Saturday, June 25, 2011

You've Heard of Homing Pigeons?

Add ImageI think we have a pair of homing ducks.

Each spring this Mallard duck couple is the first to arrive back on our pond and stay for the summer. We believe they are the same pair that has been coming back for twelve years now.

When Papa Pea was teaching, every spring in his third grade classroom he would hatch out a batch of Mallard duck eggs and a batch of chicken eggs. Children who had their parents' permission could take home two chicks or two ducklings at the end of the school year.

One year a boy chose to take home two of the Mallard ducks. The first part of that summer we were invited to his family's home and G proudly showed us his ducks in their fenced in enclosure which included a child's wading pool for the ducks to swim in.

Later that summer, we got a call from G's mother. She said the family was going on a three-week vacation and G was worried about who would take care of his ducks. The mother asked if they could bring the two ducks to our pond so we could duck-sit them while the family was gone. She said they would pick G's ducks up as soon as they got home.

We agreed to take care of the ducks but our only fear was that being wild Mallard ducks, they might possibly take off and fly away. Fortunately, the ducks apparently didn't know they were wild Mallard ducks and COULD fly away. They stayed on the pond happily paddling around and eating the grain we tossed to them morning and night for three weeks.

Then one day we got a call from G's Mother saying the family had decided that the ducks had a much better life on our pond than in the small enclosure at their house so would we like to keep them. We agreed to this so the pair stayed with us until the pond started to freeze that fall. One day the Mallards were gone and we didn't expect to see them again. We only hoped that they had enough inborn instinct to know where to go for the winter.

That winter passed and early the next spring, a pair of Mallards showed up on the pond. When Papa Pea went out to open up the chicken house and throw scratch out on the ground that first morning, the two ducks came waddling up from the pond just like they knew the routine. They acted very tame and weren't the least bit skittish about coming right up to our feet. We became convinced they were G's ducks.

Even though they would be twelve years old now, I've read that Mallards can live in the wild for up to fifteen years so I'm still convinced these two are our homing ducks who return each year for the summer. If they can manage to avoid becoming a meal for a duck hunter somewhere during their travels, who knows how many more years they'll keep coming back.


Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

Do they ever hatch any eggs there? I find it amazing that the same pair would survive that long. I was wondering if these could be offspring. It makes me happy to think they really have lived so long.

Mama Pea said...

Jane - Yes, they have raised several batches of ducklings, but don't seem to do it every year. This year, no little ones. Last year they broke the record by hatching out TEN! Sure was fun watching them on the pond.

If the ones that are here are offspring, wouldn't you think there would be more than just the two (one male and one female) returning? I'm sure no expert so I'm just guessing. :o}

Sparkless said...

Oh wow! Those are special ducks. I hope they have many more years of visiting with you for the summer.

Sue said...

What a sweet story. Lucky ducks!
And I guess Lucky Mama and Papa Pea too! Even if it's NOT the same pair, I'm glad you get a pair every year-how fun to watch.

Susan said...

That just makes me feel good all over. I hope they make their full fifteen years. And that their offspring keep up the tradition.

judy said...

That was one of the best teacher/child bonding-nice teacher story's I have heard in a long time.I bet the school district and children hated to see poppa pea go.

Patty said...

Everyone around here has "nice teacher" stories about Papa Pea, as well as chickens or ducks that are connected to those hatch-lings from school. :) It is wonderful that we've had such a great, caring teacher in our community!
Great duck story, too!

Erin said...

"Ducksit"... LOL! I'm glad to see they are back! As soon as I met Papa Pea I saw "teacher", and what a fantastic one he continues to be... the boys still say they didn't have enough time with Papa Pea, Loch says "there's a lot of stuff I need to ask him, I think he knows a lot of "stuff".... LOL! Lucky students he had, and I bet their families really appreciate it, that age is just thirsting for good teachers and good experiences with school.

Leigh said...

That is so neat! They must have imprinted on your pond and they are obviously not afraid of humans. That a treat to see them year after year.

Mama Pea said...

Sparkless - I tell you, it will be sad the year they don't turn up. Or if just one turns up! :o(

Sue - They mingle right in with the chickens and geese. The chickens don't even seem to notice them but, of course, every now and then a goose will try to scare them into leaving.

Susan - If their offspring keep coming back, it would be like a ducky tradition of going to the same place for summer vacation each year!

judy - Upon announcing his retirement, Papa Pea did have parents come in and ask if he would stay one more year so a second or third or fourth child of theirs could have him as a teacher!

Mama Pea said...

Patty - Aw, gee, thanks for the nice words about my better half. You would be surprised how many people stop and tell him that the family still has a couple of chickens that are 5, 6, or even 7 years old. All from one of the hatches in the classroom. Most of the ducks don't seem to last as long probably because they were Mallards and tended to fly off when they became adults.

Erin - When he was teaching there were two third grade classrooms. Parents could "request" that their child have a certain teacher. His classes often were made up of all "requests." He used to feel embarrassed by that situation because the other teacher was a fine one, too. He just had a reputation as being extremely good with both troubled kids and ones that excelled.

Leigh - Wouldn't it be so interesting to know more about how the minds of animals/birds function?!