One morning in April my father was doing some yard work and he found an egg. Something had made a little nest hole in the dirt along the side of our house and in this nest was a large egg. Google Images said it was probably a duck egg, but we weren’t sure until the next morning. My father is slightly obsessed with setting up cameras outside the house to watch animals at night (and protect the house, but so far the only thing breaking in is mice into the attic) so I told him to point one at the nest, and sure enough, we saw a Mallard duck waddle its way over to the nest the next day.
Now, what you need to know is that where I live, there aren’t really ducks in the area. Aside from a small creek in a park 10 minutes away, open water isn’t that close, so we were very surprised that a duck ended up in our area and chose our backyard to set up camp. Either way,
we my dad took our new responsibility seriously. My parents named her Corona and then changed it to Corina because she’s obviously a she. My dad would check on the nest every day and also collect leaves and dryer lint and moss for her and put it nearby for easy access. On days where it got particularly cold or windy, he’d cover the nest with a recycling bin.
See, ducks, as we learned, lay one egg a day for 10-14 days. So Corina would come every morning around 6:30am, lay an egg and chill out for a few hours, then disappear for the rest of the day. We don’t know where she’d go, but Dad did see her fly off in the general direction of the creek. With each egg laid, Corina would stay warming her eggs longer and longer to the point where she was there for 12 straight hours towards the end. Only after all the eggs are laid will the mother duck stay with the eggs all day except for about an hour a day when she’d leave for food and a break, and this would last for several weeks. It was so fascinating to see her during this time. From snapping at ballsy squirrels who dared approach, to her egg management system of rotating eggs for warmth, to her fabulous wiggles to her wing stretching, to tucking herself in with leaves, we got a front-row seat to nature! (All the links here are my videos I put on Facebook!)
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. At 1:30am on Mother’s Day, Corina was attacked by a raccoon. By the time we got out there, she had fled to a neighbour’s backyard, the raccoon was up a tree, and one of the eggs was sadly broken. We had to cover the remaining eggs up ourselves because it was cold out and she ended up staying away until daylight. She was gone for about four hours, so we really wondered if the eggs would survive that. After that stressful night, (the raccoon ended up coming back too and I had to yell at it through the camera mic!) we really upped the security. We moved the patio camera out to the grass for a better view of approaching animals, set up a raccoon trap, put out cups of vinegar (raccoons hate this), blocked her in as much as we could, and I started staying up until 3:30am every night just in case. Despite these efforts, we had a couple more raccoon sightings (though they didn’t really go near her), and twice a cat got into her space. Luckily there were no other huge incidents and the weather got nice and warm finally. We just had to sit and wait and hope things worked out and keep an eye on the cameras every time there was a motion notification.
Assuming there were no development delays because of the cold, we estimated that eggs would be hatching around the weekend of May 22-24 based on timelines people online experienced. So imagine our surprise when on Tuesday May 19th, I was checking the camera feed and noticed movement near the ground that turned out to be a duckling! We were so pleased to see those adorable little babies early.
This footage is from when only 8 (that we knew of) were hatched and moving but the next morning I was ecstatic to count 11 in this clip.
So ducklings all hatch within 24 hours and then they leave within 24 hours too. We knew pre-hatch that Corina would often leave in the mornings for her break, so we figured it likely that the whole lot of them would leave around that time too, which is ideal anyway because we wanted to avoid heavy traffic or people walking their dogs. So that morning, as predicted, she had them out in the backyard at 6:30am, so we quickly went out to open the gate for her. Once they were out of the backyard, we expected her to head toward the creek. But no, things can never go perfect in this duck saga.
Corina instead was determined to take them simply across the street to the neighbor’s pool. This is where she went the night of the attack, and our neighbours said they had seen male ducks around. Only here were two issues her little bird brain couldn’t handle. One, the gate was locked so we couldn’t let her in even if we wanted to, and two, the neighbour’s pool wasn’t even open; she’s been swimming on the nasty water that accumulated on top of the cover. We tried to block her path and direct her towards the creek, but nothing was working. At this point we were pretty desperate for help as it had been like 20 minutes and she just kept leading the babies along the fence with no success. We tried to call a local wildlife rescue, but they were closed. So we took matters into our own hands. We got a box and Dad managed to get the ducklings in there. Without her babies following her, Corina got a little frantic and was honking and running around, but the babies were chirping from the box, so we were able to get her to follow the sound. We walked her the whole 10 minutes to the creek like this, and it worked well, though I felt bad we had to separate them like that.
Once at the creek, she jumped right into the water, and I carefully tilted the ducklings out of the box. They ran right into the water as well and swam over to her! And before we knew it, they were all swimming off, too far for us to see.
We headed back home shortly after, and like in the musical Come From Away where the locals start cleaning up as soon as the visitors leave, Dad and I started taking down the fortress and emptying the nest of leaves and down. We actually found another egg that never hatched, which is sad, but considering 11/13 made it and we were worried none would, I’m satisfied.
The truth is, Corina and those eggs would have never survived without my dad and I. If we didn’t have cameras set up and built walls around her, the raccoons would have done a lot more damage. She is lucky we were so open to this experience and that it happened during a pandemic where we had nothing better to do than check cameras at 4am. Sheltering a mother duck was very stressful and I don’t think we want to do it again, but now we get this fun story to tell and I got to hold a duckling, so it all worked out. I will miss Corina, though.
Anyway, that’s it! That’s our 38 day-long adventure in sheltering a duck. I know this post is long but it was such a huge part of our life recently and I wanted to share every detail!
That’s all for now! (Quack!)