Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to scare off a ducky duo??

These are not our ducks, but they could be.
The news of the Boston Marathon terrorism is engrossing and horrifying. Still, it's springtime, and events marking the season continue as a backdrop. For us, a frustrating minor distraction quacks.

When we bought our home in the Northwest 16 years ago, we had but a single day to make a choice, due to my husband's immediate new employment. We flew up from LA and our efficient realtor showed us homes in the order they met our criteria. We ended up purchasing the first one we saw. The only drawback: it happened to have a swimming pool.

We're not swimmers, and there's absolutely no need in the Northwest to have a pool, given that there's just three months--at best--of decent weather. Our hole in the ground has caused one in our wallet. I think the expense of each dip comes to something like $500.

We really should have filled in the pool years ago, but aside from the enormous expense, we had the erroneous fantasy that when our kids became teens, the pool would be a friend-magnet. The three times each one brought guests wasn't worth the ongoing need for maintenance and repairs that our pool-dominated yard required.

One pair of lovebirds, however, has greatly enjoyed our swimming pool, despite our crying fowl: mallard ducks that arrive every March or April to make themselves at home in and next to our pool, pooping and molting where they please for two or three months.

Our usual line of defense is to scare them off when we see them, which is whenever we look outside. We throw fir cones shed by our trees, though it takes really accurate pitches to convince them to flap away. They circle around in the air, before our eyes, and wait for us to go back inside, at which time they return to languishing in or near our pool.

We talk a lot about Duck a la Orange and making soup, though we obviously couldn't kill them in a way that's kosher. Our handyman, however, has brought out his bow and arrow and slingshot. The pair are unimpressed.

There's something almost human about the couple. They're clearly married, after all. I've never seen any ducklings, but if they have a nest, it's likely closer to the lake; we're their vacation home. They like to sleep by the concrete pool edge in the afternoons, just a couple feet from each other. I hadn't known that when ducks snooze, they kind of wad themselves up, tucking their heads and wings into a neat little one-legged ball.

One time my thrown fir cone scared them; the male flew above our deck railing but the female didn't quite make it and slammed into the wood. I felt badly; though part of me wanted to kill her, I didn't want to see her hurt. After all, she was in a romance, and I wouldn't want my hurling cone to create a mourning widower.

We usually try to put a plastic floating "solar cover" on the unheated pool, to make it less alluring, as soon as the ducks return. But last year's cover disintegrated; we better buy a new one, fast.

In the meantime, my son is developing his pitching arm, I run outside flailing and screaming at the haughty birds several times a day, and our pool is becoming less appealing for human use. If anyone has a nicely natural, non-toxic way to deter our part-time residents, please let me know.


  1. I really enjoy following you and your husband, however, I find your attitudes towards animals difficult to reconcile with my admiration for you in other ways. Could you please explain how you justify throwing objects at innocent animals, potentially injuring and inflicting harm on them? I can understand that the ducks are annoying, but, it is not fair to terrorize them. I have deer in my yard that eat my tomatoes. I would never think of scaring one or harming one physically.

    1. Mouna, The fir cones weigh a couple ounces at most, aren't sharp, and couldn't hurt them, even if they DID actually hit. The ducks are clearly not terrorized, because they still seem to think they own our backyard. Even if our noise-making inspires them to fly off (and it usually doesn't), they're back in a matter of minutes. That's why I wrote asking if anyone knows a non-harmful way to discourage their presence. One response suggested floating tennis balls in the pool. We're giving it a try, but so far, the ducks seem to think it's some new kind of amusement.