On Monday, April 14, 1997, a raccoon raided the nest of "our" duck, eating the last 2 of the original 9 eggs. This was only 4 days before hatching, according to our estimates. (See extensive details and pictures.) We assumed that was the end of the duck's tail, whoops, tale. But ...
The ducks seemed to ignore the ramp for exiting the pool. Rather, Mama Duck jumped out and back into the pool dozens of times, obviously trying to train the ducklings to do so. We thought it would be impossible for the ducklings to make that 5-6 inch leap. I did add water to the pool to make it higher than normal, so the jump would be only about 4 inches. Amazingly, the ducklings, with varying degrees of difficulty, started succeeding, with maybe an average three attempts per duckling for each of the maybe 20 exits we observed.
Mama Duck seemed to be trying to teach them to fly during the afternoon, by repeatedly flying out of the pool, and then returning within a minute or two. Once, she took off at one end of the pool and landed immediately at the other end. Needless to say, this effort didn't work - the stubbly little, featherless wings in no way could support flight yet.
In late afternoon, Mrs. Duck started leading repeated parades of the ducklings around the northern edges of the back yard, as if she was ready to lead them out of the yard. Finally, during one of the few times during the day that we weren't watching, they did leave. When Mary discovered them missing, I hurried out to the alley to find them. They had made it as far as the driveway across the alley. With just a little difficulty, I herded them back into our back yard, AND blocked up the two or three possible escape routes.
We had several visitors during the day and evening:
Mary's parents, Dan and Ruth Finn.
Grand-daughter Dani and her parents, Kevin and Melia Malone.
Neighbor Shirley Greenfield and two of her grandchildren, Nicolas and Katie.
Neighbors Larry and Bettye Davis.
Neighbors Harry and Louise Umstead.
The ducks spent the day alternating periods of about 30 to 45 minutes of activity followed by similar periods of rest/sleep.
Mrs. Duck continued to search for an escape. We finally decided to give them another chance at escape, with Dan and I following to ensure safety, at least as long as we could. Around 4pm, Mrs. Duck walked out our yard gate, followed loosely by her 4 young ones. (1st picture below.) Unlike yesterday, she went into the back yard of the house next door to the east of the house immediately across the alley. The large electrically operated gate was abnormally open. We saw the ducks walk into the brick-fenced inner back yard, with the two large Dobermans in the nearby garage barking like mad. These neighbors weren't in sight. Dan and I tentatively agreed to herd them back into our back yard, IF they came out of that yard. We figured they would NEVER get anywhere, if they tried every dead-end yard. We waited maybe 5 minutes and they never came back out. I jumped into the car, to go around to the street in front of that house to see if possibly they had gotten through that yard. By the time I got to that street, I could see the ducks in the yard across even that street. I hurried back to pick up Dan who had been guarding the rear exit. We decided we would need a car to track the ducks.
To shorten the story, let me just say the ducks headed north whenever they could, and when they couldn't go north, they went west until they could go north again. They crossed about six neighborhood streets and one 4-lane main roads. They walked down sidewalks, (2nd picture below.) and they walked down alleys. They walked in yards. (3rd picture below. They finally got to a yard on a cul-de-sac with an open front, but a fence in the rear. By this time, Dan was walking, taking pictures, while I cruised along in the car. As he noticed the apparent dead end, an older lady just happened to walk out of the house there. Dan showed her the duck parade and explained the situation. The lady's husband came out and the lady next door came out to help. They agreed willingly to open the gate in the rear fence. But, they had difficulties. When they finally got it open, the ducks were not in sight in the back yard. They had found a hole and gone under the fence! Dan followed on foot, now on the fringes of the MacArthur High School athletic fields. I jumped back in the car and drove the quarter mile or so to meet him on the next street, the 4-lane major street. When I got there, I realized there was a park-like area on the north side of that 4-lane street, next to a large apartment/condo complex, in Los Colinas. I ran over to confirm suspicions that there was a pond or lake down the hill. Yes, there was, and there were ducks there! I hustled back across the street to meet Dan and the coming ducks. I stopped traffic in the two east-bound lanes, then Dan stopped traffic in the two west-bound lanes. (4th picture below.) Dan took a picture of the ducks and me as the ducks approached the final easy fence. (5th picture below.) Then, Dan shot the last picture on the roll of film, after the ducks had passed through that last fence. (Last picture below.)
What a super ending, huh? We let nature take its course and it seemed to work out better than we could have expected.
We went back home, picked up Mary, and took her back to see the final destination of our "children." We spotted them mixing in nicely with the other ducks.
THE END! (For now, anyway.)