A wildlife experience in Phoenix

This past weekend, we discovered a mother duck and nine ducklings swimming in our community pool. Mama duck could easily jump out of the pool, but a neighbor said he’d been watching them for two hours and the ducklings weren’t able to get out.

He built a little ramp by turning over a few small plastic tables and the pool net. After searching in our garage for something else that might work, we found a piece of bendable foam my husband had used for camping years earlier. We placed it near one set of the steps and sat on the opposite end of the pool to watch.

Mama duck swam around the pool with her little ducklings following her and occasionally she’d lead them to the end of the pool and jump out and walk around squawking and a few of the ducklings would pop out of the water, but they couldn’t pop up high enough.

Then she’d get back in and swim around in the water, followed by the ducklings.

We thought we’d try to help guide them to the stairs to see if they would walk up the ramp. So our duck rescue team (me and my 10-year-old and 8-year-old sons) split up on three different sides of the pool to see if the ducks would move away from us and toward the corner of the pool with the steps and the ramp. Sometimes the Mama Duck would squawk at one of us if we got too close, as she was naturally being protective of her ducklings.

I called a wildlife rescue organization to see if they could give us any tips on what to do and left a message on their voicemail.

Finally the ducks made it to the corner near the ramp and after swimming underneath the slope of the ramp, one of them made it to the top and out of the pool. Then another then another, until seven ducklings were out of the pool and their mom headed toward one of the gates and they all waddled after her and through the gate.

Mama Duck & seven ducklings leave the pool.

We were so excited, cheering for the duck and her ducklings until we realized that there were still two left in the pool. “How can the mother leave them?!” my 8-year-old crushingly asked. We watched her go through the gate and waddle down the sidewalk. “Wait, there are still two in the pool,” we called out, as if the duck could understand English.

Now what do we do?

We couldn’t just leave the two ducklings in the pool, but every time we got close to the side of the pool near them, they dove underwater and quickly swam away. It surprised me how quickly they could swim. I wish I took a video because it was so fascinating watching those cute tiny creatures speeding around underwater. When their mom was there, they quietly bobbed up and down on the surface of the water, but on their own they flew underwater.

Occasionally they swam into the skimmer. Whenever that happened, my 10-year-old would tap on the lid of the skimmer so they would swim back out.

We discussed getting some kind of vessel where we could scoop them out of the water so the 10-year-old ran back to the house to get a large plastic container. My youngest decided it would be more helpful to get in the water so he walked in fully dressed to try to coax the ducklings to the corner of the pool.

Eventually they made it over to the ramp. One walked across it and back into the water. Both went underneath the slope and then finally one went up the ramp and out of the pool – and then ran under some bushes and disappeared. Meanwhile the Mama Duck was nowhere to be seen, but there was a possibility that the duckling would find her because it was in the same general direction she went.

We turned our attention to the lone duckling in the pool. Poor little thing, he was probably so scared, darting around the pool, but we couldn’t just leave him trapped in the pool so we decided to try to get him to the side so we can scoop him out. He swam into the skimmer again and this time the 8-year-old was in the water so he held up the plastic container and the 10-year-old tapped on the cover and the duckling swam right into the container. We lifted the container out of the water and gently tipped it so the duckling could get out. He ran out and fell on his back on the rocks. We gently helped him turn over and he ran into the bushes – in the opposite direction of where his mom went.

My youngest son was crushed – apparently he was already formulating plans about keeping him as a pet. We searched through the bushes to see if we could see either of them.

The wildlife organization called back and left a message – the advice was to try shooing the mother duck away then scoop up the ducklings and bring them to their facility. But it was too late, as we had no idea what happened to the two lost ducklings.

The next morning, there was a male and female duck swimming in the pool with two ducklings. I headed to the garage for the “ramp” and the older ducks flew off when I opened the pool gate. I set up the ramp and left the pool area, in hopes that the adult ducks would return. They returned a few minutes later, although the colorful male duck didn’t stay very long.

We found out later that morning from another neighbor that she had discovered the two ducklings in one of the skimmers the night before and turned the skimmers off so they wouldn’t get hurt then found them with the adult ducks in the morning.

Could it be that they two lost ducklings were reunited and headed back into the pool to wait for their mom? We decided that it must be the case and were relieved the ducklings were OK. But they still couldn’t get out of the pool.

I returned to the pool area with my duck rescue team (they were on spring break) and we again tried our method of coaxing the ducks to the stairs/ramp but they seemed to prefer hanging out in the deep end. So this time we moved the ramp to that side of the pool (with the Mama Duck squawking if we got too near). We sat quietly on the other end of the pool deck and waited. Eventually the two ducklings got on the ramp and walked off with their Mama Duck into the bushes.

We haven’t seen them since, but we hope they all live happily ever after.

Compared to wildlife stories of coyotes and javalinas in the Greater Phoenix area, this one may not seem so wild, but it did make for a memorable spring break experience.

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