Day Three: As Evening Sets In

As we suspected, by early evening the mother ducks seem to be rejecting the littlest duckling (LD), as it can’t seem to keep up with the flock. This is hard to watch. It’s even harder to know whether to step in and help LD or just follow the mother’s lead. As humans, we know we wouldn’t leave a sickly child to die, yet the ducks know that perhaps that little duckling won’t beable to fly on it’s own some day and must let it go. Maybe it is sick, and the mothers are protecting the rest of the ducklings. This is where the human world and animal kingdom collide. Crossing that line is not always wise.

More and more we are witnessing one of the adult ducks flying away. Perhaps looking for grown-up food, or perhaps it is looking for another location. But where could they go? In a similar situation, our grown daugther called animal rescue and they couldn’t do anything with the ducks unless they were in danger. In this case, considering that we don’t live near any lakes or parks, the family of ducks seems safest here in this guarded environment. Time will tell. The summer is suddenly feeling

LD sits alone as the mother duck shelters the other ducklings under her wings

longer and hotter as reality sets in. We are faced with questions like, “What happens as the ducklings start getting bigger and running all over the yard?” What kind of chaos will that cause for them as well as us?

For now, they are managable. But, in the end, we’d want what is best for their survival. We’ll sleep on it again tonight. Mothers or parents (we are still not sure if they are two mothers or male and female) sit like cement statues is the cooler night air with ducklings under their wings in the darkness. We do a last check and rest alittle uneasy, worried if we’ll find LD perished in the morning. Nature’s way is showing it’s harshness in the happiest moments.

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In The Morning Light

I am up close and more personal now. Sitting on a blanket about three yards from our ducks, waiting. The temperatures are climbing fast here, near 100 degrees and it isn’t even noon. If the heat isn’t enough, the mosquitos could possibly eat me alive! Ants have taken over my water bottle. But, I wait. The mama ducks know I am here, peeking their protective heads out from under their veils of green leaves. Saturated in sweat, I lay back and listen.  Cicadas rattle the trees in the scorching heat. Their cresendoing buzz is deafening. A usually bright green yard seems colorless, bleached in the blinding sun, except for the nesting bush that remains green with life. I feel like a child again. Alone on the grass, but being carefully watched. Even the birds are quiet.

There is always risk in getting attached. We’ve had our share of joyful hellos and tender good-byes. Yesterday, in the late afternoon, one of the ducklings was left floating in the pond. Though we are on watch almost 24/7, he seemed to slip away unseen among the fluff balls bobbing in the pond. We scrambled to fetch him out. I held him in my hand, rubbing his little chest, then back, with gentle vigor. But, we were too late and had to accept nature’s way. A little doubt slipped into our good intentions.

This morning, with added dried tree branches from a disgarded brush pile, the pond has more shade. The sprinkler on and off every 30 minutes to keep the pond cool. The mothers have cautiously emerged, with their bold little babies. Once again, they are in and out of the pond. The ducklings stand up on the rocks and shake their little bodies, run for food, and go back into the moving water. They gave me the ‘okay we trust you’ signal by coming out of hiding. I click away, and they take care of themselves in peace.

It is 105 degree outside now. In the course of two hours, and with a closer view, I noticed one little duckling (LD) not quick eager to join the others. He’s smaller, doesn’t run or go to the feeder. He often sits or floats next to one of the mother ducks, but then seems purposely left behind. We’re worried about him. I respectfully rarely call my husband at work, and visa versa, but we are both attached now to ‘our’ babies. LD is still fast enough to follow the others, though he tags behind, and is yet to be completely isolated. So we agree that we will scoop him up and nurture him on our own if his mothers give up.

We laugh, remembering 22 years ago raising baby chicks and ducklings in our Minnesota farm kitchen. We can do this, because we have. It’s amazing what comes back or comes forth when nature changes course. Right now, with morning turned to a deathly hot afternoon, it’s all about survival.  But isn’t it always.