Having seen no ducks on our pond for weeks, I was surprised Saturday morning to see a Mallard hen and six ducklings feeding in the morning shade along the far side of the water. When I told my wife of this she said, no, not Mallards, Wood Ducks. They sure looked like Mallards to me. And then I saw the Wood Duck hen with 10 youngsters. OK. Bad light. Later in the day, however, in good light, the Mallard and her ducklings returned. This is late for both species to have new families. The Wood Duck ducklings are not more than a week old, if that. They’ll mature just in time for migration. I assume that both hens lost eggs or their broods to predators, and renested. Ducks will do that. They must have caught drakes for mating just before the boys left the neighborhood; I haven’t seen a drake Mallard or Wood Duck for weeks. This is the time of year when the males molt. It renders them flightless for a few weeks. Consequently, they seek safety on quiet water to undergo feather renewal.
Sunday morning the hen Wood Duck left the pond, up and away. She was gone until late in the afternoon, an absence of about six hours. During that time her ducklings swam and fed and preened alone or in pairs. They looked very comfortable by themselves, The usual cluster of ducklings you see when they’re with their mother formed again when she returned. She splashed down, and like magic, little ducks converged from everywhere. I found it strange that the hen would leave such young ducklings alone for so long.