Last Saturday Gus and I decided to go for a walk around the West Parish Cemetery in Andover. It is a place we drive by often. I came here during February to count birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count but had to enter a count of zero since I did not see any birds. Still, ever the optimist, I hoped things would be better today, so I brought along my camera and binoculars. If nothing else I figured I could take pictures of the graveyard.
It is a cool and gray day with all the colors of spring on display.
As we are walking up a bit of a hill I am looking all around me for birds. so far robins and chipping sparrows rule the day and I have not seen a single warbler, which is what I am hoping for. At the moment Gus and I have the place to ourselves and we are walking in quiet companionship. Suddenly I hear a bit of peeping and see movement from the base of a pine tree. Then, I am astonished to see a mother duck with ducklings rush out from the nook she was hiding in. Even more astonishing is her small head and the white ring i see around her eye! It is a wood duck! Oh MY! and the ducklings look newly hatched! Wood ducks nest high in tree cavities and when the ducklings hatch they have to leap to the ground and then get to the safety of water. I do not know how long this little family has been nestled here at the base of this tree but now the Mamma and her duckling head for the nearby bushes.
They are so fast that I barely get a shot off before they disappear behind the foliage. The little duckings run in groups, first about 4 to 6 follow, then a few more. Gus and I stand still and watch. Just when we think they are all safe, the last little sleeper comes rushing out, but he makes the mistake of going to the uphill bushes instead of the downhill bunch where the rest of his family went! Gus and I watch and listen as he peeps and peeps but the rest of the family stays quiet and safe in the brush. I no longer care about photos, I just want the little one to find his Mamma! There is about an eight to ten foot gap between the small bush by the road that he is in, and the larger cluster of bushes where the rest of the family is hiding.
So Gus and I develop a strategy to reunite the baby with its family. I stand quietly on the uphill side of the small bush. Gus stands at the edge of the bush and the road. We both take simultaneous steps towards the bush to herd the duckling downhill towards its family. All the time we can hear its frantic peeping and see it darting around beneath the small bush. Finally it breaks free and runs downhill and into the Azaleas with its Mom and siblings! OH my! I am so relieved! Now I start wondering, which tree was the nest hole in, and which pond will the mom take the ducklings to? The first pond we walked by is about 1/10 of a mile away to the east and downhill. It is the deeper and wider pond.
Just uphill and across another slim road is the frog pond with more fake ducks. It is closer but more shallow and with less protection.
As we walk past the frog pond and the chapel, I spot another wetland with deeper water and cover. I also know that down by the other pond a little brook runs off into the woods. I can only hope that the Mama duck will wait until a quiet time to move her ducklings to safety. More and more cars are starting to show up now, as well as other walkers and children on bikes.
We spent about an hour and a half walking the mile circumference of the cemetery. It was a pleasant walk and I did see many more birds than the last time I was here, but it isn’t hard to come up from zero!
Birds Seen at West Parish Cemetery on May 5, 2012
- Canada Geese (heard only)
- Wood Duck 13
- Mallard 4
- Great Blue Heron 2
- Red-tailed hawk 1
- Northern flicker 1
- Blue Jay 2
- American Crow 2
- Black-capped Chickadee 2
- Tufted Titmouse 4
- American Robin 8
- Chipping sparrow 10
- Northern Cardinal 1
- Red-winged blackbird 2
- House Finch 2
- American Goldfinch 4