Almost a year ago to the day I sat near the confluence within Sunset Bay and feasted my eyes upon that for which spring is well known: new life at White Rock Lake. That cloudy, dreary morning yielded the discovery of mallard ducklings foraging in and out of the water as attentive parents remained vigilant and watchful.
What a marvelous joy that experience was. Each child no larger than my hand, each unsteady on still new legs, each curious and rambunctious yet immediately responsive to the calls of their mother or father.
Then last Saturday as I roamed along the north shore of the bay in front of where the Dreyfuss Club once stood, I spied a mated pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) slowly moving about in the shallows and alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides). With them a veritable flotilla of tiny ducklings dashed between plants nibbling on anything and everything that caught their attention.
Smaller than their predecessors a year ago, these tiny lives measured no larger than the palm of my hand, hatchlings as entertaining as they were clumsy. But they certainly could swim with relative ease—so long as they didn’t try mixing it with any other activity, I mean.
Mother and father remained close at all times, splitting up when their brood spread out too much and drifting side by side when the whole family converged in one place. Both of them kept a close eye on me the whole time as I followed along the shore while they slowly made their way northward.
Unfortunately, I spent more time oohing and aahing, cooing and snickering than I did taking photos. My attention remained on the antics of these wee tots, on the commendable awareness and attentiveness of the parents.
Mind you, even if I had focused more on photography and less on observation, the constant motion and weaving in and out from between aquatic plants would have made my job all the more difficult. The ducklings virtually disappeared each time they paddled through the next bunch of leaves and stalks. From time to time the only indication I had as to their whereabouts came from a tiny beak popping up amidst the flora in an attempt to nibble something well out of reach for one so small.
Passing from cover to cover offered the only clear views I would get. And when the group spread out too much, I simply found myself overwhelmed trying to appreciate the whole of the scene rather than individual pieces of it. There are times when it’s simply more important to appreciate the cuteness and splendor of such moments than to try vainly to memorialize it with a camera.
Not wanting to pressure these loving parents too much, I stood back and let them herd the group further along the shore, further away from me on their morning quest.
Ah, the marvels borne of spring.