The other day we decided to clear a path to Richard's pond and then teach the ducks to use it. They're usually pretty good about stuff like that. Once one of them has figured it out she'll lead the others, and pretty soon they'll all be able to go there on their own. Not that they ever do anything on their own. Usually one of the females gets an idea in her head and quacks and honks and pesters the others until they all come out from under the porch and do what she wants. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.
So I took chainsaw in hand and cut out the scrubby little trees blocking the path to the pond. Then Lori cleaned it up with the loppers, enough so they wouldn't trip going through it. They trip over their feet a lot. One of those big old feet will get hung up on something and then Wham!...the duck will land on its chin. I assume they don't like that...I know I wouldn't...so we tried to make the path as duck-friendly as possible so they'd be more inclined to use it.
Once it was clear enough we started moving them towards it. First, with the help of Katie and Dane, we managed to get them walking in that direction. Almost always when we try to make them go in a certain direction, they act like we're herding them to a slaughterhouse. They quack furiously and run in 10 different directions looking wild-eyed and frantic. Then they regroup somewhere else in the yard and quack indignantly for a few minutes before they get back to hunting for worms and forget why they were so pissed off.
So we herded them towards the path: across the yard, around the woodpile, through the break in the trees. We were hoping that when they saw the water they'd go Yay! Water! But no. They acted like they were on the Bataan Death March. Any time one of them spotted a break in our circle around them, they'd run furiously towards it. Dane was definitely our weakest link. He must have thought that this was the kind of outing you see on National Geographic shows where the skinny boys in loin clothes casually guide a thousand ducks to the village market. No. This was full-contact duck herding.
We manged to get seven of them down to the pond and the other three followed behind, bitching furiously. We herded our seven right to the water's edge and then nudged them into the pond, where they clustered 6 inches from the shore in 2 inches of water, acting like they were standing in a vat of hydrochloric acid. Finally, after a lot of idiotic looking flapping and yelling on our part, they paddled out 2 feet and huddled together, eating weeds and eyeing us distrustfully.
Did I mention that during this process Lori and I both slipped and fell in the mud, then slid into the pond? We did.
Finally, with the ducks bobbing peacefully a foot from shore, we headed for home. They bobbed another 5 minutes or so, just to prove we ain't the boss of 'em, then followed. Since then they've wandered down the hill a couple of times, but I haven't seen them get in the water. Instead, they wander around Richard's field looking for worms, exactly the way they wander around our field, then they come home and jump into their kiddie pool in the yard.