The Paddlers Return

I was wandering around my yard this morning trying to decide what to write about when the Wood Ducks decided for me. I have been wondering where they were for a few weeks now. For all of the 21 years that we’ve lived here, a pair of Wood Ducks has nested beside our creek every late winter/early spring.

These beautiful birds (the males are the gorgeous members of their species) are quite shy. I rarely know they are around until I unintentionally get too close, startling them into flight.

Today, they were sitting in one of the massive river birches that overlooks a deep spot in the creek when I stepped onto my front deck and startled them. As is almost always the case, the female took to the air first, her squat little duck body struggling to get airborne as she shrieked her characteristic shriek.

The females scream like the Hounds of Hell are after them when they are alarmed. If their purpose is to startle their perceived enemy, I can attest that it works on me. They always get my heart pounding a little faster until my brain figures out what I’m hearing.

About thirty seconds after the female flew off, the male, who had been sitting on the branch beside her, flew off in the same direction. In years past, I’ve noticed that the male follows the female quite closely for a week or two before they go into stealth nesting mode.

When the ducklings hatch, I often see the whole family paddling on the creek in the early morning. All signs of the Wood Ducks vanish as soon as the ducklings mature. I don’t know if they leave the area, or if they simply are very good at hiding in the dense summer vegetation along the creek.

Wherever they go, I am glad they are back — another sure sign that spring’s reign is nearly upon us.

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