The End of this Story

I can tell you what happened, but not how or why. On day five, two of the remaining four ducklings died. I quit taking photos. On day six we lost one of the remaining two. And on day seven, Mom flew out of the yard for a while (as was her pattern), leaving the last one alone. He was very busy in the pool for an hour, explored around the yard, and walked off into the tall grass. Mom flew back in several times during the afternoon, but the duckling never reappeared to join her.

It’s hard not to take this experience personally. We didn’t put chemicals in the pool the week before the ducks were born, nor while they were with us. We use no chemicals in the yard. We did not attempt to feed them anything, and predators did not kill them. Several days of rain unearthed bugs and worms and debris they could have ingested to their detriment, but we have spoken to others with pools and ducks who have no similar stories.

I have run through my usual mental platitudes to find a place of consolation, but can’t help but feel somehow responsible. These appeared to be robust ducklings who sickened in our environment. Whether that speaks to our yard, our neighborhood, or our world, I don’t like it.

I took these photos on the first day, not the last, and they are the end of this sad story.

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Day Four

I think even ducks would have called it a hard day. We had torrential cold driving rain, which covered the deck with debris and created swimming pools on land. The ducklings hovered a lot, taking shelter under Mom, but not under the house eaves which were explored but not used to advantage. Bursts of independent exploration required more vocal policing for round-up, but today another duckling faltered, and didn’t survive nap time. The siblings now number four, and we see diminished energy in one of them. Did I say several days ago that we were happy to offer this family a safe haven? It’s a humbling experience to witness life in nature, and be so quickly reminded that control is a figment of our imagination.

Mom has begun to walk the fence line, looking for the escape route.Ducks_63_SBH_160417Ducks_64_SBH_160417Ducks_65_SBH_160417Ducks_67_SBH_160417Ducks_69_SBH_160417Ducks_70_SBH_160417

Day Three

Day three was “speed it up” day: learn things quicker and do them faster. There was much more separation in the ranks, and independent exploration of land and water. Mom was never too far away and always available for naps if the exercises went well. But one of the two laggards was always headed in the wrong direction, and has disappeared. The siblings now number five. Ducks_40_SBH_160416Ducks_43_SBH_160416Ducks_44_SBH_160416Ducks_45_SBH_160416_MEDucks_47_SBH_160416Ducks_49_SBH_160416Ducks_55_SBH_160416Ducks_58_SBH_160416

Day Two

Mom left them on their own occasionally, which caused noisy consternation, but no disasters. The ducklings learned to spread their wings, walk in tall grass, climb rocks in their way, and huddle together to await her return. When she’s back, they are thrilled beyond measure, happy to lean into her or huddle under her warmth.

Mom is somewhat concerned with two who don’t follow instructions quickly. The laggards don’t leave the pool when she tells them to, and can’t find the exit route unless she guides them to it again. She sets the pattern repeatedly, but there hasn’t been obvious improvement in their education. A seventh duckling didn’t thrive the first day, and mom made no effort to protect him (or her). The duckling was outside her protective warmth that night, with expected results. We wonder how the laggards will manage over time.

(Do you wonder how  much time can be spent watching and how many photos can be taken of ducks? The answer is a lot.)

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They’re Back!

It just so happens to be “Serve the Earth” week too! We’re happy to be offering a safe haven for new life, and are enjoying their experience of it. It’s really wonderful to watch how quickly they learn to follow instructions, and make themselves at home in the world.