ground, in tall grass and shrubs. Proximity of water does not seem to be a requirement -- until it is time for the great march -- after which the nest is abandoned. My personal favorite location that I found online was on the shooting range at a fish and game club. Go figure!

There are a good number of thick bushes around our abode that would probably fit the bill -- so to speak. But personally I am hoping that the ducks do not opt to stay on our premises. Over the past few years our yard has become a favorite hunting ground for a number of local hawks. Although I imagine that a fully-grown mallard is way too heavy to be hefted away by even the strongest falcon -- the attempted snatch and grab would easily match the opening scene of any "Bones" episode for graphic violence.

Not that we will have much say in the matter anyway. If they do choose to stay here at our humble digs we will certainly make them feel welcome -- which apparently you do by not walking in the area near their nest and otherwise totally ignoring them.

Some might say the perfect guests.

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