For the Birds: In the world of mallards

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.

Mallards sit on a branch overhanging a pond in New England.

Mallards sit on a branch overhanging a pond in New England. Photo by Chris Bosak

 

For just a moment, I was in their world.

As I stood there I could see nothing but branches, sticks and stubborn brown leaves that refused to fall off the low trees. Then I crouched like a baseball catcher and there they were: a flock of mallards taking a mid-day break in the tangled trees growing out of a small pond.

Normally mallards would not make for a memorable birdwatching outing, but this time was different.

A fairly busy road was no more than 50 yards away, and my car was about 50 feet away, but I felt as if I was visiting the ducks’ world. The area was thickly wooded and a dark canopy of towering branches hung over the pond’s edge, adding to the feeling of seclusion. It was as if the world was reduced to the woods, the mallards and me.

It was a neat sensation, one that I’ve experience only a handful of times before — usually in extreme northern New Hampshire.

It was the way the mallards acted. They didn’t flee when my feet crunched the crispy leaves as I approached. They didn’t plop into the water and swim away slowly when I crouched for my view. They stirred only slightly as I settled in for a closer look and found a more comfortable position. (The catcher’s stance lasts only so long these days for me.) Most importantly, the mallards didn’t approach me looking for a handout. That definitely would have ruined it.

I watched as the mallards simply went about their day. The average person would have been bored silly in about 30 seconds, but I was fascinated.

A drake had the best seat in the house, hogging a gnarled tree all to himself. Just off to the right was a leaning tree with half a dozen mallards sitting next to each other. Four of them were sleeping, heads turned around with their bills nestled into their backs — eyes closed. The two wakeful mallards paid no attention to me. At least eight other mallards occupied trees or branches in the same area.

Looking back, it would have been even more memorable had the birds been wood ducks or hooded mergansers — both of which were also at the pond that day — but I can’t complain about the mallards. Besides wood ducks or mergansers would have been long gone at the first snap of a twig.

Another drake swam onto the scene. It bypassed the crowded leaning tree and tried to join the male that was sitting alone. Big mistake. The duck leaned forward, hissed and snapped at the newcomer, shooing him away. It found a place nearby to roost.

A minute or two later, one of the hens left the crowded tree, took a few graceful paddles through the shallow water and climbed aboard the gnarled tree with the ornery male. The male shifted slightly, but let the hen stay. After about three minutes, the drake’s charitable mood changed and he nipped at the female, sending her away.

The mallards’ mid-afternoon break outlasted mine. I was already late for work and, knowing that, the feeling of being in a different world faded away.

It was back to the real world. But I had the dirty pants and muddy shoes to prove that I had been elsewhere.

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Mallards: Common as dirt, but lookers none the same

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mallard swims in a small pond in Darien, Conn., Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mallard swims in a small pond in Darien, Conn., Dec. 2014.

Everyone has seen Mallards. In fact, everyone has probably seen thousands upon thousands of Mallards. Even so, every once in a while I see Mallards in a setting that catches my eye and I have to pull out the camera to try to capture the scene. Such was the case the other day when I visited a small pond in Darien, Conn. A tree on the shoreline still had its colorful leaves on it — long after most of the leaves have fallen already — and the colors were reflected in the section of the pond where the Mallards were swimming. So, yes, they are common, but they are also picturesque.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mallard swims in a small pond in Darien, Conn., Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mallard swims in a small pond in Darien, Conn., Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Mallard swims in a small pond in Darien, Conn., Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Mallard swims in a small pond in Darien, Conn., Dec. 2014.

Mallards, mergansers on frozen Norwalk River

iPhone photo by Chris Bosak Mallards rest on the ice as a small group of Hooded Mergansers swims in the background along the Norwalk River.

iPhone photo by Chris Bosak
Mallards rest on the ice as a small group of Hooded Mergansers swims in the background along the Norwalk River.

 

Not having my “real” camera with me this morning as I walked into work, I used my iPhone to capture this moment of Mallards resting on the ice near a small pool of unfrozen water on the Norwalk River. A small group of Hooded Mergansers swims in the open water. The rest of the Norwalk River is frozen, a somewhat rare occurrence.

Send me your bird and nature photos for my “reader submitted photos” page, which is updated often. Check it out here.

Two “regulars” converge

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron rests along the shoreline as Mallards eat in the water at a cemetery in Darien, CT, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron rests along the shoreline as Mallards eat in the water at a cemetery in Darien, CT, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

I checked out a pond at a local cemetery this morning on my way to work and was pleasantly surprised to see a Great Blue Heron along the shoreline. Sure, Great Blue Herons are not rare and I’ve seen plenty of them in my lifetime, but it’s one of those birds I always enjoy seeing.

I grabbed the camera to capture the moment and, just then, a group of mallards worked their way into the shot. Mallards, of course, are not uncommon either — quite the opposite — but the convergence of the species made for an interesting photograph.

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks, an American Robin, a few Song Sparrows and dozens of Canada Geese were the only other species around on this morning.