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Sunday, December 10, 2023

A duck tale in May Watts Park


Above / Yes. You could say we observed a Mother Mallard keeping her ducks in a row.

Monday, April 27, 2010 / Monday afternoon when I looked out my upstairs window, I saw a woman rushing up our driveway. Looking closer, I noticed what likely was her vehicle pulled over to the curb. She seemed distressed.

The doorbell rang. Already I’d raced downstairs to see what was the matter. When I opened the door she explained that she’d stopped to let a Mother Mallard and her eight ducklings cross the road.

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When the ducks were taking a little longer than she’s hoped, she got out of her vehicle to give them a little encouragement until they were in our yard. At that time, she said, the duck family scurried underneath our car in the driveway.

The woman wanted us to know. I thanked her, said we’d be sure to protect them, and she went on her way. But the duck family remained under the car.

I’ve always heard that Mallards return to the place of their birth, so I chuckled to myself knowing that wasn’t the case for this duck family hiding out under my husband’s car. Most likely, they were from May Watts Park where there’s a spacious pond in the natural setting that attracts all types of birds, waterfowl and other wildlife.

Our neighbor across the street came over to see such as sight, a first-time experience for both of us.

A few minutes later, the duck family ventured into our side yard, and headed toward the bushes alongside the house. With camera now in hand, I took several photos. Then the rain came.

When the rain stopped, I trekked outside to see if there were any signs of the ducks. Nope.

I speculated the ducks had headed back to May Watts Pond.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 / During my morning two-mile trek, facecover in place and 6′ social distancing in mind, I took the .89-mile lap around May Watts Pond.

After spotting two Great Blue Herons and many red-winged black birds, I noticed a family of ducks feeding along the shore line. I’ll bet dollars to donuts, the ducks are the same ones at our house on Monday, only now there are seven ducklings.

I watched them swim here and there, now with the male Mallard on guard, mindful that males don’t take part in raising their ducklings. Yet, they won’t survive without their mother’s care.

For many spring seasons, following families of Mallard ducks and Canada geese around May Watts Park has provided peaceful joy. And they do get around, often traveling a couple miles in a day!

By July, the ducklings will be flying, as it takes 50-60 days before they fledge and become independent.

The native waterfowl always find natural food on their own. Remember, let wildlife be wild. Nature is an adventure waiting to be welcomed with interest right in the heart of Naperville. 

So far, no goslings in 2020.

Wednesday, April 29 and Thursday, April 30, 2020 / Rain, rain, go away! You could say these two ducks got up at the quack of dawn in the wake of good things happening for waterfowl at May Watts Park.

Friday, May 1, 2020 / According to Wikipedia, the female Mallard lays eight to 13 creamy white to greenish-buff spotless eggs, on alternate days. Incubation takes 27 to 28 days and fledging takes 50 to 60 days. The ducklings are precocial, meaning relatively mature and mobile from the moment they hatch, fully capable of swimming, too.

Today we observed the hen that had eight ducklings waddling with her on Monday now has three ducklings under her care.

Mother Mallard and three ducklings swam under the footbridge and across May Watts Pond.
Mother Mallard kept tabs on her ducklings as they fed in the rushing water.

Considering many heart-warming stories that have begun while watching wildlife in the calm at May Watts Park, the park’s namesake likely would be pleased that the natural setting welcomes individuals of all ages to be excellent wildlife neighbors.

And here’s another way to be reminded about feeding wildlife. “Quackers don’t need crackers!”

While it may be tempting (and make you feel good) to offer bread or snacks, particularly to a nesting hen, feeding human food to waterfowl and other wildlife is known to cause much more harm than good. Let wildlife be wild.

Two days of rain has May Watts Pond up over its banks and anglers say the fish are not biting.

May Watts Park is a natural tribute to a Naperville woman, May Theilgaard Watts, who enjoyed a passion for preserving, writing and teaching about the great outdoors.

Naturalist Watts (1893-1975) is remembered for her dedication to the Illinois Prairie Path; and recognized at this park, trail and District 204 elementary school named in her honor, bordering Countryside and West Wind subdivisions in Naperville.

Visitors can enter the May Watts Park via its limestone trails, totaling .89-mile through the park and around the May Watts Pond, from Oakton, Whispering Hills and Sequoia roads.

Throughout the year, May Watts Park offers a variety of natural settings for all ages and all types of wildlife as well as fishing, walking and biking. For now, remember 6′ social distance and no gathering of crowds.

—Stephanie Penick

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.


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