5 Lessons I Have Learned from My Backyard Ducks

Posted on December 15, 2011

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Marcelle and Antoinette Canard

A few years ago, actually shortly after we enlarged our backyard pond, we were adopted by a pair of mallard ducks. They were obviously tired of elbowing for room at the nearby area pond with the other ducks and geese that have my neighbourhood on the flight path. It was a novelty to have the couple stop by daily for a cheery paddle and to check out if there were any eats around. They seemed to leave our pond plants and fish alone, so we struck up a relationship. And since we were becoming friendlier as time passed, it seemed only fitting that I give them a name. I chose the names Antoinette and Marcelle Canard since they seemed to be Francophone in their dialect. (Yes, quacking has dialects.)

Through the seasons, Antoinette and Marcelle have provided much entertainment for us, whether we’re viewing them from our kitchen windows or actually working in the backyard mere metres away from them. Let me share five lessons I have learned from our unusual couple:

  1. Relish what time you have for a good soak in the pool (or tub). If you only have time for a quick couple of spins around the edges, that’s OK. If you’re not in a hurry, why not go for the gusto, dive under and get soaking wet – then do it again (aaah, refreshing!) I secretly think maybe Marcelle gets aroused when Antoinette emerges from the sides of the pond doing her “Bond girl” impersonation.
  2. Protect your privacy. When you find a special place of your own, sometimes the word gets out and then you have to deal with the uninvited crowds and the partying and the noise and no groceries in the fridge, etc. Marcelle is extremely protective of Antoinette and their pond space and won’t tolerate the rowdy “flybys” that try to snatch any birdseed remnants left at the feeding area. Although bullying still happens, Marcelle has been known to chase away any others (male or female) that don’t know the house rules.
  3. It’s not all about the work; sometimes you have to find a warm rock or grassy patch for a few ZZ’s. We all have days when we’re flying around, place to place, trying to check things off our to-do lists when what we really want to do is take a short break. Although I haven’t figured out how the heck a duck can sleep with its neck folded backwards (looking for all the world like a bowling ball), I do agree with the 20-minute nap approach.
  4. Appreciate what you have.There are times when life is good, the weather’s good, meals are regular, your landing gear works, and your pathways are flat and cleared. But winter eventually hits each year and the snow can be deep and cold, making meals a lot harder to come by. (And what’s with all the frozen water and snowdrifts?!)

    Someone mention a party?

    Although it’s amusing watching them land and slide like curling rocks bouncing off the perimeter of the pond, sliding over the drifts, leaving a curious wavy squiggle in the snow, you know it’s tough on them. They do appreciate a helping handful of feed – just like we “get by with a little help from our friends”.

  5. Love the one you’re with.(Sounds like another song title, right?) Just because Antoinette and Marcelle have become our favoured couple to share our backyard pond with, it doesn’t mean it’s an exclusive situation. The feeding station has been opened up to many a platoon of quail or a band of chickadees, especially in the late spring, as ideas of nesting abound.

    Lunch is served

    There’s even one plucky squirrel that always insists on hitting the feed trough before day’s end, as if to “clink glasses” with Antoinette and Marcelle and give a toast to friendship. Cheers!

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