Sunday, July 17, 2016
Duck Daze and Walking the Canal
If you've been following my blog, you are probably aware that we've been dealing with duckies for the past few months. Back in April I posted (Distracted by Duckies) about the wild pair that had been visiting. We were also incubating eggs ... only one hatched, but we adopted five more from a breeder for our own little brood. Although we never saw momma nest, one morning she had 13 little fluffballs by her side! For a while there, we had 20 ducks in the backyard!
It was quite an adventure! Momma and her babies stuck around for a couple of weeks, then they made their way to the nearby canal. The boys and I went for a few walks, and were happy to see that they had made it there safely. I thought I'd walk the canal more, watching for them ... but as I still had six ducks right in my own backyard, I didn't make the trek much.
Our duckies got big so fast! It wasn't long before they were testing out their flight feathers. A couple of times, they accidentally flew over the fence into the neighbor's yard. We were hosting a family party last Sunday, and the little cousins loved seeing the ducks. It was good we didn't put that party off because one week later ... all six ducks have flown the coop.
Monday morning, I went out to give them their breakfast and ... there were only four. I took a walk to the canal that morning and the next, but no black duckies in sight. Wednesday, on the way home from Zumba, as I was driving across the canal, I caught a glimpse of a black head. I parked, and checked it out and sure enough ... Antonia had made it to the canal!
Thursday morning ... two more duckies were gone. Our Uno (egg hatched) being one of them. I took a walk to the canal and found Antonia again, but no sign of the others. I did another walk later in the day and found Uno and Antonia together! By the next day, our remaining two were also at the canal, happily with Uno and Antonia. Four together at least.
Ally, Jorge, Antonia and Uno ... in the wild
While walking with #4, we came across a big group of ducks ... a momma and 12 or so. Could they be the little family that stayed with us? Had they all survived? They were the right size, just a couple weeks younger than ours. They took off as we approached, but they looked happy and healthy!
I've taken a LOT of walks on the canal these past few days. Sometimes with a kid or hubby, often just alone. Gotta check on my duckies ... as they adjust to life in the wild, I'm still bringing them some breakfast and treats to help with hunger as they forage. Other than the first few weeks at our home, they weren't penned up, but just free-ranged in the backyard, slept outside ... so it's probably not that different for them. The canal is a pretty duck-friendly place, and there are quite a few wild ones there every year too.
Mmmmm ... watermelon! Just a little "did you know" fact here ... did you know that bread is bad for ducks? It fills up their tummies but doesn't really give them any nutrition. We had a special waterfowl feed (most places just sell chick feed for ducks, but it doesn't have enough Niacin, which did affect our Ally, we almost lost her!) and you can supplement with other things. Our duckies loved lettuce, watermelon, bananas, grapes, tomatoes ... and of course meal worms!
The worst thing about walking the canal? Goatheads! Those sticker thorns are awful! I generally wear my little crock-type sandals when I go out and about, but they are old and worn thin ... and attempting to walk the canal once in those? I might as well have been barefoot! I have sandals with a thicker sole, and I did wear them a couple times. Then I tried some slip ons ... thin soled, and I think one walk killed them! I finally switched to sneakers (just in case you're wondering what's wrong with me ... I HATE shoes/sneakers and only wear them when necessary. Here, it is necessary). I've even pulled out my hiking boots and used those the last couple of times. They still get the thorns stuck in them, but I think they protect my feet, and survive, the best.
Each walk takes at least 30 minutes, and is about a mile. From our house to the mouth of the canal is about a quarter mile. Then our birds have settled about a quarter mile down the canal road. Certainly not as easy as just stepping out into the backyard to see our birds, but if they want to be wild, I guess we need to set them free. I wonder if they'll come back "home" again? We've always wondered if Momma duck was our female who flew away last year. We've lived here 20 years and never had a duck nest in our yard before, then the year after a couple fly away ... we do. I'll always wonder. I wish we could tag and track them with GPS or something, it sure would be interesting to see where they go, and if they come back ... as our black ones are distinctive from the normal mallard coloring (they are a black mutation), we can tell them apart.
I'm really sad when I look at our empty backyard now ... I miss seeing my duckies out my window every hour of the day. If I want to catch a glimpse of my duckies now, I have to take a walk and hope that they will be there.