Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A cute problem

Visitors from large cities, especially those from New York City, often refer to the Hamptons as "the country" (though how any place that includes local outposts of Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue can be considered "country," I'm not sure) and many of them are enchanted to encounter our wildlife, whether it be the sight and song of the birds in the morning, or a glimpse of deer grazing (we hope!)alongside of the road. But late last night we discovered some unexpected guests...a mama Mallard duck and eleven (!!) little ducklings making themselves at home in our pool.

We can't figure out where this little brood came from. The babies seemed too small to be able to fly yet. And there was no Papa Mallard to be seen.  Our nearest natural pond is Lake Agawam on the west edge of the village...a distance of just about a mile. There are wetlands and ponds in Water Mill that may possibly be closer, but cute as it is to see a mama duck trailing a platoon of offspring, I can't envision them crossing Montauk Highway safely. (Hey, it's difficult enough in summer to make a left hand turn.)

So last night, worried about how the little ducklings would get out of the pool (the coping was surely too deep for them to jump out), we hung about with a flashlight to see if they'd find the steps in the shallow end. Chris turned off the automatic timer on the pool so that the motor didn't come on and suck the little babies into the skimmer. Even so, I went to bed hoping we weren't going to find drowned ducklings in the morning (which marks me as every bit as unused to wildlife as our city guests!).

On the contrary: By breakfast time this morning, the whole lot had quite settled in and decided this was a nice new home, and had even discovered that the silent skimmers made great hiedey-holes. Uh, sorry. Cute as they may be, I somehow don't see our guests interested in sharing a swim with new feathered friends.

A call to our local Wildlife Center elicited advice, but no offer to help relocate our traveling family. It looked like we were going to have to somehow round up Mama and put her in a box, then round up all the duckling and put them in a box, and transport them all to one of the nearby ponds. (The man-made pond in front of our bed & breakfast colleague Donna Andreassi's "Pondview," came to mind.) In the meantime, we chased them all into the center of the pool, put those bright foam floating "noodles" in front of the skimmer entrances, and turned on the pool, hoping that if the water were less "pond-like" and still, perhaps Mama would be encouraged to take her children elsewhere.

It seems to have worked. With a huffy, "well, if that's the way you're going to be about it" twitch to her rear end, Mama lined all her little ducks up in height order and led them through the side gate, out into the field beyond. Whew!

At A Butler's Manor, we like to say that you don't need a house in the Hamptons, you've got us. But maybe we do need to draw the line somewhere...

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