Then, just a few days ago, the ducklings arrived. Always adorable, these small balls of fluff were not at all tentative in trying out the water this year, and when they tired they curled up under mom's feathers to stay warm and snuggle. Their early lives were not without drama as well, however, as one of the drakes started to chase the brooding female all around the pond. She was frantic - unwilling to fly and leave her babies, she kept circling around her brood even while the male was quite literally on her tail. Fortunately, our neighbor intervened and chased away the drake several times, and eventually he got the idea that he wasn't welcome for the time being.
Now the ducklings have moved on, but one adult pair is still visiting occasionally, including raiding our cracked corn dishes - to which they are most welcome. My best thought is that it is likely the second female and the earlier rejected drake - now graciously regrowing his tail feathers, which are coming in but notably shorter than average. Perhaps later this spring we'll have visits from another young brood, but hopefully without as much drama.