Is That You, Koduck?

Our first ducklings were growing up, they were flying around the ranch and staying gone longer and longer. I was really missing the days when they depended on me for fresh water in their wading pool and the scoops of feed they would get every day. They were about five months old and fully mature and independent, but they were always ready for me to herd them into the aviary at night. One night I found a shallow nest with an egg outside the barn, right where it could get crunched by a horse or eaten by a predator. I brought it into the house to check to see if it was developing. I  cut a hole in the top of a box and set the egg in the opening and put the box on top of a lamp. Nothing much to see, but I wrote the date on the egg with a pencil and put it in my incubator. The next few days I found 4 more eggs scattered in different danger zones and put them with the first egg. Later I found out that I could have simplified the hatching and brooding process by putting them in at the same time. About a week later, I was candling  them again and each one had a  little black spot that was the eye. I would carry them back and forth just about every day and I would always write little notes on their shells. One was really active and I loved to see the shadowy image jump around in the lamplight. I drew a little heart on his shell and named him Koduck. I loved to check on them several times a day during the 28 days of incubation. I would check the temperature, 101 degrees was perfect for ducks and add water to keep the humidity adjusted. They were on a rack with an automatic turner to keep them from sticking to one side of their shells. I read all about the birth defects that can happen, like when they stick to the shell or get a crooked wing or neck……not cool! On the 26th day I was peering at them and I heard a little peep! It was Koduck making an early appearance. His little beak was showing through a little crack in his shell. They are born with an “egg tooth” and the process is called pipping. He took his time to enter the world and I have hours and hours of videotape of the blessed event. I hurried to get the “nursery” ready with a red heat lamp and a tiny bit of water. When a duckling is hatched without a mother hen, they do not have the benefit of waterproofing that she would provide them. The Mama has a gland that enables her to coat her babies right after hatching so that they can swim with her immediately. They will develop their own gland a few weeks later. Koduck finally managed to free himself from his shell and I resisted the urge to help him out. He hopped over to his egg mates and started rolling them around. They had been on an automatic egg turner until the last fews days, this gives them a chance to settle into position for pipping. His feathers were still matted down and I scooped him up and put him into his warm little home.eastman-koduck1

The other four hatched one by one and joined their older brother. They gobbled up their feed and grew noisier and messier every day. Their little peeps soon turned to quacks.  At a few weeks old they were ready to come out for a few supervised swims in the wading pool and some early flying lessons. This consisted of our son Peyton racing and chasing after them to encourage them to take flight. I’m sure that they would learn by themselves, but without a Momma duck around, we wanted to ensure that they would be able to flee from the raccoons, possums and coyotes that lurked nearby. When they took their first full circle around the barn it was great fun to see the little flips and rolls when they made their crash landings while learning to navigate around the house and barn. It still amazes us to see them circle around the ranch and our world comes to a halt every time as we marvel at the beauty of these awesome gifts.

First Flight

First Flight

 

The Gift

 

Waddle On Friends

Waddle On Friends

 

My babies

My babies

Feeling kind of sad, missing some of the most precious people that I love who are SO far away and wishing for a gift, just a little spark from heaven to boost my spirits and of-course, like an answer to a prayer, I heard a faint but so familiar quack, quack…. Our Mallards that we hatched in our incubator had mysteriously disappeared about three LONG months ago and tonight here they were as if they had never left! I ran to get food, fresh water and whatever bribe I could find to entice them to stay or at least make a pit stop back here again soon. They enjoyed their visit, hopefully as much as we did. Ya’ll come back soon Ya hear?

Ducks Unlimited

watercolor painting Mallards Flying

Hey Mom. Look at us! She must be so proud. Three boys and a girl! Mama duck does it all by herself. All we can do is paint their picture and laugh at them when they take their first few summersaults trying to land for the first time. We love it when they make their first full loop around the house. “Babies flying!” Tom says and our world comes to a halt as we sigh in awe of how thrilling it is to see our ducklings in formation for the first time, every time. It may be four, six , eight or more. Sure they are a target up there, or when they are swimming in the tank,  but aren’t we all. Faster, stronger, tougher. A duck’s gotta do what a duck gotta do.

The original watercolor painting is for sale. Please click on leicalady.etsy.com for pricing and shipping information. Thank-you!

Mallard Hen with Ducklings (painting progress)

These ducklings left the nest long before I finished the painting. Is it finished? I’m not sure. I may add another twig or feather. As long as it stays on my easel I can continue to enjoy the painting  process and admire the look in the mother hen’s eye while her babies are still safe and snug by her side. I have a painting in mind of their first flight. It just gets better. I know how you feel proud mama!

Eastman Koduck

    My Leica collection of paperweights used to be my tools of the trade along with my Hasselblad and my Linhof 4X5 view camera. Back in the day, Ansel Adams was my Guru, like Andrew and Jamie Wyeth are today. I still have my darkroom ready and waiting to take my children and their children down memory lane with me. The Dektol will smell so sweet. The  stop bath, fixer and photoflo will bring back some forgotten memories of our early years of marriage at Photogenesis when we taught our photography students how to develop and print their first image. I fell in love with cameras before I fell in love with photography. Our collection of Kodaks, Nikons, Canons, Minox and Rolleiflex to name a few, line our shelves and they are a pain in the butt to dust.  

   This little duckling was named after Eastman Kodak back when film was still a popular means to record an image. He was my first duck to hatch and the first to fly away. It gets easier after  you see them take off and land safely a few times. They inevitably go higher and higher until it may be a day or two before they reappear. He is in that image somewhere. He learned how to fly and I feel like we gave him wings….

Feathering My Nest

Too much time spent blogging the last few days……not enough time painting.I have added more Mesquite branches and feathers to this painting since I posted it last time. I hoping that the feathers look like feathers and the twigs look like twigs and not turds. I see enough of those around, thanks to Spooky, our Pomeranian.