It was a good nesting site when she built it, but a little over a week after the duck settled beside our front steps, a fox moved into the backyard next door and had four kits. One morning shortly thereafter I came downstairs to find the nest abandoned uncovered, and this time I did not see Mama Duck lurking twenty or thirty feet away. When she wasn’t back in a couple of hours I went out with a stick and gently nudged the leafy-downy edges of the nest back over the eggs, hoping to help keep them warm, or at least camouflaged, till Mama Duck returned. But Mama Duck did not come back.
Doug went out and searched for signs of a struggle, but found not a single feather, neither here nor next door. The internet said a duck would abandon a nest if it sensed danger or was disturbed too often, and said the eggs were not likely viable after being abandoned for a whole day. Should we try to incubate them? Best, said the internet, to let nature take its course. The next morning the eggs were gone, too.
At least the lack of feather evidence made me think Mama Duck is safely somewhere else. My sources say she will probably build another nest soon, and try again. Mallard Ducks are still abundant, but their numbers are declining through loss of wetlands, both from climate change and from development. In other words, the real problem is my own species, not the foxes. It’s our human curse and glory that we’re so bad at letting nature take its course – great on destroying viruses, planting gardens, inventing tools, art, and cuisine. Not so great on backing off excessive improvements, or sharing the planet with other creatures. We’re willing to help, but we find it hard to get there.
Doug says next time we have a duck nesting in our yard, he’s going to sleep outside to keep it safe.