Niagara Gazette

June 9, 2013

Like the swallows to Capistrano, ducklings come back to Irving Avenue year after year

BY BILL WOLCOTT
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Swimming season has been put off on Irving Street. The ducks, who have come for eight straight years, were delayed by Mother Nature but now they have taken over the pool.

Momma duck brought her brood of 12 duckings to the Don and Esther Owens pool at 142 Irving St. this week. They usually stay a about a week before waddling off to a more natural habitat.

Esther Owens isn't sure where they are hatched or where they will go, but has put off her pool season until Saturday. She worries about them when they obediently follow their mother across Irving Street. Mom keeps her beak up and seems oblivious to traffic.

The Owens moved into the house in 1971 and put in the pool in 1986. The ducks started coming in 2006 and Esther and Don don't know why. "One day we came out and they're on our winter cover having a good time," she said.

Don and Esther Owens suspect the mother duck had her nest nearby and found a safe harbor in the fenced-in yard. Ducklings have a high mortality rate and four-legged critters are inclined to make a meal of the little creatures.

The Owens suspect the same couple come each year, but its difficult to differentiate one mallard from another.The ducks mate for life and usually come in pairs. On Wednesday, a third grown-up came along to baby sit the the ducklings in the pool.

The Owens grandchildren, Ashley and Austin, joined the ducks in the water one year and the youngsters snapped pictures of each other.

"They got so accustomed to us that two of my grandchildren got in the pool with them, right up to them," Esther said. "Then they would like to get up an walk around and my grandson, Austin, went over and it didn't faze the ducks ... We think the first pair has come back and that's kind of why the've become adjusted to us."

Ducks usually mate in March. It takes 28 days to hatch. For some reason, the ducklings were late.

When they made their arrival on Wednesday about 4 a.m. Esther was excited and woke up her husband. "You gotta get the ramps up because the babies are here!" she said.

Don sets up the diving board to use as a ramp so the ducklings can get out of the water. The Owens planned to open the pool Wednesday, but have put off cleaning the pool.