Saving The Ducks
Copyright 2023 by Sandra Fischer
Image by Alexa from Pixabay
spring morning I was pulling weeds in the flower bed while my husband
mowed the lawn. I inhaled
the sweet smell of freshly cut grass and took pleasure in the
daffodils making their
appearance from the bulbs we had planted in the fall. They stood
at attention, their
yellow-trumpeted blossoms announcing spring’s unmistakable
arrival in Indiana.
a large bird erupted from a nearby shrub in the garden. I jumped as
its flapping wings
almost touched my shoulder. My husband stopped the
mower and yelled,
mallard hen; I’ll bet she’s nesting in there.”
Peeking into the bush, we
found five oval eggs tucked among twigs and leaves.
So, we kept watch for her
from the house. Soon she returned accompanied by her mate
bringing food. In the
ensuing days, we were careful not to startle her and kept our dog
and clear of the shrub. We couldn’t wait to welcome the
arrival of the ducklings.
one morning our hopes were dashed when we found the nest abandoned
and only broken shells
scattered about. A predator must have destroyed the eggs. In the
days that followed, we
noticed the mallard pair swimming alone on our lake while other
duck parents paraded by
with offspring trailing behind. We felt sad for the lonely pair.
We shared the story with
a Ducks Unlimited friend. He told us to watch for them again the
spring, as ducks are known to return to the same nesting area. That
didn’t make sense to
me. Wouldn’t their experience teach them something? The real
estate they might choose
again was a hostile neighborhood.
Spring returned and, yes,
the ducks didn’t learn from experience. Mr. & Mrs.
Mallard took up residence
in the same bush. Soon we discovered eight eggs in the nest.
I agonized over their
future. How could we protect them? Our Ducks Unlimited
friend said, “Let
nature take its course; some nests will have survivors, and some
wasn’t content with that, especially when these ducks were
housekeeping on our
property. I felt compelled to protect them. Both my husband and the
friend smiled at my idea
in wanting to protect them, questioning why anyone would dare
interfere with nature’s
I headed for the hardware to implement my idea. I bought green
coated wire fencing and
low gauge wire for seaming it. I cut and wrapped, shaping a
dome to fit over the
shrub. I fashioned an entry door so the hen could have access. My
plan was to keep the door
open during the day while we supervised the nest, then close it
I made the property improvements to the nesting shrub, I waited to
see if the
hen would return. Before
long she flew down and waddled through the opening.
My plan seemed to be
working! She must have sensed that her landlady had created some
security measures because
that evening she allowed me to close the door. The next
morning I edged up to the
nest with careful steps and opened the door. Soon her mate m
came to feed her.
I continued the practice
from day to day. Sometimes I would approach the bush,
crouch down and look to
see if she was home. I’d speak to her in soft reassuring tones,
asking how things were
going and if she was bored or restless. She seemed content and
My husband watched the
proceedings with disdain. I felt sorry for him. By virtue of his
he simply could not identify with the mothering instinct that
bonded me with the hen. He
was also concerned the neighbors would
think I had gone “looney tunes” by talking to an
evergreen. To derail that notion, I shared the project with
they kindly accepted
my explanation, even becoming interested with
how it was
your family?” they’d ask, meaning the ducks, of course. I
would give my report that t
he Mrs. was fine, and we were still
awaiting the blessed event.
arrived and after we came home from church, my husband walked
the dog. When he came into
the house, his downcast face betrayed him.
checked the nest; something destroyed the eggs again. I’m
My heart sank. “Perhaps
think so. It looks the same as before.”
then, the phone rang.
the cheery voice of our neighbor greeted me. “Your ducklings
have hatched! We saw them
parade to the lake, following the mother hen. It’s Mother’s
Day for ducks, too!”
My eyes brimmed over, and
I choked a question. “How many?”
“Six or seven. You
might see them swimming along the shore. One straggler fell behind.
He’s in the yard next door. If you hurry, you can see him.”
I yelled as I flew out the door and ran across the yard to find our
with a plastic bucket lined with a towel. I saw the
ball of yellow fuzz for a moment as he scooped
it up with a frisbee
and put it into the bucket.
some guests for a pontoon ride, so I’ll try to find the family
and reunite him.”
I returned home to find
my husband smiling. “Did you see them?”
straggler. Alan is going to take him to find the rest.”
“Well, you did it.
I never thought such a crazy idea would work, but I’m glad it
Alan called to say they had found the brood and released the
first, as he paddled toward the hen, she turned away. . .then, she
recognized him, because
she turned back, stretched out her wing and pulled him in. He’s
safe with the rest of
thanked him and wiped my eyes. That night I savored how blessed we
have helped the ducks. It
was a small thing, and yet it showed me how life is made up of
The mallard family
paraded by our house like a small flotilla that spring. One day the
troop came up into our yard to feed on scattered seed from our
birdfeeders. It was as if Mr.
and Mrs. Mallard wanted to show the
ducklings their birthplace.
Later that year we
retired and moved to South Carolina. When the next spring arrived,
wondered if the mallards might have returned. I heard they did, but
they found us gone they
nested in a neighbor’s shrubbery. I never heard if the
improved their abode with
security measures or if they hatched another brood.
think of them every spring when I see a mallard pair swimming in the
lagoon by our new
home, a stopping place on their migration north. I
have a strong urge to ask, “Would you be
going to Indiana to
nest in a certain flower garden I remember there?”
octogenarian who retired in 2001, enjoys writing inspirations and
stories gleaned from her life. Her first book, “Seasons in the
Garden,” self-published at age 78, is a collection of prose and
poetry written for her garden club newsletter over 14 years. Her
books are not widely known but are enjoyed by family and friends.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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