Two years ago, I started throwing cracked corn to some ducks in our pond south of the house. One of them eventually started bringing her 11 babies to each feeding. I named her Momma Duck.
After a while, she figured out the routine. When I would leave the bunkhouse with a full container of corn and begin calling "Momma Duck . . . here, Momma Duck," it didn't matter where she happened to be----Momma duck would waste no time leading her baby quackers to the feeding spot.
Sometimes she'd be swimming around across a field and the road, at least five or six hundred feet away. I'd hear her quacking, and within a minute or so, she and the babies had wound their way through the wetlands for their daily hand-out.
I never did see her husband; maybe she was a widow duck, but Momma and her family hung around until mid-July, delighting many of our human visitors with her enthusiastic appearances.
Well, Momma Duck didn't return last year, and I was disappointed. I couldn't get any of the ducks or geese to warm up to me at the pond, so I scattered the cracked corn around our vast lawn south of the driveway. Once or twice a day, like lemmings, the birds would descend over the hill by the pond and waddle their way through the field of cracked corn, nabbing quick bites all along the way.
They're back at it again this year, led by two sets of noisy Canadian honkers. One hubby-wife goose team has gotten pretty used to me by now and doesn't even run off any more, even if I'm out mowing the lawn. The rest are a bit shy, though, when they spot me outside, flying off immediately and squawking indignantly every time as if I'm planning to do them bodily harm.
Besides the geese, this year's assortment includes the usual colorful mallards, but some artfully designed wood ducks have also joined the corn-eating brigade. Occasionally, a couple of crows and a dozen or so black birds participate in the feast. They're all punctual, appearing every morning and evening with military precision. When I look at the clock, it's always within minutes of the previous day's appearance.
Last night, I upset their feeding routine by having the nerve to mow that stretch of lawn at the wrong time. Though the geese didn't mind, nary a duck could be seen. Within seconds, however, of completing my job and jumping off the mower, I looked behind to admire my the newly-mown lawn. There they appeared seemingly from out of nowhere, first a set of forward-observer mallards, then the rest, waddling over the hilltop and descending into corn heaven.
I hope they all stick around until July and maybe even longer. Though I miss the fun of Momma Duck and her brood, this quirky assortment is just as entertaining.