As The Pond Flows

A few years ago, my husband got some Mallard ducks for our pond (which is in front of our house, in the cow pasture). We love watching the ducks swim around the pond and waddle around the pasture and our yard. We started out with just 2 ducks, but quickly added a few more. Of course, over time some of them died or were killed by predators (and one even wandered off and we never saw a trace of her again), so every once in a while we have to get new ducks. One duck, however, as been with us since the beginning - Perry.
(Actually, the duck in the picture is not Perry; its Francesco, who has since passed away. But Perry looks exactly like this, trust me.)

Perry has had several mates - his first was Katie (get it? Katie Perry? ha - yeah, back then, I absolutely loved her; now, not so much!). Katie was a cool chick but she got herself killed. We've brought Perry several mates since then, but none of them have managed to stay alive for him. He's a loner now, and to me he looks depressed. But what do I know about duck emotions?? We'll probably try again to get him a female Mallard to pal around with, just in case.

We also have 4 more ducks on the pond - 2 Magpies and 2 White Pekings. These, my husband purchased as babies and we raised them with a crop of chickens a few years ago. They grew up in the chicken coup and had a baby pool to swim it - it was adorable. When they were big enough, we released them onto the pond.
clearly, the was back before I got my nice camera!

Since we got the black and white ducks, life on the pond has been pretty interesting. Actually, even before they came around, it was quite entertaining out there. Back when I had no child to take care of, I had a lot of free time on my hands, and I would watch the ducks, take pictures, and make up stories about them. I started putting these stories on facebook, and people loved them! I made it like a soap opera, and even named it As the Pond Flows. Silly, I know, but people ate it up, and it was fun to do. I would give an update and then end the post by saying "tune in next time to ATPF..." or something like that. (lol) 

Once C came along, my duck watching didn't wane, but I stopped making up stories about the ducks. I've toyed with the idea of doing it again, but I just don't have the energy to be that creative right now. I do find myself creating little blurbs about the ducks in my head as I'm feeding the horses. The ducks hang out a lot by the horse barn and around the chicken pens, cause they know they can eat any fallen feed there, and also catch lots of bugs flying around. They talk a lot to each other and are pretty expressive. (Though maybe I just have a huge imagination, cause the other day I told my horse Wiley that he was the most expressive horse I'd ever seen - he was glaring at me cause I was mad at him.) At any rate, whether its weird or normal, I'm pretty invested in our ducks and absolutely love watching them.

I tell you all this so you'll understand my excitement for what happened last night. If you don't understand my love for our ducks, you won't understand why this is such a big deal to me. When I got home from work last night, me and C went to check on the female Magpie, and sure enough, her babies had hatched!!

This is actually her 2nd time hatching eggs. Last year she had 3 ducklings, and they lived about 3 days. I don't think she watched over them much, and something ate them. This year, I think she's more invested and seems more protective. Time will tell, but I'm rooting for these little guys.
Earlier this summer, this female laid a nest of eggs in the cow pasture. I guess they didn't get fertilized, because she only sat on them a few days before abandoning them. So we didn't have much hope when we realized one day that she had started a new nest - in the horses' shelter! Not the safest place for a nest of eggs, but we try not to interfere too much with nature. She laid somewhere around 13-14 eggs I believe, though they didn't all hatch. Ducks lay one egg a day until they are done, and then they start sitting on the nest. They stay on the nest almost 24/7. This female got off a few times to go for a quick dip in the pond, but for the most part, she didn't even get up to eat. (I don't know how they do it! The males don't bring food for her like in other bird species, either.)

After we saw the ducklings, I closed off the horse pen so the horses had to stay on the pasture. I called DH and he came home to figure out what to do. Obviously, I couldn't turn the horses in there or they'd trample the babies. But obviously, the horses needed to be in there - that's where their water is, and they are locked off the pasture at night. DH tried to herd the mama and her ducklings out of the horse pen, but she was just getting agitated with him. So he left her alone and we just watched.
9 little ducklings
Oh, how I love baby ducks! All their little faces are so different with their markings, too. I can't wait to see what they look like when they're grown (if they make it). DH thinks Perry (the Mallard) may have fertilized some of these. Time will tell. A Magpie/Mallard cross will be neat to see!

Eventually the mama led her babies across the driveway... (the driveway separates the cow and horse pastures)
...and into the cow pasture. The one in the very back was so tired by this point. He kept stopping and closing his eyes. Poor little guy. (He was still alive and well this morning, thank goodness!)
They finally made it to the pond, and jumped right in. I know ducklings are born knowing how to swim, but it always amazes me to see something so tiny swimming so well!
I know some (or even most) of these babies won't make it. We discussed capturing them and keeping them confined so they'll stay safe, but we decided it was best to leave nature be. The mama gets really upset if we get too close, and we don't want to stress her out. Hopefully the Magpie mama will take care of them until they're old enough to take care of themselves. 

This morning I checked on them and from what I could see, all 9 of the ducklings were still there. A heron flew in (he comes every day to our pond to fish, and usually stays all day), but the mama Magpie fussed at him before he could even land, and he flew away (protesting, I might add!). So I feel like she's protecting her babies this time. ( :
Last night she was keeping the ducklings a safe distance from the other ducks (see Perry, the Mallard? He's already lost his gorgeous male feathers for this year - they'll come back next year during breeding season). The white female was trying to attack the babies, so I hope mama Magpie got that under control. This morning they were all fairly close together.

Stay tuned for more As the Pond Flows! (lol, I couldn't help myself!)

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