Even as the weather gets colder and the leaves drop to earth, I'm reminded of spring birds. Our neighbor has a beautiful pond with a boardwalk path and a rock waterfall (I'm totally jealous of the water feature), and every spring a pair of mallards arrives for a few days. They will feed on the algae and cracked corn - which we provide in both our yards - for several weeks before disappearing to incubate eggs, and we usually have the young hatchlings return for just a day or two several weeks later. After that appearance, the rest of the summer passes without a quack, and we don't see the ducks again until the following spring.
This autumn has been different, however, and the mallards have returned even while ice begins to form at the edges of the pond. We've had up to three drakes and two hens foraging at once, likely part of this summer's brood, all keeping a wary eye on me across the fence. It is lovely to see them again, but I don't expect they'll stay for long - the pond does freeze in the winter, and there are other water sources they can better use when that happens. Still, I'm glad to see them, and glad to have their company even as so many birds are hurrying south.