By Laura Bullock
I don’t always take my camera with my when I walk at the lake but the other day something made me go back into the house and grab it before I wandered down. And am I glad I did! I had two beautiful encounters, one of which I’m sure I will never witness again. As I was walking at the back part of the lake, where the old beaver dwelling used to be, I heard a small thud ahead. My dog ran up ahead to investigate when there was another thud a foot away from the first.
At first I thought a woodpecker or maybe a squirrel had knocked off some bark and it was falling to the ground. But then the item my dog was sniffing moved and suddenly took off like a shot towards the lake. Then the second fallen item ran as well.
I realized they were baby birds of some sort and my initial thought was that they had fallen from their nest. But what baby bird ‘runs’ away? Then THUD, right at my feet lands another bird and I see it’s a baby duckling. Ducks in trees? As I look up I see another one coming and then another – 7 in all!
The nest that they were literally taking a leap of faith from had to be 40’ or more off the ground. The little dark images against the gray sky were jumping with their tiny wings spread to help slow their fall. They landed on the ground which was densely packed with leaves from years and years of compacted foliage.
How they didn’t land on a tree stump or a rock, or even hit another branch on their way down, is nothing short of a miracle. But one by one they jumped, and one by one they got up and scampered as quick as their legs could carry them towards the sound of their mom who was about 20 feet away in the shallow water.
They immediately grouped together on a collection of lily pads while mom tried to distract me from noticing her babies. She thrashed and turned and dipped in the water so I backed out of sight and mom calmed down and the family quickly came together.
I was able to move to another part of the lake and snap some photos. In the sea of lily pads they are nearly impossible to spot – such great camouflage from the predators above and below!
Last year there were 9 ducklings, this year there are 7. For whatever reason, both this year and last, the male was nowhere to be seen.
Upon doing a little research I discovered that this is a Wood Duck, one of the only ducks to nest in trees. They prefer swampy or shallow waters and up until recently were in serious decline due to over hunting.
As the Mama duck and her family got further and further away I was reaching down to put the lens cap back on my camera when out of the corner of my eye I see a large bird in the sky. I look up to see the Great Blue Heron gracefully coming in for a landing. He seems to have been a member of the lake for quite some time as he will let you get quite close which I was lucky enough to do. What a regal looking bird, perched on a tree limb surveying the lake.
Bedford is fortunate to have these beautiful birds take up residence at Fawn Lake!