I did NOT have my ducks in a row on the morning I saw Mama Mallard and her cute contingent of “mini-me” ducklings marching in a perfect queue behind her. They were the epitome of all that is good in this world, balls of fluff, each hurrying along on tiny legs to keep pace with Mama and their siblings.
Followers of my blog know I’ve long lamented not seeing ducklings at any of the park venues that I frequent. Every Spring I go in quest of duckling sightings and pictures, whether to Coan Lake at Heritage Park, down to the Detroit River, or even to Lake Erie Metropark or Elizabeth Park. All are big duck hangouts, but no ducklings were discovered.
Then this scenario literally fell into my lap.
I was running late last Thursday morning. I really couldn’t blame it on the fireworks that erupt nightly in the ‘hood until 11:00 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it might have been the wind that continued howling into the wee hours of the night, long after the storm ended. I had agonized over that pending severe weather all day Wednesday. Grateful we were spared that bullet of possible tornadic action, hail and 70 mph/113 kph winds, after an angst-ridden day, I happily drifted off to sleep, only to be awakened several times through the night by the wind whooshing around in the trees, making an eerie noise.
The alarm rang, more obnoxious than usual after just a few hours’ sleep and I didn’t put enough speed into my routine and decided to just drive to the Park. There I saw fellow walker Janet and we visited a few minutes, then decided to walk together. I was doling out peanuts to the squirrels when Janet said “look over there!” My head swirled around to see a female Mallard marching in the fenced-in soccer field with a passel of ducklings behind her. We watched as Mama and her charges stayed close to the fence. I grumbled that “any other day I’d have my camera with me, but I haven’t seen much here lately, so I left it at home!”
Well, we had time to walk Loop #1, then Loop #2, then back to the first loop, where Mama and her minions continued their relentless march along the fence line. Before Janet and I parted, I told her since I had the car, I was going home for the camera and hopefully they’d still be there when I returned.
Hey everyone – this is no time to be camera-shy!
Yes, I went back, a little breathlessly, as it was getting later and I didn’t want to be late for work. In my haste, oops … I forgot to bring the peanuts back with me – hopefully no squirrels were there to beg and/or complain. I headed straight to the fence and there they were, still marching in place. Query: were they exercising?
To be honest, I found it odd to see ducks roaming on land to begin with. At larger water venues, sure they flock around the water, sleeping in huddles with a sentry duck keeping watch over them, but they are always close enough to fly or waddle over to the water should they feel endangered by a predator, human or otherwise. At Council Point Park, sometimes the Mallards wander onto the Creek banks or bask in the sun on the cement ledge, but those instances are few and far between.
I admired them and took a few shots, then a woman walker saw me standing there and came over to see what had piqued my interest. “Aw, how cute, look how little” were the delighted words that tumbled out of her mouth right away. I said they’d been walking the fence line almost two hours by now, then explained I had time to drive home/back and they were still at it. A worried look crossed her face and she turned to me and said “maybe Mom doesn’t remember where she went in – should we help? Do something? Is this all fenced in here?” We tried to figure out where there was an unfenced area, but couldn’t tell. The woman said “don’t they need to be in the water by now?” I said “I dunno” – I was feeling helpless for their welfare, plus a tad guilty that my principal concern had been returning to take that long-coveted “ducklings in a row” photo.
Together we quietly approached the family, both of us taking baby steps – perhaps we scared her, because in a heartbeat she ducked her head, dipped under the fence and the ducklings streamed behind her never missing a beat. 🙂
That picture of the regrouped family is featured up top, but then when I got home and looked at the photos on the screen, I realized in this photo, there were ten, not nine, little ducklings as originally thought. Yes, they all blend together, don’t they?
The other walker said “well now I can sleep better tonight.” I laughed and said “me too!”
I got this next photo as they crossed the walking path – Mama appeared anxious to get to the Creek. Perhaps these two gawking humans made her nervous. Check out the last duckling and the big strides it was taking to keep up with its siblings.
Through the tall grass and down to the Creek bank they went …
… then one-by-one I watched them plop into the water, never more than a few inches away from Mama’s body and her watchful eye. It was a beautiful sight to see as they clamored around her, then headed down the far side of the Creek.
I ran down to the cement ledge figuring I had lots of time before their arrival. Boy, was I wrong! They paddled so quickly that they had arrived there less than five minutes later. I took the last photos and soon they had disappeared out of sight.
What a treat that was to see and, as I walked to the car, I knew I could put a check mark next to Mallard Ducklings on the Photo Birdie Bucket List for 2020.
P.S. – I went to Heritage Park yesterday, always a haven for ducks. Unbelievably, as stated above, I’ve been there in late Spring scoping out ducklings many times, but if I didn’t see two different sets in Coan Lake. One set was around the same size as these and the other ducklings were much bigger, but they still stayed close to Mama Mallard nevertheless. I’ll feature those little cutie pies in an upcoming post.