Saturday, June 16, 2012

What to do when a pair of mallard ducks decide to mate. On your roof...

The easy answer involves weaponry. Sadly, this is frowned upon in a city. Even in a city primarily comprised of ex-farm kids. We don't want to frighten the last remaining born-and-raised city slickers. We may be a little rough around the edges but we're not monsters. Ahem.

It all started pre-dawn, in the wee hours of the morning just as the light was threatening to crack the horizon to announce a new day. Something was up on our roof, scratching at the cedar shakes…something large and angry. And every time I was about to drift back to sleep, it would wake me again. In the exact moment I uttered, “What the f*ck is that noise?” I heard a ridiculously loud, “QUACK. QUACK.” Mercy – they’re back. Monsters. The both of them.

Now don’t get me wrong - I love wildlife. But anything that wakes me up at 4:30 in the morning every day for two weeks straight is bound to receive a barrage of verbal abuse along with a few rocks tossed at their head. This includes my children. At any rate, I’m quite certain this is the same pair of ducks that decided to roost on our roof last spring. Left to their own devices, we soon had a herd, pardon me, a flock of wee ducklings wandering through the grass in our backyard last year.

Shocked that they’ve returned yet again, I recently did a little research on mallard ducks and their preferred habits. I’m extremely curious and somewhat desperate to understand the allure of our house, and why the mallards chose it as their love shack, seeing as it’s smack dab in the middle of a city. Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned: mallard ducks tend to live in wetlands. We don’t live anywhere near water, but because the ducks usually arrive when the lakes are still frozen, a pothole filled with water will suffice. Potholes? Check. Water? Check. Often, the female will return to the same nesting site year after year. Check. It’s illegal to be in the possession of wild ducks, eggs or any nesting material. Say what? First of all, it’s not my fault they’re here. Secondly, whatever “material” they’ve been using to build their nest is likely mine to begin with, so if I need it, I’m taking it back. Just sayin’.

The rather intoxicating article on mallards went on to say that as soon as the ducklings are ready, the mother will lead them to the nearest water source, so it’s best not to provide them with food or water. This will not encourage their departure. Oops. Last year, the poor things looked peckish so I threw a big bag of birdseed in the backyard to keep them nourished, and also decided to whip out the turtle pool so they could have a go at swimming. Fearing the baby ducklings were too little to get up over the side, I even constructed a plank out of some wood to make it easier for them to get into the pool. I believe the term for extremely helpful people like me is conservationist. That, or idiot, for short.

After a day or so of defiling my turtle pool, the mother duck ushered her offspring under the fence and took off down the path beside our house, presumably in search of a natural water source. Before we knew it, one of our neighbours was ripping out of their house with a video camera to film the adorable family…and likely get some footage of the ducks as well. End result? They scared the living crap out of the mother duck and she proceeded to herd her ducklings deep into the dark shadowy recesses of our garage, which was standing wide open as we had decided to clean it out that day. (Translation: we couldn't even find our car anymore, so we had no choice but to clean it out.) Soon, the entire neighbourhood was out revelling in the excitement. I could have made a fortune selling lemonade and stuffed ducks on a stick. To be honest, I’m not sure what I was more embarrassed about – them seeing (and videotaping) the state of our garage, which at the time bore an uncanny resemblance to a marshland as it was strewn with mangled foliage from a recent attempt to prune our backyard, or, the shrub-like foliage in full display on my winter-white legs. Did I mention the article I read also strictly advised against anyone, especially young children, touching or handling live or dead ducks due to recent outbreaks of Avian flu? Come on, people – if you can’t play with ducks anymore, especially dead ones, where’s the fun in childhood?

My adorable nephew, Nathan...the little duck is imploring
me to save him from the savage, drooling naked beast.
"Don't be scared, little duck...I'm just going to probe you."
"Stay the f*ck away from me you scary featherless freak!"
Once everyone calmed down, friendship was restored...
Mama found her babies, and they waddled off to find a puddle to play in.

So, as to not have a repeat of mating ducks in our yard this year, I did what any self-respecting farm girl would do when in need of some sound advice – I turned to my Father. Not the one who art in heaven, rather, the one who art in Manitoba. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So, I have a pair of mallards on my roof again.
Dad: What happened to your roof?
Me: Nothing happened to my roof. There’s a pair of mallards up there. Like, ducks. They’re up on our roof.
Dad: Right now?
Me: Well, I’m not entirely certain if they’re up there right now but they’re kicking around somewhere. I’m thinking it’s the same pair who were here last year.
Dad: That’s not good. Because they tend to go back to the same place every year.
Me: Yes. I know this now.
Dad: And, they tend to mate for life.
Me: Also not good.
Dad: So I’m afraid you’re stuck with them. Hold on a second.

I heard him mumbling to someone in the background. As I waited, my mind wandered to another potential scenario. We seem to have attracted a pair of feral falcons to our roof this year as well...that, or they're some form of pasture hawk, I'm not entirely certain. We must be emitting some sort of high-pitched squeal, ushering anything that excretes white shit to come and hang out on our roof. Seriously. I'm starting to take it personally. At any rate, these hawk things scare the crap out of me - the way they shriek and swoop about, coming in so close that I suspect my children aren't even off-limits in their search to find something to eat. This of course, does not bode well for any baby ducks set to arrive in a few weeks. Perhaps I should call Ducks Unlimited; they would have people who know what to do. I need to do something before small baby duck parts start dropping from our roof.

My nightmare was interrupted by my Dad saying, “So your brother says you’re going to have to shoot them. At this point, it’s the only way to get rid of them. I don’t agree but I guess it’s another solution for you to consider.”


“Please remind him that I don’t live in a pasture. But thank him nonetheless.”

And that’s what you have to love about family; they’ll never shy away from dispensing advice. This Father’s Day, I’m reminded of how many times over the years I’ve turned to my Dad for advice. Not that we always agree – he’s usually far too practical and grounded for my liking. But Dad, I want you to know that you gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person – you believed in me. Always. You taught me to enjoy the world around me and to also earn my keep. You told me that when I found someone who could make me laugh, to hold on tight because a sense of humour will get you through almost anything. And most importantly, you taught me that giving of myself to others is the most important gift. (On that note, let’s just say those mallards are lucky I still listen to my Dad.) I can't imagine this world without you, Dad. I love you.

The answer is no, I have no idea why my pants are pulled up that high.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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