Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mama and her ducklings

Quietly she leads all six of them out from the cover of weeds and bushes near the bay. They follow obediently, staying close to each other. Once they are clear of the foilage she allows them to lead the way, waddling up the stone covered path to the top of a small incline. Again, they enter the foilage, their brown and white speckled bodies blending so well with the dry leaves on the ground that if they stood still you probably wouldn't notice them. She hangs back a little but not too far, allowing them the freedom to explore on their own. She stretches her thin beige and white neck, watching all around for any signs of danger. Her six ducklings peck at the dropped seeds and bird food lying on the ground under the feeders. The yellow or purple finch, beautiful red cardinal with black mask, black and white chicadees and various woodpeckers including the hairy and downy with their white and black speckled bodies with the red dot on the back of their heads are not afraid of the ducks' presence as they continue to eat and drop leftovers from the feeder. The female cardinal with her bright orange beak and muted reddish orange colors sits nearby in the branches until she feels comfortable enough to rest on the feeder.

As the ducklings feast, Momma Duck stands guard, never once lowering her head for one morsel of food. She is beautiful in her own way. She waddles gracefully, her head held high, her young always nearby. I cannot help but notice her protective nature toward her babies, yet I see how she is also training them to be independent. She allows them to wander around under the feeders and in the nearby woods, yet when they are all done eating, she needs only turn her brown speckled body in the opposite direction and all six of her ducklings immediately follow her back down that path, into the foilage, and then lost again in the bay area to return several hours later for another meal.

I wonder though where the father is. During the spring and early summer I always saw the beautiful multicolored male duck with his shiny green neck and yellow beak, alongside his female partner,  his colors always more prominent than the muted brown speckled feathers and greenish yellow beak of the female. His neck had a white ring around it and a richly colored brown chest.  I would see them swimming in the bay, walking along the road or in the grass. He appeared protective of her and always near her. They were definitely a pair, a couple. They have six young together yet now it seems she is alone, a single mother caring for her babies. Is he still in the picture? Is he there with them when they disappear from my view? Or has he moved on, continuing on with his life again, a free single male, proud to have recreated as so many young men today; Father the children, puff out the feathers or chest and be proud, then walk away leaving the female to care for the young until they are old enough to get by on their own.

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