Thursday, June 4, 2020

"A Blessing at Our Door Step" -- Part Two

We were recently blessed with the presence of a little Mallard hen who chose our front flower bed as a nesting place to raise her babies.  A couple of weeks ago, I shared her story and featured pictures of her and her nesting place.

If you have not read that story, I suggest you start there before reading any further.  Here is the link to Part One ..., and here is the little mother hen herself, ever watchful, but seemingly happy with her new home.

We had the pleasure of her company for several weeks, as she patiently sat on the eggs in her nest anxiously watching all the comings-and-goings at our front door, just a few feet away from her nest.  I was curious to know how long it would take the eggs to hatch, and discovered through Google that it usually takes about 28 days after beginning of incubation. We watched and waited with excitement and anticipation for the day when her babies would hatch, and couldn't believe that on Sunday, May 31st, exactly 28 days from the day we discovered her nest, the babies began making their appearance into their new world.  One by one, the eggs began to break open and we could see little bits of fuzzy yellow down underneath the hen.

The hen knew what she was doing when she chose our flower bed for her nest.  She was almost totally camouflaged and hidden from sight but, fortunately, I was able to stand on our door steps and capture some pictures of the babies as they emerged from their shells.  

Once the babies started hatching, it was all the hen could do to keep their squirming little bodies underneath her.  She "fluffed" herself up as big as she could to try to keep them contained.

One by one, they seemed to just pop out of their shells, wriggling and squirming and ready to explore their surroundings.  

Their mama appeared to be struggling to keep them in the nest, and then she did something strange and totally unexpected, at least to me, anyway ... she started to eat the contents of some of the empty egg shells and push the shells out of the nest. 


I guess that makes sense, when you think about it.  She probably needed the nutrients inside the eggs, and it also created more room in the nest for the wriggly little newly-hatched ducklings.  They were literally trying to pop out all around her. 

This probably sounds weird, but I can't believe how emotionally attached we became to that little mama duck during those weeks she was with us while she was nesting.  My husband, my 93-year-old mother who lives with us, and I kept watch over her and worried when she left the nest to go feed and was gone longer than we thought was appropriate.  We always breathed a sigh of relief when she would eventually return after a couple of hours and take up her vigil upon her nest.  And on that Sunday afternoon, when we discovered her babies were hatching, it was as if we had a part in ushering them into the world.  

But their story doesn't end there.  From my research on the nesting process of mallard ducks, I surmised that the hen would soon be moving the ducklings to their new home in the pond down the street from our house. I was so afraid she would move them to the pond before we could be there to watch their journey, and I woke early Monday morning, around four o'clock, and eased out the front door (in my nightgown) to check on them.  I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief as I saw that they were all safely tucked in under their mama, bless her heart.  

Around 6:30, I went out and checked on them again, and was delighted when I saw the babies all huddled together beside the empty nest and their mama proudly standing on the driveway at the edge of the flower bed.  I ran back inside to grab my cameras and called my husband to come see.  By the time we got back outside (I was still in my nightgown, but I didn't care!), there were NINE tiny little ducklings sweetly lined up behind their mama, ready for their journey to begin.  They were so precious, my heart was pounding with excitement, and I was moved to tears by the sight before us.


Notice how they're marching two by two ... on those tiny little legs.

Instead of marching them straight down our steep driveway to the street, she wisely chose to cut across the yard and took them through a flower bed ...

Please remember that I was in my nightgown, following from a safe distance, and taking pictures as I went.  I was using my long lens, but it would zoom only so far and I finally gave up trying to stay with them.  I knew where they were headed and figured I would be able to get some pictures after I got dressed, which would give the hen some time to get her babies in the water and settled.  

After I got dressed, I gathered my camera and cell phone and walked down to the "pond," which is actually a small area with water and cattails that is just a small part of a larger area that is used for rain run-off, as shown in the picture below ...

This was their final destination and new home ... at least for a while.

When I arrived at the "pond," I was so pleased to see the hen and her babies happily swimming around and exploring.  They weren't venturing too far away from their mama, though, and she was keeping a watchful eye on me.

  Notice how well camouflaged they are ...

I feel very privileged to have witnessed God's miracle of life through this little mama duck.  It was awe-inspiring to see God's hand at work in her ... the God-given instinct buried deep inside her that guided her and told her exactly what to do ... and how ... and where ... and precisely when to bring her babies into the world.  Just think about that for a minute.  All of God's creatures, both great and small, have that inborn instinct that guides them as they play their part in the grand scheme of life in this wonderful world of ours.  

Sharing the past weeks in the life of the little hen was truly a "how great Thou art" experience from its very beginning, and was, indeed, "a blessing at our doorstep."

Godspeed, little hen ...
I pray your babies will grow up to be as beautiful and amazing as you!


Beth said...

Yes, all God's creatures are spectacular! Beautiful pictures and a heart-warming story. I'm glad they all made it safely to the pond!

Betty Maerker said...

Yes, all creatures great and small, the Lord God made them all. Janie I was so moved by your story of this little Mallard that it actually brought me to tears.