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Early Birds

My Granddaughter Ari Rae’s 1st Pre-Spring Waterfowl Report

Tuesday, February 5th, 2024:

I awoke from my afternoon nap as my granddaughter Ari Rae came in from her Paw Patrol walk with her Mama, Aunt Abba, & our family’s Sheltie herd out around our main duck pond.

“Tell Grampa what you saw out by the pond today, Ari Rae.”

“Did you see a duck?”

Ari Rae grinned & nodded.


“What does a duck say, Ari Rae?”

Ari Rae giggled, grinning shyly as she responded.

“Quack, Quack, Quack!”

“What else did you see on your walk out by the pond today Arie Rae?”

“Did you see some geese?”

Ari Rae giggled & nodded again.

“What does a goose say Ari Rae?”

Ari Rae needed a bit of help with her goose calling so Grampa chimed in.

“Honk Honk Hurrronk!”

“What are the geese’s names Ari Rae? Was that Flo & Moe?”

Ari Rae nodded her head again as she completed her 1st pre-spring post Paw Patrol waterfowl report.

“Flo & Moe”

I normally go out each spring morning from mid-March to mid-April (with a hard cutoff date of April 15th in order to be in compliance with spring turkey hunting regulations) to hand broadcast a bucket of seeds in and along the banks of my main pond for returning waterfowl. This year, however, by popular (and quite insistently loud, I might add) demand, my morning ritual commenced two weeks early.

So, the next time Ari Rae came to visit, Grampa & Mama took her back out to the pond to feed her newly discovered duck & geese friends some seeds.

I feed returning early spring waterfowl my own blend of cracked corn, scratch feeds & sunflower seeds to encourage breeding pairs to nest on my ponds.

Ari Rae thought throwing handfuls of seeds into the pond for Flo & Moe (waiting somewhat impatiently but safely mid-pond) was a riot & has since taken her new job quite seriously.

Both ducks & geese have arrived on our ponds over a month early this year. I spooked the season’s 1st wood duck off my main pond during my morning walk on Thursday, February 29th.

This year’s wood ducks’ early return caught me by surprise. They arrived before I even had my spring trail cameras back up!

Last year, as with most years previous, the first wood ducks did not appear on our ponds until early April.

That first wood duck caught me completely off guard. I attribute its early bird appearance to the mild temperatures and relatively snow free winter we’ve had this year. Most years, my ponds aren’t ice free until late March at the earliest. This year the pond ice completely melted before February ended.

Guess it’s a good thing I’d gone out just the weekend before, cleaned and added fresh pine shavings to all my duck boxes, and done spring maintenance and repairs, including replacement of one wind blow off roof!

Last spring, by my best count, our series of duck ponds and boxes, despite one tragic midnight Flo & Moe Canada goose nest molestation by a prowling coyote,

successfully hatched one clutch of goslings, one each of wood ducks and hooded mergansers,

and two “Make Way for Ducklings” mallard families.

Unlike goslings, which their parents proudly parade, ducklings are rarely sighted or photographed on my property because almost immediately after hatching their mothers march them down through woods to be raised on the relative safety of nearby bigger waters. I generally determine how many nesting pairs successfully hatch each spring based on my post-nesting season census of known ground nesting sites and eggshells in my duck boxes.

(Due to the coyote, Flo & Moe #1’s nest was completely destroyed. However, Flo & Moe #2 had a 2nd nest successfully hidden in the woods.)

I just hope this winter’s above average temperatures and early ice out won’t adversely impact north country waterfowl nesting, so that Ari Rae’s next waterfowl report will include not just early birds, but also spring chicks!


Until Our Trails Cross Again:

Outlaw Ari Rae & her Grampa, ADKO