The Real Mallards of Raccoon Township

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

My own backyard as the setting of the next biggest reality show to hit the airwaves since Love in the Wild, I imagined. Since there’s a reality show for everything and anything, why not follow the antics of those wild and crazy mallards wandering in our yard and garden in recent weeks?

It started innocently enough. One day a couple, obviously in the mating stage of love, showed up in the backyard. The male held his neck high in the air exposing his shiny green neck to the wind while she kept her beak in the dirt. Their actions represented their respective appearances very well. His beauty acts as a decoy to her undistinguished brown, black, and white feathers as she searches for food in the dirt.

One morning when I came outside to take a few pictures of the wandering couple, the male had disappeared and the female continued her beak-in-the-soil pursuits. That’s when I decided to learn a little more about this duck strutting in our space.

The name mallard comes from the Latin word for “male” and refers to the male mallard’s habit of not hanging around to help raise the ducklings. So when the male disappeared, I assumed the female had laid the eggs somewhere on the property, and Mr. Mallard decided it was time to get out of the territory.

That’s not exactly what happened. I learned it was a little early for the nesting process. She’s just getting her fill of food in order to do the job of incubating the eggs when she does sit on the nest, sometime in early May. The male returned within a day, but he came with a surprise. He was now following another female and kept her close to his “first wife” as he continued the ritual of standing guard as the two soon-to-be mothers dabbled in the dirt.

My husband and I laughed at the spectacle and that’s when I thought of the reality show idea. If the not-so-real housewives of New York and Atlanta can parade as “real” anything, then why wouldn’t the antics of three mallards in Pennsylvania stand a shot? If a show called, Lady or a Tramp, can make it to TV, why not a show about wildlife gone truly wild in a place called Raccoon Township?

However, this morning my hopes were dashed when my husband appeared in the door of my office as I began writing this blog.

“Those ducks have got to go. They just think they can rule the roost,” he said. “Now one of them has made a bed in my onions. We let them get away with it, and now they think they can do anything.”

So I went back to my search on mallards, this time inputting the phrase “How to get rid of mallards in backyards and gardens.” The suggestions I found offered humane solutions: stand plastic wildlife, such as owls and swans, or even a blow-up alligator, next to the pool or garden. To honor my past Florida life, I do have two plastic flamingos in the herb garden. I realized the ducks never go over there so I offered to let my husband borrow them. He wasn’t keen on the idea of pink birds guarding his precious vegetables.

I also told him that spraying water at them would let them know this wasn’t the Holiday Inn.

“The hose,” he said. “That’s a great idea.”

The best comment I saw on some of the sites offering solutions to the mallard problem was the one I often thought about residents who complained about wildlife when I worked for Florida’s wildlife agency: “If you don’t want wildlife in your yard, perhaps you shouldn’t live in the country.”

Living in peace with wildlife, even the polygamists, is possible. But I think my idea for a reality TV show was just hosed.

The Real Mallards of Raccoon Township

My own backyard as the setting of the next biggest reality show to hit the airwaves since Love in the Wild, I imagined. Since there’s a reality show for everything and anything, why not follow the antics of those wild and crazy mallards wandering in our yard and garden in recent weeks?

It started innocently enough. One day a couple, obviously in the mating stage of love, showed up in the backyard. The male held his neck high in the air exposing his shiny green neck to the wind while she kept her beak in the dirt. Their actions represented their respective appearances very well. His beauty acts as a decoy to her undistinguished brown, black, and white feathers as she searches for food in the dirt.

Mallard couple

One morning when I came outside to take a few pictures of the wandering couple, the male had disappeared and the female continued her beak-in-the-soil pursuits. That’s when I decided to learn a little more about this duck strutting in our space.

The name mallard comes from the Latin word for “male” and refers to the male mallard’s habit of not hanging around to help raise the ducklings. So when the male disappeared, I assumed the female had laid the eggs somewhere on the property, and Mr. Mallard decided it was time to get out of the territory.

That’s not exactly what happened. I learned it was a little early for the nesting process. She’s just getting her fill of food in order to do the job of incubating the eggs when she does sit on the nest, sometime in early May. The male returned within a day, but he came with a surprise. He was now following another female and kept her close to his “first wife” as he continued the ritual of standing guard as the two soon-to-be mothers dabbled in the dirt.

