Sunday, August 17, 2008

INTO THE WILD . . . letting our ducks go today...

We let our ducks go today…into the wild.
At first they would not leave us, and my husband actually had the kids begin the round them up to bring them back to our creek; perhaps they were too young after all, and not quite ready to leave the nest. But then I saw an older duck hanging around the cage where we had put them again, and I thought, perhaps this is the momma duck recognizing her baby. I suggested letting out ducks out again, just to see.
And sure enough, our two ducks swam toward the other duck and they were off. Pretty cute.
But what I was watching just as much was my three boys – Augustin, 5, and Wesley, 10, and Mickael Josef, 10 – as they interacted with the ducks.
Really, it has been all five kids I have been watching interact with the ducklings these past five weeks. It was Rachel, 18, who first discovered the two barely born ducklings, sans their mother, in our backyard near our creek. She was on our trampoline and heard some duck-like noise and when she went looking for them she saw a mother with eight ducklings waddling down the creek. All of a sudden, three got left behind in our yard.
They were about the size of a fist.
Rachel was able to rescue two of the three babies which the mama deserted – we never found the third one. After that point, all of the kids got involved with the taking care of the babies.
My husband made it a weekend project to build a large cage for them. They bought duck food and took them to the creek every day to watch them play. They cleaned out the cage; they dug out the creek to make a pond area. All of the boys out there with their shovels. They held the baby ducklings. Twice a day, they changed the ducks water and filled the food container. Their friends and cousins came over to see the ducks.
They nurtured the ducklings and christened them “Wildflower” and “Feisty”. The ducklings seemed comfortable with the kids. “They’re so cute,” I heard. They did not run away, and they were not afraid at all it seemed. Each night, Rachel brought the ducks inside the house to protect them from predators, and she put them outside again in the morning, at 6 am, before leaving for work.
The ducklings grew so quickly. Soon, little buds came in that would become their wings. Wildflower and Feisty began flapping. And they stopped being so cozy with the kids. They loved being in the creek, splashing around, chasing one another, and they really did not want to go back into the cage. They ran away and it was a bit of an effort to catch them.
It seemed like they wanted to be free.
As Wildflower and Feisty became more independent, the kids’ interest lessened a bit. My husband said it is time to consider letting them go.
Today was the day.
We picked Cedaroak Boat Landing nearby and we held the little carrying case cage as we walked through the long grass to the river. We picked a spot near the island, that was away from the loud boats and people.
As we let Wildflower and Feisty out of the cage and into the river, they looked happy at first. They swam around, ducking their heads in after bugs. But, there were no other ducks around, and soon our ducks came back out to where we were. They seemed lost in the wild. Perhaps they were not ready.
But, then, they saw the other duck. It was time. Feisty and Wildflower followed after the other duck as if it was their mother.
“We found the mother,” Augustin said. “Look, Wildflower and Feisty are following her.”
“I think that is the mother for sure,” Mickael Josef said.
“Look, there are other ducks over there. Maybe they are all related,” Wesley said.
We watched from the shore. We snapped photographs. We waited to be sure they would be okay.
Feisty and Wildflower got separated for a moment from the other duck. “Maybe we should take them back home,” Wesley suggested. “It is a bit too late for that,” Chris said.

We found a log to sit on where we could observe from a distance. We saw other young ducks about the same age.
“I think those are the brothers and sisters,” Mickael Josef said.
Finally, it was time to leave. To leave the ducks in the wild. To trust.
Chris and Augustin and Wesley went ahead while Mickael Josef took his time. Wanting to be sure Feisty and Wildflower were okay.
Sure enough – our last view of our ducklings they were diving under water with several other ducks, looking for dinner. It was time to go home and get ready for ours as well.

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