We’ve been seeing wood ducks regularly all week, but we hadn’t seen any mallards until this morning. Migratory fowl are always interesting, and welcome, but we didn’t realize there was going to be trouble. I blame it on the female mallard. She hopped up on an old cherry tree, half submerged along one side of the pond, and started letting it all hang out. She was primping, preening, and working those duck breasts big time.
I should start at the beginning. Today was a very typical rainy spring day. One you might say it was a perfect day for ducks. After .33” of rain, on top of sodden ground, the pond was slowly taking on a light brown stain as silty water flowed in from the sandstone falls further upstream. The ducks had begun arriving early , apparently not aware of the change in clocks last night. We hadn’t seen more than 4 at a time this year, but this morning, we had at least 3 pair of wood ducks, floating, paddling, dabbling, and then grazing on the far side of the pond dam. And then a pair of mallards arrived.
The hen quickly perched herself on the cherry branch, and started putting it on—or taking it off, as the case may be. Its hard to tell with ducks. Either way, she put on show for the lads, stretching, and contorting, doing a Daisy Duck dance for the drakes. The wood ducks all pointed themselves towards that end of the pond and started paddling over to the perch. A wood duck hen made a small commotion at the opposite end of the branch, but a drake pushed her out of the way.
Another wood duck drake swam around the corner while the first one perched himself on the same branch, and started edging sideways closer towards the larger mallard hen. Several curious female wood ducks floated around, apparently curious. At this point, I should point out that while there are significant aesthetic differences between the two species, the plumbing is relatively compatible. It turns out that duck crossbreeding is a recognized problem, at least from the point of view of the wildlife managers.
One particular drake was having none of it. He sped across the pond and, in his own duckish way, Donald made it clear to the other males that he had first dibs (dabs?) on Daisy.
With an open beak, some stretching of the neck, and a beady eyed staredown, the mallard called fowl, and the smaller woodies retreated.
This left the mallard couple alone together on the preferred perch. The drake stood half in the water, not looking at the hen, but perhaps communicating his feelings. The 3 pair of wood ducks continued to hover around in the water, approaching several times, and then retreating after a gesture from the mallard male.
Perhaps the mallards were embarrassed, or maybe this just isn’t a completely comfortable spot for ducks who prefer avoiding trees. Once the female had finished drying and combing her feathers, they took off, leaving the pond to the wood ducks.