Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bread and Quackers

I know an anomaly in my Confirmed Backyard Species list is the Mallard Duck; though a common bird, they're not typically found in urban backyards. Our neighbors, however, have a stunning pond complete with a rock waterfall, koi, and aquatic plants, and just a few blocks away is a reservoir canal that drains from the mountains. These water sources successfully attract ducks, and now they've ventured into our backyard as well.

We actually first had the hen visit last year, when she was raising ducklings in an abandoned yard to the west of our backyard. The pond is in the yard to the east, and our yard was a convenient thoroughfare -- at least initially. Because of the fence construction and garden area (both landscaping projects that will be changed), the ducklings last spring were able to enter our yard but became lost and bewildered when they couldn't get back up into the elevated garden to return to the safety of their nest. Squeaking and scattering, they roamed the yard as my husband and I gently rounded them up and gave them a helping boost back to the section of fence they could scurry under.

There have been no ducklings yet this year, but both the hen and the drake have become regular visitors foraging beneath the platform feeder in search of seeds. As honored guests, I also treat them to regular bread handouts -- which now they seem to expect rather vehemently, and the hen will peek boldly through the patio door in search of such deliciousness. The cool shade of the house has also become a favored resting spot on occasion, and I've recently put out a saucer bird bath to allow them to sip demurely whenever desired.

It is fascinating to have such varied visitors, even with no more than two still bird baths in the yard to attract superb swimmers. I will be watching for the ducklings, hoping they appear, but even if the pair opts to keep them better hidden this year, the visits from the two ducks -- as well as an additional hen who also uses her deep, brown eyes to entreat my heart for handouts (and yes, she gets them too) -- has been a rare wonder and a welcome addition to my varied flocks.

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