Friday, June 5, 2009

The Duck Story

Finally after a long wait of winter, officially spring came, and we were over joyed. Even though it was still cold at least there will not be foot deep snow anymore on the ground and we can open the doors once in a while for fresh air and try to venture out for few minutes. We could even notice the birds that migrated for the winter started returning to our neighborhood. Our subdivision has few man made ponds and they even have small fountains in them. As there is are no covenants that say that the house owner’s should have fenced yards, some houses have fences and some don’t.

About 6 weeks back, we noticed two ducks one male and one female, on our back yard patio. We were wondering why they ventured into a fenced yard. The days passed by and we didn’t pay much importance to that. After couple of weeks, one day Babu went to the back yard and immediately called me to come outside. He said that he noticed some eggs under the small flowering bush we had next to the outside kitchen wall. With curiosity, I also went and saw under there and noticed the eggs. We figured that there may be 5-6 eggs. We didn’t know what to do but realized that the ducks came to check for a good place to lay the eggs.

Just to know what to expect, I browsed on the internet and found out that the eggs would hatch in about 28 to 35 days. From then on, we kept guard and continue to check if the female duck is brooding or not. We wondered when she would go for food, since whenever we checked she was there. Meanwhile, Babu thought it would be a good idea to cover the basement window well next to the bush, if once the ducklings hatch, they may fell down into the hole, so he fetched some sticks and wood pieces to cover the window well enough to let the light come into the basement.

About a month passed. The bush also grew bigger and thicker and we could hardly see underneath it. One Saturday, we noticed that one of the eggs cracked open. We couldn’t find any duckling near by. We wondered what happened but assumed it is almost time for them to hatch completely. The next day, morning when we went into the back yard, we saw the mother duck with 10 ducklings! Being a Sunday, we were home, and we were expecting some guests that morning, so we kept watching them. The mother was walking just next to the fence on two sides and these ducklings, like obedient students followed her in straight line. The mother made sure that they follow her very close. What a sight it was! The walking continued non stop from one direction to the other direction and then turn around and start all over again. It was almost noon and they kept going without taking a break. Imagine the tiny duckling’s energy! In that time, we had our daily morning routines, entertained the guests and went out for lunch too!

As soon as we came back we again checked on them. They are still following their routine. But we noticed that the ducklings were standing little more erect and now the procession looked more like a captain followed by his soldiers in a marching parade!.............It was 3pm, the day was hot and we thought it would be a good idea and filled a paper plate with water and placed it in the middle of their procession route and started observing from a distance. First the mother avoided coming to that side for few minutes. Then she came and looked and drank some water from there but didn’t let the ducklings nearby until she made sure. The mother’s protection of the children! Then we sprinkled some fine bread crumbs on the lawn near the plate of water and see if they would eat. Same thing repeated! The mother duck tasted it and made sure it is ok before she let the ducklings have it. Then they took about ½ hr rest and continued on their walk. By 4pm, the pattern has changed. Mother started to walk few steps ahead and let the children make their decision to follow. After sometime, she even let them walk in groups instead of straight line, and it even ventured more on to the lawn and even onto the patio. This continued till almost 8pm and when it was dark, they finally retired for the day. That means they exercised almost for 12 to 13 hrs!

On Monday, by the time we came downstairs and looked, they already started their routine. We observed some time, and Babu adjourned to his office room, and I went to run some errands. Meanwhile, Babu took out a small piece of wood near the fence, to make a bigger hole in the fence. I came home around noon, and when I went to check, I noticed that they all flew the nest except one! I saw it calling for its mother. I went to tell this to Babu and by the time we came out, it is also gone!

What a marvel! If we can only take a break from our busy schedules and pay attention and observe the nature once in a while, we really can learn so much from it. We humans, sometimes, instead of acting on instincts, try to think too much and do research and take advice of others and follow other’s opinions before acting and even then we do it wrong. “Pappulo kaalu vesthamu”. How the mother takes care of the children and teaches them till they fully learn! The determination it has to teach the young ones and take care of them!

I waited to see if they would return. In the evening, I scouted around in the car in the neighborhood and around the nearby ponds but in vain. They are no where to be seen. I hoped that they might return for the night, but my hope was fruitless. Now we will wait and see if they would return next year and pray that they all will survive the harsh cruelty of the nature.