And then there were three

My husband and I laughed at the spectacle and that’s when I thought of the reality show idea. If the not-so-real housewives of New York and Atlanta can parade as “real” anything, then why wouldn’t the antics of three mallards in Pennsylvania stand a shot? If a show called, Lady or a Tramp, can make it to TV, why not a show about wildlife gone truly wild in a place called Raccoon Township?

However, this morning my hopes were dashed when my husband appeared in the door of my office as I began writing this blog.

“Those ducks have got to go. They just think they can rule the roost,” he said. “Now one of them has made a bed in my onions. We let them get away with it, and now they think they can do anything.”

So I went back to my search on mallards, this time inputting the phrase “How to get rid of mallards in backyards and gardens.” The suggestions I found offered humane solutions: stand plastic wildlife, such as owls and swans, or even a blow-up alligator, next to the pool or garden. To honor my past Florida life, I do have two plastic flamingos in the herb garden. I realized the ducks never go over there so I offered to let my husband borrow them. He wasn’t keen on the idea of pink birds guarding his precious vegetables.

Guarding the snow

I also told him that spraying water at them would let them know this wasn’t the Holiday Inn.

“The hose,” he said. “That’s a great idea.”

The best comment I saw on some of the sites offering solutions to the mallard problem was the one I often thought about residents who complained about wildlife when I worked for Florida’s wildlife agency: “If you don’t want wildlife in your yard, perhaps you shouldn’t live in the country.”

Living in peace with wildlife, even the polygamists, is possible. But I think my idea for a reality TV show was just hosed.

Confessions from the Food Court

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

“The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people.” (Fortune cookie)

It’s time I came clean with one of my secret activities that even my husband doesn’t know about until now. I go to the mall once a week, not to shop but to watch.

I enter the doors by the food court and wend my way through tables to the last counter in a row of fast food heaven. No steak burger, chicken sandwich, sub, or pizza for me. I head straight for Asian Wok with its red and yellow sign proclaiming *Special* RICE or noodle with any 2 meats and eggroll $4.99. A young Asian woman with a red shirt stands waiting at the counter that never has a line. I order teriyaki chicken with rice, and she always asks, “To go?” I always respond, “For here.”

I squirt soy sauce on my rice and squeeze hot mustard out of a little plastic tube onto my eggroll. I grab my fortune cookie from a pile in a basket next to the condiments and head to a table on the edge of the food court so I can sit facing all the other tables.

I pull a book from my purse, but I don’t read much because I’ve really come to listen and watch. Grandparents tend toddlers at a few tables. Mostly it’s grandmothers, but today both a grandma and grandpa sat with two small children with sub sandwiches and chips in front of them. Before tearing into the wrapping around the food, all four bowed their heads and prayed.

Three teenagers sat next to me eating pizza. They talked occasionally, but their eyes did not connect across the table because all three were busy texting other people.

An elderly man sat alone at a table facing me. He ate his burger slowly as he stared out of the table without focus. I tried to keep my eyes on my book and away from his expression of morose. All of a sudden that expression changed and a sparkle nearly jumped out from his eye onto his French fries. I followed his gaze to an elderly heavy set woman wearing a red shirt and black apron. She’s holding a broom and sweeping debris from the floor into a dust bin. He said something to her that I couldn’t hear. It doesn’t matter. She smiled, and he picked up his burger, now smiling. They could be strangers flirting or a married couple together for decades. But what transpired between them was pure love.

The grandparents and their charges put their garbage in the trash. The teenagers pushed back their chairs to leave with pizza box intact upon the table. And the gentleman in front of me continued to sit at the table long after he finished his burger watching the woman sweeping the floor. I turned to my fortune cookie and decided it was time to read it.

“The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people,” I read.

In those around us, we see love, hate, happiness, unhappiness, peace, turmoil, courage, fear. No matter the words we spout, and the words landing on us, what we see with the blinders removed reveals more about the human condition than words exchanged over cell phones at the mall.

I could stay home when the urge hits me to go out into the world to see and save $4.99. I could turn on the television and watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Now that’s something to see, although the words not to be believed.