Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Duck Tales

It looked like we might be going on a wild duck chase,  so I called Bernie to see if he could bring his net with him, but he was already on his way over to PCV.

You might ask, what are ducks doing on a squirrel blog? I don't have an easy answer for that, other than that I've been seeing the little darlings-- oops I mean duckings --  as I pass by the marina on my way to feed the squirrels.

Watching them progress from little balls of fluff  with yellow markings into real ducks has been fun.   

There's this beautiful marina next door to where I live:

And there is the lovely and sleek Cloud Nine

And there on a raft that apparently belongs to Cloud Nine, a Mother Duck and her ducklings have made their home. I guess it's comfy for them. It must feel good as it rocks back and forth on the waves. Cloud Nine indeed!

When I first saw the ducklings they were crowding under their mother. and my first naive thought was that she must be feeding them. Then I remembered that ducklings hatch from eggs! But she certainly was acting motherly. Basically she sat beside them and would gather them up under her plentiful skirts when they got chilled or tired. The mallard duck’s outer feathers are waterproof, thanks to oil that’s secreted from a gland near the tail. Beneath this tightly packed waterproof layer of feathers lies a soft, warm layer of feathers called down.

 With the ducklings underneath you'd never know they were there, although she does look sort of fat.

 I was fairly sure Mother was the same Mallard that I had seen on the tiny pond at Waterside Plaza  a month or so  ago, when she and her mate, a gorgeous Drake, seemed to be looking for a cozy place to settle for the night. Maybe looking for a place to lay her eggs? I raced to the store and bought a loaf of bread, then started throwing slices at  them. The female was hungry and ate quite a bit, but the ever-vigilant male never took a bite.

June 16 - On Cloud Nine.

I didn't see them again until I found this mother and her flock of ducklings sitting on a raft in the marina, while I was passing by. If it's a gaggle of geese, what do you call a group of ducks? Turns out to be a raft of ducks for ducks on the water-- how very appropriate!  Also, a group of ducklings is called a brood.

That night we had a rather ostentatious storm with terrible thunder and lightening, and I found myself worrying about the ducks and wondering how they were doing.

June 17 - After the Storm
The next day I passed by the marina and found the raft of tiny ducklings there all by themselves, looking lost and lonely, with no sign of their mother.

Where was Mother Duck? I wondered if something had happened to her during last night's storm. While I waited for Bernie at PCV I kept wondering how in the world one would rescue a raft of ducklings? Could one use a net? And then put them where? In a cardboard box? And then what would one feed them? Fox Valley Formula?  But mostly I wondered if their mother had returned. Finally unable to stand the suspense any longer, I rushed back to Cloud Nine without Bernie, who was unusually late. When I arrived at the raft, much to my disappointment, the ducklings were now also gone!

June 18 - Back on Cloud Nine

I thought that might be the end of it, but the next day there was Mother Duck,  back on the raft!

This time it looked like the ducklings were gone, but I soon realized that they were hidden beneath her skirts, when I caught a glimpse of a little blue webbed foot protruding out.

June 19 - Training Day

It was fun watching them jumping off the raft and learn how to swim, while Mother looked on patiently. I watched them struggle to get back up on the raft. One of them who I guess was the runt of the litter, had a terrible time getting up. They were then cold, wet and shivering and one by one they disappeared into Mother Duck until they were all hidden under her, and warming up under the protection of her feathery embrace.

Pay attention now, Mother is quacking to you!

Little ducks all in a row.

Now GO!

And they're off!

Note the straggler at the end. Must be the runt.

Hey, it ain't so bad out here...

Off we go into the wild blue yonder!

Yup, that's ducks down there!

June 28 - Sitting Ducks

The next day, I was happy to see that the ducks were back from their East River jaunt, and once again enjoying life on the raft. They had grown a little larger and having lost some of their fluff, were starting to look like serious ducks.  Aside from their ventures onto the river (where do they go, I wonder?) they don't do much except sit there motionless, like painted wooden ducks, moving only occasionally to do some grooming or stretch out a tiny webbed foot.

July 2 - Head Count

There they are resting on Cloud Nine after another adventurous day on the river.

Head count: all present and accounted for!

July 4 - All Quiet on the East River

No Macy's fireworks on the East River this year. Which is a good thing if you're a duck.

Within a matter of days, the little ducklings have become HUGE! How is that possible? But seeing is believing. Gone are the yellow markings and blue beaks are in evidence.

Notice how Mother Duck is now sitting apart from her brood -- still watchful, but keeping her distance.

Things are simply ducky right now on Cloud Nine!

July 10 - Ducks Redux

I wasn't sure if I'd ever see them again, but there they were, the raft of ducks sunning themselves in the hot July sun: ducklings on one side, Mother on the other, one in the middle. I think the reason they like the raft so much is because of its gentle rythmic motion as it moves back and forth on the waves. So much nicer to be on the river than on land!

The ducklings have grown  larger. They are not ready to go off on their own yet, and still have Mother keeping careful watch over them. I noticed that their number is down to seven and wonder what happened to the eighth one, and if it was the one that had trailed behind when they were swimming, and had some difficulty climbing back onto the raft after a swim. The one I'd called the runt of the litter.

Ducks in  a Huddle

The ducklings seem to enjoy being in a huddle, even on a very hot day like today.

Mother Duck knows best of course, and keeps her distance.

Much cooler that way

Of course there's always a dip in the river. Lucky ducks! One duckling jumps in and goes for a swim. But the others don't join in. Guess going swimming is old-hat by now.

As afternoon wans, the ducks group closer to Mother. One duck stands up. stretches and walks about.

Look Ma... YEEHA! I FEEL like a duck!

If you look like a duck,
walk like a duck,
talk like a duck -
and FEEL like a duck, guess what?


August 2 - Two Fledglings

On my way home I happened upon two of the ducklings sitting on the Cloud Nine raft. Gosh they are big now! At least one of them looks like it may be a drake (male) based on the plumage that's starting to develop. They probably do not have all their feathers yet, nor can they fly.

One has something silvery hanging from his beak, probably a small fish.

They were not sitting for very long. however. Without their siblings surrounding them and the comforting presence of their mother nearby, they quickly got camera shy and swam away. Just as I was getting out the bread!

Here is a cute video of ducks being blown around by the wind.


  1. Thank you for the amazing story. "Duck Tales" is one of my all-time favorite cartoons and your tale was also extraordinary. I also love those fluffy yellow ducklings, they are so cute!
    You should try one day to see how squirrels interact with them. Can they be friends? :)

  2. I have not seen the movie Duck Tales, but you motivate me to do so. What an interesting idea to watch squirrels interact with ducklings! I've never seen squirrels act as predators, but I wish there was more animal life (not counting cats and dogs) around that they could interact with. I will say this: while squirrels are frisky and playful, ducks out of water sit there motionless, as if made of wood. I think I know where the phrase "Sitting Duck" came from :) They're still awful cute though. And their innate intelligence amazes me.