One of my tree trimmers was standing in the driveway looking startled. I went out to ask what was wrong.
“Did you know you have a duck nest under that tree?” he asked. “She flew up at me when I got close, nearly scared me to death.”
I did not know. But there it was, a nest dug into the flowerbed, lined with leaves and bits of down, with four large white eggs. I had noticed a pair of mallards strolling about my lawn a few days earlier, but I’d seen that before without seeing a nest. There’s a creek two houses over, and the river’s a little further off. I asked the tree guy if he thought he could work without hurting the nest, and he said yes. This was good, because it had taken all this time for the trimming team to come clean up our damage from February’s ice storm (everyone in town had damage from the February ice storm) and I was relieved not to have to put it off. He was as good as his word. The duck was lurking maybe twenty feet away. When the tree crew moved off to a different part of the yard, she came back and settled on the nest.
A day or two later she flew up to scare a random solicitor away – thank you, Duck – and I saw there were more eggs in the nest. Every evening before dusk she covered the nest carefully with leaf litter and down, and left for a while to feed, the nest so well camouflaged I sometimes wasn’t sure I was really looking at it (second photo). It was hard to see when she was on it, too, unless you saw her head move (third photo). The internet informed me that it was going to take a month for the eggs to hatch.
Why did she build her nest so close to the house? Because the duck knew what she was doing. Predators were unlikely to come so near the house, and people, charmed by the cuteness factor of potential baby ducklings, were willing to concede a little space for a little while. I would give up using my front door for a month. Mama Duck had taken the habitat-trashing, ecological catastrophe of the human race, and promoted us to the role of Duck Protectors.
I find I am very proud of the promotion.