Two pairs of mallards relax right at the edge of the ice on the Androscoggin River. They form pairs in October or November and stay together until the female lays her eggs in spring. After that, the males leave and wait for the moult, which starts in June. The females lay a clutch of about 10 eggs, and it takes about four weeks for them to hatch. It’s a difficult time for the females because so many critters love to eat those eggs.
In the many years I’ve been watching them, I’ve noticed that the females are very protective. They form a tight group with other females, and the little ducklings all get put together in a pile. They look like little corks floating in the water. In fact, every spring I always say, “Where are the baby corks?? Have they popped up yet??” I love watching those tiny little things bob up and down in the water. Of course, we never end up with nearly as many as we start with, but it’s fun to try to count them.
|Two breeding pairs of mallards.|
One time a little baby got caught by my dock and some surrounding rocks and couldn’t get out, or at least that’s what I thought. I ran down and grabbed it and dove into my car to follow the ducks who were already well on their way down the cove. I ran to the shore a couple of times, each time having missed them by just a minute. Finally, I drove far enough that when I ran down to the shore, I met up with the ducks. (And I just want to say it’s not easy to drive with a baby duck squirming in your hand.) I called to them and then put the baby in the water, but it swam all strange and looked very weird. They swam away from it.
It was then that I realized they had abandoned the little duckling because it wasn’t in good shape. It wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t have anywhere to keep a duckling, and I think my chickens would have devoured it, so I had to leave the poor little thing there. That was a lesson learned a long time ago, and I’ve never gone after another abandoned baby. Nature does seem cruel at times, but I know she only does it to keep animals thriving.
I shall watch the mallards and all the other ducks again this spring as I do every spring. It wouldn’t be spring without the ducks and the little corks floating by. Seeing these two pairs together makes me think spring can’t be too far away.