Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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Bad luck for ducks


Photo: Ducklings in 2007
By Martin Cox (c)

Well, Chicken Corner's esteemed waterfowl correspondent, Martin Cox, has been away in the U.K. recently. Martin returned to find that there seem to be no mallard ducklings at Echo Park Lake this year. Which is unnatural, if you consider the large number of year-round mallard residents, who typically raise their broods here at the lake. Last year, my daughter, who was then two, and I came to the lake every week, and we knew where to look for ducklings. We knew we would see them.

Martin writes:

One thing I did want to mention is the staggering lack of mallard chicks, there are no new families this year.
Over the last two springs, right from Jan onwards we have seen fleets of ducklings appearing, sometimes for only a day or so before all the various threats press in and removed them. (Snatched by children, snapped by turtles, whisked aloft by greedy gulls, swallowed by large mouthed fish etc). A few hardy members always made it through to replenish the wild duck supply.
This year I only saw one mallard family (eaten by gulls in 5 minutes) and one Muscovy duck family, consumed by children and then gulls.
One possible theory is that with the island now open, the eggs are raided more easily. I have seen egg snatchers moving stealthily from one clump of pampas grass to another.

Yes, the island on Echo Park Lake. The opening of the gates. As I've said before, ordinarily I'd support public use of such a space. But in this case, the unlocking of the gates that used to keep the public off the island looks like a sloppy mistake, because the island was a bird sanctuary. It's a small space that can't be used for sports. It's good only for things that easily can be done in other parts of the park -- dreaming, reading, napping, picnicking -- unless you count as legitimate recreation upending the nests of mallards. I have still never heard why it was opened. I did hear it was just to be open occasionally, but every time I've been to the park these days the gates are swinging wide. For herons and ducks it's huge -- the difference between thriving here and not; for the public, it's a bone.

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