One sunny day this past June, I heard that a special family was down at the swimming pool at my apartment complex. I grabbed my camera and went down to see them. Here’s what I saw.
Before continuing this story, a little background is in order. Last March, a pair of Mallards showed up on the apartment complex where I live. This is an annual occurrence, perhaps by the same pair of ducks or their offspring. Here’s the pair scouting for nesting spots:
Mallards are sometimes tolerant of humans. This pair would waddle away from a photographer not bearing food, but they are much calmer than your typical wild duck. They’ve adapted to human presence quite well, to the point of nesting behind bushes near apartment front doors! That certainly puts them in the ‘not shy’ category for me. One more example of nature getting along with us when the need arises. Or when it’s to the advantage of this pair, at least.
This pair of Mallards aren’t always successful in raising a family- of course, this is nature’s way. We’d be up to our waists in creatures if everything survived. One tragic occurrence in a previous year was the Mallard ducklings dying in a swimming pool overnight- they couldn’t get out of the pool like their mother could, and nobody was around to help them, sadly. I assume they starved to death or died of hypothermia.
So, when I heard that the Mallard family was in the swimming pool, I knew that the little ducklings would need some help.
Dad isn’t around- not uncommon, as mom is the provider for her little ones at this stage. Here, the ducklings stick very close to mom. Perhaps this is their very first swim- instinct led her to bring them to the nearest body of water. This is all well and good, but there’s nothing to eat in the swimming pool, unfortunately. This is where human intervention is justified in altering the course of events.
Mom is somewhat alarmed- you can see her crest feathers ruffled up. Two ladies and a photographer are trying to corral them into a corner of the pool so that the ducklings can be fished out using a pool net. The ducklings must be wondering what is going on.
Mom hopped out of the pool, but the ducklings couldn’t follow- they are too small to hop up to solid ground. I think mom was trying to lead us away from her little ones.
One of the helpful ladies scooped up 7 of the 8 ducklings in a pool net and let them tumble out onto the ground near their mom. Quite exciting for the family!
The ducklings race for mom who is hiding under a reclining chair and quacking a lot. But what about the 8th duckling?
The last duckling was still in the pool, peeping up a storm, feeling lost without its family, I’m sure. They are tremendously cute at this age. I’m reminded of a pet duckling I had when I was little, and how ducklings would peep loudly if their ‘mother’ wasn’t around.
The last duckling is scooped up and hits the ground running to get to the safety of the family group!
Mom gathers up all of the kids and decides what to do next.
She decides to head for a nearby river or pond, both of which are merely a couple of blocks away. I’m glad she’s taking her family to a place where they can be safer. She makes the journey in a confident manner that I’m sure she’s made many times before. I hang back a ways and take photographs of them as they walk through the apartment complex.
Where mom can hop up onto a step, the ducklings have to walk around. That’s a mighty big jump at this tender age.
The ducklings know to keep close to mom, and trust her to watch out for them. She keeps a vigilant eye out around them, and I have to back off once when she noticed me behind them a bit too close.
Imagine what a big adventure this is for the ducklings- they’ve never been where they are walking now.
This was the tricky part. They crossed the fairly busy road in front of my apartment complex at lunchtime, but luckily, traffic at this particular moment was slow. The traffic lights were in the duck’s favor. I was ready to run out in the road and make sure traffic would slow down for them, but that wasn’t necessary.
The whole family made it- the most dangerous part of their journey was past. They now walked through another apartment complex on their way to either a corporate pond (complete with ‘Please Don’t Feed The Ducks’ signs) another block or two over, or a river just a little ways past the pond.
Here is the last glimpse of the Mallard family that I had before they disappeared in the apartment complex landscaping across the road. I’m glad that all was well. Bet I’ll see you next year, mom!