Ducks at Little Lake Harbor

A few weeks ago, this mama duck was swimming solo. Her life on Little Lake Harbor on Lake Superior was sweet, uncomplicated. She paddled, ate, sat in the sun, floated with her friends, watched boats come and go and took care of herself.

Then there were the eggs and the hatching and now the ducklings who followed her everywhere. Instead of just being herself, a duck in the wild, she was their mother. She had to fend for them and teach them to fend for themselves. Nothing prepared her for this except being a duck herself. She knew how to be a duck, that’s all she had to offer these babies. Herself.

She’d stood frozen by the boat landing. Not moving a feather while we consulted the bird book to determine that she was, in fact, a female Common Mallard. She stood like stone until we got out of the car and walked down the boat ramp to check out Little Lake Harbor and see if canoeing was possible. Then she quickly swam out, ducked under the dock and scooted her babies out into open water. They bunched up behind her, no orderly procession here. No panic either, but she’d sent the message – now is the time to move, babies.

The duck knew as much about mothering as I do. Watch out for them and keep them together. Watch who’s falling behind and go retrieve them. Lead and fuss and try not to go in circles. Remember the adage: a mother is only as happy as her saddest child or least able child or most difficult child or unhealthiest child or hardest to reach child. Recognize that and remember the healthy ones need a mother, too.

I was reminded of all this in duck truth.

You can learn a lot from nature.