Friday, June 13, 2014

Wherefore the Ducks?

The ducks are back in our yard.  They are a Mallard couple – a glossy-green headed male and his slightly smaller brown-speckled mate.  The pairing, or other identical duos, has made brief cameo appearance on our property every spring for the past several years.  

It’s kind of curious that they choose our front lawn as a stopping off point.  The only nearby body of water is “Folly Brook” – a nearly invisible streamlet which runs underground somewhere in the vicinity of our house.  Town lore tells us that that the creek was the result of an unsuccessful attempt in 1726 to reroute another small stream, named "Beaver Brook" that also flows in this general area. A derisive public began calling the failed aqua-engineering project "the Folly”.  Today there is considerable confusion as to what's “Folly” and what’s “Beaver” – but by any name neither rivulet is of insufficient volume to be of interest to water birds. 
Nor to be a source of danger, or even concern.
Nonetheless in 2007 part of the neighborhood in which Mars and I live was declared a flood zone.  Following Hurricane Katrina several public and private agencies were apparently stunned to discover that the city of New Orleans, built below sea level, was in a perilous position vis-à-vis its aquatic surroundings.  (Who'd'a' thunk it?)   

So the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was tasked with redefining flood regions.  Now there is more flood land then ever in the U.S. of A – and some of it is right here in our own back (and front) yard.  Yet none of us who live in the area can see any encroaching h2o when we look out of our windows – nor is any of it lapping at the foundations of our residences
Although I am not sure whether the duck’s first appearance was pre or post Katrina, I doubt that aquatic fowl follow the ebb and flow of governmental environmental classifications looking for tips on prospective locations at which to hang out.
Several years back – again not sure if it was pre or post Katrina – a family of Mallards actually did nest in one of the bushes in front of a nearby neighbor’s house – ironically just over the border from the newly proclaimed flood area.  They were first discovered when Ed was trimming his shrubbery, and were left in peace for the duration.  There is a pond about one quarter mile away and at the appropriate time in the development of the quacklings they were dutifully led down the street, across another – and into the park containing that small body of still water.  Perhaps it is a member of that family that visits our neck of the woods each year.
While the birds do not find sufficient water for their purposes on our grounds, they do find food  – most of it in the form of kernels of corn that are dropped to the ground by squirrels dining at their “Picnic Table Feeder” which is attached to one of the oaks trees along our front border.  For some reason the furry tailed rodents are unwilling to eat the golden colored food nuggets once they are detached from the ear.  The Mallards however are quite happy to ingest the cast-aside orts from the squirrel’s hastily consumed meals.  In fact, if it were not for the transient arrivals of the ducks, and some passing-by grackles, the above ground portion of the tree’s roots would permanently be buried in maize droppings.
Or maybe the answer to the ducks’ mysterious appearances simply lies in the nature of the breed itself.  As explained by Wikipedia – “The mallard (/?mæl?rd/ or /?mæl?rd/) or wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck…which feed mainly at the surface rather than by diving.” According to, they “also forage on land for seeds and insects.”
I could undoubtedly find out more detailed information about the behavior of these non-diving waterfowl with considerably more research – but I’m really only interested in tinkering with this topic in a casual or superficial way.

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