One thing I have become very familiar with the past 6 months is mallard ducks. Those of you who have been watching my blog will have noticed a lot of photos of them along the banks of the river. We have mallards in Canada where I grew up and lived most of my life….. I thought I knew a lot about them. I guess there is always more to learn. I’ve never been so up-close-and-personal before.
The first time we walked through the park, we laughed as we watched children throwing bread out for the ducks. There were a few very fast gulls in the mix, and they seemed to nab every morsel. On enterprising drake grabbed his piece of bread and flew into the air – only to have it wrenched from his beak by an equally air-borne gull. Drat – score one for the gulls that day.
As Snoopy and I walked along the Storana day after day, we witnessed them pairing up for the spring…. occasionally with a hen swimming furiously, chased by an amorous drake. We saw the females disappear from the pond and stream as they settled in on their nests, laying eggs and keeping them warm to hatch.
I remember hearing someone once say that they thought the drakes all left for a while in the summer as you only saw the hens and ducklings. But, as I began to really look at the ducks in the stream beside me, I noticed that the drakes were there – but they were molting. Their green heads were covered in drab brown, and their once clean gray sides were as well. It was only by the rust on their breasts that I could tell which were the males.
Gradually, as the weather has turn cooler and the days shorter, the drakes heads are becoming that wonderful iridescent green – their sides again clean and clear gray – the blue flash on their wings again bright and edged in brilliant white. What a transformation! And I only saw it because I could watch them day by day, and was willing to notice.
On Sunday we walked along the river all the way to Stokkelandsvatnet (Stokkelands Lake). At the edge of the pond near our hose, there is a rock that is just off-shore, and ducks like to stand on it. They even did when it was a couple of inches under water.
There was a pair of ducks – male and female – standing on the rock, and another couple in the water. All four were quacking furiously at one another. Suddenly, the drake on the rock jumped into the water and the other two scattered. He swam proudly back to perch beside his mate.
Finders keepers? King of the castle? I wonder.