Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking about Ducks

A few mallards at Broadmoor Audubon Sanctuary
brown pencil
© 2011 Rob Dunlavey

At last! Ducks!! They've been scared away from the South Natick Dam and all its rushing and unpredictable water. At Broadmoor, a wildlife sanctuary a few miles from my house, the water level in the marsh is at seasonal (lower) level and the wetlands are populated with dabbling mallards and crazy, easily-frightened Wood Ducks. Wood Ducks are really beautiful birds. If they weren't so skittish, I'd be able to show you a drawing. I did hear them a lot this morning at the far end of the marsh making their plaintive "Let's get outta here!" cries.

In order to get a good look at Wood Ducks, I think you just have to sit still and be very patient. Then they probably will put on quite a show. Early in the Spring. I was down at one of the vernal pools drawing maple blossoms and trying to keep warm when, lo and behold, a pair of Wood Ducks started going for a little walk: up in the trees (that's one reason they're called Wood Ducks). They nest in trees and this pair was, perhaps, looking for a good spot to get started making more Wood Ducks (for my benefit no doubt).

Now here's the honest-to-God truth: Two years ago, I was present at the moment when a brood of Wood Duck ducklings left their nest (in a tree cavity twenty feet above the ground and a 30-40 foot waddle to the river). One by one they flapped/plopped to the soft leaf litter below, collected their wits and were quickly hustled over to the bank. Mom and gravity did the rest of the work getting them out onto the relative safety of the water and on with life. I saw it with my own four eyes. I did!

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