|Might look green but its DRY!|
Mallard ducks have this particular habit of nesting most anywhere and are so common here that they make their nests wherever and in whatever is available....flower pots, under bushes next to your house, on patios...you get the idea. Strangely enough, the female will lay her eggs a distance away from any water. With the expansion of man into wildlife habits, humans and ducks tend to collide.
I was at the grocery which is part of a large mall area. So big that it has two retention pond type areas. The smaller of the two closest to the giant parking lot was now dry. To get to the other one wildlife must transverse a REALLLY big parking lot. Not just in a straight shot across either but across the bias so to speak from one corner to the furthest corner.
On this particular day, a police car was blocking the out exit; lights blinking red then blue. It was literally, the hottest day of the year here at least 104 degrees. The beleaguered policeman was standing, sweat dripping from his brow, directing traffic. In the grass next to him was a very unhappy female mallard, pacing, quacking, lifting into the air periodically to move herself quickly from one spot to another. I thought, that is one annoyed duck. The police officer was valiantly trying to keep the duck from getting run over.
Having been a naturalist in the past, I thought I knew what was going on, so I pulled over and parked. Approaching the police officer, I could see his frustration and asked him what was going on. His reply was, "Third time this week I've had to wrangle ducks, the guys are going to start calling me the duck whisperer. I can just hear them now." I chuckled and replied, "Ducklings down the drain, eh?" which was a duh statement as you could clearly hear a duckling peeping.
Down the storm drain, were momma duck's 8 babies having dropped one by one as she took them on their first hike across the parking lot to the other retention pond. I am sure she'd planned on water still being in the smaller pond but the drought had done its damage. With all the peeping and us peering into the drain, others gathered; more police came with chains and big trucks. Off went the drain cover and the problem became how to get the ducks out. I went to one end of the drain which emptied into the pond and did my best duck quacking. Yes, I have been practicing. I quacked and quacked and out came the one brave peeper...all the other lazy ducklings remained in place seemingly not caring that freedom was but a short swim away.
A neighborly person arrived with a butterfly net, I scooped up the errant baby in the puddle/pond down below. The policemen duct taped a plastic, Chinese soup container to the end of a long metal rod and I got my bushel basket from the trunk of my car. Together, we nabbed the rest, placing them carefully into the basket.
By now the police had completely blocked the driveway and cars were cutting across the parking lot willy-nilly, momma bird flying around, landing here landing there...it was quite the spectacle. One of the boys was watching mom. Finally, she took off to the north. I crossed my fingers that all the craziness hadn't scared her so much that she would abandon her newly, hatched babies.
Everything was put back and people dispersed. We shook hands, took pictures of each other with the ducklings, we wiped the sweat from our brows, congratulating each other and waving good-bye as the summer sun dipped behind the grocery store leaving just myself and Kevin, the duckling whispering policeman. I placed the ducklings in my trunk and we drove to the other pond behind the stores. Momma was still not in sight. We turned the basket over and out wiggled the 8 little ducklings jumping over each other to be the first down the short slope to the water.
As the soft light of darkness glinted on the water, other ducks emerged from the edges softly quacking a hello. But none came forward to claim the little waifs as their own. They were happy as ducks in a pond should be and immediately started swimming and dipping under the water to nibble at algae on the rocks. I stood and watched until thirst drove me to leave. I crossed my fingers that momma would find them and keep them safe overnight. Ducklings are easy prey. Probably is why they have so many . It is not unusual for them to lose all but 2 or 3 to predation.
The next day I had to work early so on the way home I stopped by to see how they had fared overnight. As I pulled up, I saw a mother duck and 5 tiny little ducklings cruising quickly towards the middle of the pond. Evidently, they felt that they had had enough of stardom and did not stay around to thank me properly.