I returned home on this sunny, mild morning to find a female mallard standing in the dooryard of our Littleton farm. Undisturbed by my presence, she watched as I unloaded my pickup, neither foraging in the grass nor taking flight. Why she had stopped by remains a mystery.
Though lakes and ponds are nearby, there are none on our property. And while mallards often feed in fields (usually in flocks), we have two pastures and several lawn areas that, one would think, would more likely attract a duck than the small dooryard (which is hemmed in by the house, our garage, shrub lines and a grove of trees). I was initially concerned that she might be ill or injured but there were no signs of distress and she eventually flew off, presumably headed for more typical duck habitat.
While ducks, geese and other water birds fly over our farm on a regular basis and Canada geese often crowd the pastures in winter, this morning's encounter was the first time in 27 years that I observed a lone duck on the property, let alone in our small dooryard. If nothing else, forty years of birding has taught me that the unexpected becomes routine and that, as much as we like to think otherwise, we have only begun to understand nature and her fickle cast of characters.