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On Duck Patrol

Background: The worst flooding in over a century hit the Haliburton Highlands where our cottage is located on the Drag River. In late April and early May, the Drag was a raging torrent and up 5 feet above normal height. Fortunately, all we lost was an old dock which, compared to people whose basements became quagmires and could only canoe down their streets, that is pretty minor.  I write a regular article in the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust newsletter. The following is from my latest column.
Two weeks ago, I stood where our dock used to be.
Drag River where dock used to be
Drag River where dock used to be

I ignored the swarm of blackflies as I watched a solitary male mallard duck skim the far side of Drag River. The flood was receding so he was not bumping his iridescent green head on overhanging branches. I was happy for him but I had to wonder: where was Mrs. Mallard? Guarding the nest?

Then I wondered: what nest?

Did the flood take out their ‘family home’? Were eggs or hatchlings swept away? Was Mrs. Mallard lost? Good grief, I thought. What are the effects of high water and flooding on waterfowl habitats?


I checked out the info on the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website and it was as I assumed. Mallards – along  with lots of other waterfowl – tend to nest in or near wetlands or close to riverbanks. Those same wetlands and  riverbanks were profoundly affected by the high waters so my concern about Mrs. Mallard and her nestlings was not misplaced.

I can only imagine how devastating the flood was to businesses, home owners and cottagers this spring. Our trips into Minden were constant reminders of how wide-ranging those effects were. But it isn’t just humans that have their daily lives upended by natural disaster. Changing the shoreline, flooding and erosion – through nature or human interference – all have consequences. Because our human world is so closely tied to our natural world, we would be wise to remember and value all the residents of the Haliburton Highlands.

In the weeks since I last saw my lone duck, there’s been no sign of Mrs. Mallard and her kids. But I’m hopeful. After all, nature can be both terrible and amazing – time and again, all of us animals have shown our resilience.

So I’m betting on amazing. How about you?

Photo Credits:

Drag River where Dock Used to be: Linda Morrison Jones, Whitby, Ontario

Mallard Duck: Alain Carpentier http://alaincarpentier.com/


2 thoughts on “On Duck Patrol

  1. I share your concerns, Ruth. Natural disasters are inevitable, but all wildlife suffer for it. It was heartening today to see in my town four lanes of traffic halt while a pair of Canada Geese led their young family across a main thoroughfare. One of the chicks was noticeably smaller than the other five. Mama Goose bumped her/him up onto the curb with her beak. Heartwarming.

    Sometimes we can only be observers.

    1. Thanks Mary. Such a sweet story — love how we can be kind to nature. If only we could be so more often. :)

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