Mallards

With the onset of cold weather, the ducks have reappeared on the pond in back (to the north) of my house in Columbia, Maryland. They are mallards, the males prominent for their showy green heads, with a white stripe at the ends of their necks, and pale tan bodies with black trimmings. The females are a demurer brown in color and lack all flamboyant attributes of the males.

They usually show up at the coldest part of the day—dawn—and swim back and forth in the pond for an hour or so before they fly away. The pond is quite shallow, only a foot or two deep, so it is easy for the ducks to plunge their heads into the water to eat water plants. The cold doesn’t seem to bother them, but they stay active moving swiftly in groups through the water.

There are usually fifteen or twenty ducks at a time. The males greatly outnumber the females, and more than once I couldn’t see any females at all. As far as I can tell, they always arrive and depart together, flying in from and back to the north. And the numbers vary. This morning I see only half a dozen swimming back and forth.

Why the ducks visit my little pond, only about a hundred feet in diameter, remains a mystery, as does the reason that a variety of land animals—including deer, foxes, and rabbits—frequent the open space to the east of my house. I am grateful to the city of Columbia which has maintained wild areas, lakes, and ponds throughout the city. That provides the animals the environment they need and keeps me entertained.

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