When I first saw the Mrs. though the window, and ran to get my camera, she was far back in the yard with web feet rooted while Night Duck strode forward toward the duck water pan and it's adjacent pile of bird seed with a glance back now and again to see if she was getting the idea.
By the time I got back with the camera, Mrs Night Duck had closed the distance and appeared to be heading for the drake.
Night Duck isn't looking all that happy that Mrs. Mallard is between he and I as opposed to he being between us. I decide I'll head towards the garden and stand behind the Milkweed, which will place him in the middle again. Not that they won't know I'm there but somehow they seem to feel better when there is some kind of barrier.
I round the corner of the garden and stop dead. Who should be grazing behind the mulch pile but one of the baby bunnies. I think we're up to nine now. This may even be Strawberry Bunny (And you wonder why the garden is fenced.) who has a tale all his own rather like Peter Rabbit. One day we'll get around to the Tale of Strawberry Bunny.
But the issue at this point is that if I hold to my plan, I have to get past little bunny. And likely little bunny will take off like a shot hippity hopping toward the spruce trees and in the meantime spread the panic to the ducks, who'll take to their wings, and that rather defeats the whole comfort plan.
I turn around and retrace my steps. Except this time I stand further back from the flower bed.
Drake doesn't notice at first but Hen does. As does the Mourning Dove and the squirrel who likely wonder why I'm acting so uncharacteristically furtive.
Night Duck then cares very much.
As does the Mrs.
Squirrel could care less and Mrs Night Duck takes the cue.
Part of the trick here, is not to cause the Mourning Dove or the squirrel to flush, which tends to cause everybody to flee. In this case of course the Dove and the squirrel are regular visitors who are used to me so likely Mrs. Mallard is taking their behavior as a partial clue to my possible identity as a non-predator.
But by the time I'd made it back to the front door, gone in, and am looking out the glass door in the back, everyone is gone.
Best laid plans and all that...
Then a day later, SURPRISE!! I look out and there they both are hunkered down under the feeder giving me a look...
They then go back to the business of eating which entails putting their bills to the ground near their bodies and sliding their bills forward "shoveling" whatever into their mouths. Bits fall out here and there.
The "bits" are the non-eatables. No they aren't sloppy eaters. They're very selective eaters.
It turns out that Mallards have a dozen or so receptors in their mouths which start "selecting" what is eatable and what is not. What is not is chucked out, as the mouthful travels from the front to the back of the mouth.
Without having fingers to do the selecting, while having eyes in the sides of your head which makes seeing what your bill is shoveling in not all that stellar, it makes perfect sense.
Evolution is a wonder.