Monday, July 6, 2015

Nora Hallard the Mallard: Our Unexpected Summer Science Love {with Mallard Facts}

It all started on a normal Sunday morning. We were outside in the yard when my husband thought he saw a rabbit in our bush. This always elicits a lot of "get out of here" talk and stomping because we do nothing more to them. Plus I think we're a little bit scared of them even though my hubby would never admit that. {Sorry, babe}

On this particular Sunday Charlie peered in closer, stick in hand. "It's a duck," he yelled.


"Ya," he responded. The girls waving me over in excitement.

And there she sat. A duck.

I got super intrigued and went in for a picture

At which point she flew up in the air and I nearly pooped my pants. There's no mature way to explain the emotion and blood curdling scream I let out. If we don't look like a circus act yelling at rabbits, I most certainly did when the duck flew on my neighbor's roof. But the lower half of the picture explains why. She was nesting.

I tweeted the picture to The Outdoor Campus and the director told me it was a mallard.

Thus began love for a duck. Words I never thought I would say.

My family sat in a living room deciding on a name for her. Nora, Grace suggested. We all liked it but Hannah felt she needed a more "complete" name. Nora Hallard the Mallard was the winner.

My love for education and the girls' excitement made for the perfect indoorsy summer science learning of an outdoorsy situation.  We decided that we'd look up a fact a day. We started with the first questions that they asked.

1. Mallards can fly up to 70mph

2. She can fly vertical.

Yes, yes she most certainly can.

3. The female is tan and called a hen. The male has a green head and is called a drake.

4. The mama mallard lays 8-13 eggs. They are called a clutch.

5. She makes a nest in a concealed place near the water.

Our home isn't too far from a pond these ducks have apparently made home. We had no idea we were close enough to be a nesting location, but apparently we are.

6. It takes 23-30 days for the eggs to hatch.

7. Mothers build their nests while already inside them - twigs, grass, etc.

8. Mother mallard lays eggs between mid-March and the end of July.

9. She will lay one egg every 1-2 days.

And get this....

10. The mama mallard lays more than half her body weight in eggs.

Someone give these mom birds a prize. That cannot be comfortable.

We checked on Nora daily and called her by name, teaching the girls to stay at a distance and only peer into the bush. Ava referred to her as our pet and we began preparing her that Nora would one day leave with her babies.

We thought that day came. We went for our daily peak and Nora wasn't there. My heart sunk. People, this is true. I became mama protective and wanted to make sure she got to the pond okay. So, IN MY PAJAMAS I stood on a major street scanning the pond for Nora and her offspring. I had to look crazy. It was crazy. And, yet, for some reason it seemed like the sane thing to do.

No Nora. Sadness ensues.

Until we get home and there she is.  Time for more education.

11. The mom will pluck down feathers from her breast to line the nest and cover the eggs.

Ouch. This is truly motherly sacrifice. I suddenly have more respect for mallard women.

12. The mother will leave for a short period of time to get herself food.

We discovered Nora liked to get hers in the early evening. Okay, so we checked in on her more than once a day.

13. She will continue building her nest. At completion it is about a foot in width.

"What is going to happen when the babies hatch?" the girls want to know.

14. It takes about 24 hours for the eggs to hatch.

15. The babies can swim, waddle, and feed themselves right away.

16. They feed off the surface of the water. Things like seeds, small fish, frogs, etc.

17. Mothers will lead them to water when they are less than a day old.

Might we see these babies? We hoped so. I hoped so. However, statistical odds weren't in our favor. Still, we wanted to be sure we knew what to do if we did.

18. You shouldn't feed newborn ducklings or they could bond to you and not want to leave for natural food.

19. Once they leave they don't usually return to the nest.

20. The babies won't fly until 5-6 weeks of age.

21. The ducklings become self sufficient and leave their mothers around 70 days after birth.

22. The female mallards quack - often called the "hail call" - to call other ducks, most commonly, her babies.

Yesterday we noticed Nora's head peaking up over the bush. We all watched from the window in amazement over this creature doing next to nothing. For her to be so "public" was exciting.

There was something about her.

As storms were predicted for our area last night the girls prayed protection over Nora and her eggs. Grace asked if thunder would scare her and cause her to poop all over the eggs. We skipped researching that. Charlie and I simply assured her that she would be okay, protected by the bush.

Winds and rain came. Lightning. Thunder. A tornado siren.

You better believe the first thing we checked this morning was Nora. And this was what we found.

23 facts for eggs that incubate at least 23 days. Not bad.

Something tells me Nora left with her babies during the day yesterday and, I kid you not, I'm getting teary writing that. Her waiting was done. Off to the pond she'd gone.

Despite my asthma and the Canadian fire smoke thick in our air we drove to the pond - this time in regular clothes. It was completely irresponsible and yet for some reason it felt like the responsible thing to do.

And, in the distance, there she was with a row of ducklings.

Goodbye, Nora. We loved you. Feel free to come nest again next summer.

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