Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The story of the ducks

Today I'm feeling somewhat better, my cold has now just turned into an annoying cough. I'm out of my cold medicine induced haze now though, so that's good!

So today I'm ready for a fun story. This story gathered quite a following on one of my message boards, so I think it will be fun to share here.

Ok, so the first thing you have to know about me is that I LOVE animals. I've always been ridiculously soft hearted when it comes to animals of any sort. I don't even kill bugs in my house, I take them outside and set them free. I walk carefully around ant hills so I don't accidentally step on any of them. I'm really just silly about animals. We don't take our kids to the zoo, they take me to the zoo. And then they have to somehow convince me to leave when it's time to go home. So yeah, I love animals.

So since I've become interested in photography it's no surprise that animals have been one of my favorite subjects to shoot. I love nature, I love being outside and I have a lot of patience when it comes to photographing animals. I will sit outside for hours waiting to get the perfect shot.

Anyway, earlier this spring I went in to our backyard one day and noticed a few mallard duck eggs in our landscaping. To some people that might be an annoyance, but to me it was the most exciting thing that has happened around here since we decided to adopt! I kept a close eye on the eggs and every day a few more appeared. Eventually there were 10 that I could see. (I later found out that there were actually 12, but I have no idea when the other two appeared because all I was ever able to see were 10.) So of course I got out the camera!

The next day I went out there, and the mama bird was sitting on her eggs!
This was WAY exciting for me! If there's anything I love more than animals, it's BABY animals! The thought of having baby ducks in my yard thrilled me like nothing else. So being the crazy animal lover that I am, I decided to make friends with the duck. I went to the feed store and bought duck food, I went to Target and bought her a big shallow Tupperware container that I filled with water for her to use as a little swimming pool and I pretty much parked myself in the yard every day to watch her.

She wasn't really thrilled with me at first, but as time went on she got used to me. I would go out there every day and refill her food dish and then I would just sit quietly by her for a bit. We had some good conversations. :) Eventually it got to the point where she really didn't mind me at all. She recognized what I was doing when I refilled her food dish every day and she got really excited about that. She was happy to let me sit by her and occasionally would even let me pet her.

In the meantime I did a lot of research on ducks and duck egg incubation and ducklings. It was my little project for a while! What I found was that duck eggs incubate for 28 days. She started incubating them on April 14th, so by my count they were due to hatch on Mothers Day. Is there anything cuter than that?!

So I anxiously anticipated their arrival. In the meantime that mama duck was the most spoiled animal in town. I made sure she was happy and comfortable while she waited for her babies.

Mothers Day came...and went. No babies. The next came and there was still nothing happening. After all the anticipation I was really starting to worry that maybe the eggs weren't fertile or that they had died due to the really cold weather we had been having in April.

The next day, however, the fun started! I went out to check on the mama duck in the afternoon and I could see cracks in the eggs!

So that's pretty much when I parked myself in the yard and waited for the babies to hatch. I was so determined to watch the eggs hatch that nothing was going to get in the way! I cancelled everything I had planned for the next 48 hours so that I wouldn't miss anything. Yes, I am truly the crazy duck lady. :)

For the rest of that day nothing much happened, and I was afraid when I went to bed that night that they were going to hatch while I was sleeping! The next morning I got up bright and early and thankfully nothing had happened during the night, but by about 8am the babies were starting to make their debut.

I got Josh off to school, set Matthew up with every outdoor toy and activity we own and we parked ourselves in the yard for the day. I wish that I had taken a photo of my duckling command center, because it was really pretty humorous. I moved our small patio table over to the side of the house where the ducks were and I set up the umbrella so that I would have shade and also so that the ducks would have shade and I would have even lighting for my photos. I had my laptop out there, my camera and enough snacks for me and Matthew that I wouldn't need to go in the house for anything! I was prepared!

Let me tell you, there is nothing as sweet and interesting as watching ducks hatch. It was really just an amazing thing to watch. They peck all the way around the top of the shell and when they're ready they just kind of pop the shell off and slowly emerge. They come out kind of wet and ugly, but still so sweet.

About an hour or so after they hatch they dry off and then they become sweet fuzzy little ducklings. Although there were 12 eggs, by the end of the day only four had hatched, and the rest of them never cracked or anything. I don't know why the rest of them didn't hatch, but the four babies that did hatch were seriously the cutest things in the world!

Of course, being the crazy duck lady that I am, I ran out and bought the babies duckling food, and I also filled up a pan with water so that they would have a place to splash around. These ducks were going to have a good life in my yard for as long as they would stick around!

We went out each day for the first week and enjoyed watching the babies play. The mama duck was pretty used to me and would stay calm when I was around, but if we had too many people around the babies, she definitely let us know! She was OK for the most part though. We would just sit quietly on the lawn and watch them.

It only took a couple of days for the babies to learn how to swim and then they loved their little pan of water!

For a few weeks the little duck family played in the yard, took little walks with the mama duck and had a nice life in our yard.

Sadly, one day they took their walk and never returned. I don't think that anything bad happened to them, I like to think that the mama decided that it was time to lead her little family to a better source of water. There isn't a pond or anything in our yard, so I knew that eventually they would want to move on, but it was a sad day around here when it actually happened. I miss our little duck family.

What I did learn is that ducks tend to lay eggs in the same spot every year and babies also will sometimes return to the place they were born. So maybe that means that our duck adventures aren't really over. I can't wait until next spring to see if our duck family returns and maybe we'll have more little ducklings hatch in our yard. I hope so!!

I took over 600 photos over the few weeks that we got to enjoy our little duck family. I'm currently deciding what to do with them and I'm researching ways to have them published. If you have a contact at a book or magazine publisher, please feel free to send them my way. :)

Oh, and by the way, all photos of the ducks, as well as all the other photos on this site, are copyrighted, and if you attempt to steal them or use them in any way I will hunt you down. :) So please don't steal. I do sell my photos and would be more than happy to sell you a print. Contact me for info.


~April~ said...

They are so very cute!!

Watty said...


Josh said...

Aren't Those Ducks Cute????????!!!!

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.Yeager said...

how sweet! my daycare lady lived near a huge pond where there were always baby ducks! I loved to watch them and even stopped to shoo them across the street so no one would hit them. I love baby ducks!