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June 2005


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Tom Barber <[log in to unmask]>
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Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 4 Jun 2005 08:44:37 -0400
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I was just south of the Ethan Allen Homestead in the Burlington Intervale when a hen wood duck hastely led her young from a small wooded swamp, across an area of open water, into a larger area of cattail marsh. As they disappeared from views there was a commotion at the edge of the open water by the swamp. Out burst a hen mallard leading a line of chicks, perhaps only a few days old. She shooed them into the cattails where the wood duck had gone and then turned and headed back towards the woods, squawking loudly. Out of the woods in front of her burst two otters, and as they came at her, she turned at right angles from where her chicks had gone and began paddling or sculling with her wings. 

The otters followed, sometimes swimming, sometimes bounding over clumps of grass. They nearly got the mallard several times, but she kept just ahead of them, flying a few yards at a time and then swimming or sculling, all the while creating quite a racket. She led the otters for nearly 50 yards through the water and grass and then took flight back to the open water. 

The noise attracted two pairs of mallards from the cattail marsh. They flew up sharply and splashed down in the open water. Now these five mallards, all squawking and beating their wings, patrolled the open water. Twice the hen and one of the pairs took flight and circled over the marsh. 

This went on for about 15 minutes. The two pairs eventually flew off in different directions, leaving the hen alone. She began softly quacking and swimming back and forth from the woods where she had first emerged to the place where her young had gone. 

I never saw the young again. Now nearly a half hour after it all started, the hen flew off away from the marsh. 

Tom Barber