Sunday, April 28, 2024

When Ducks Take Up Residence In Your Pool

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 29, 2024] ©2024

Every spring I conduct what I call a Preemptive Rodential Offensive, denuding my orange tree of 700+ oranges to avert our annual summer rat invasion. A rat accompli, the only fauna I then have to deal with are our aviary birds and our dog, Lily. 

That was until my husband remarked, “Do you hear quacking?”  We’ve lived in our house for decades and had never had a single duck in our pool, but suddenly a mallard pair, whom we dubbed Quick and Quack (a nod to NPR), decided to make our pool their personal lake.

At first we were totally charmed by them.  Ducks!  How fun!  But by day three we couldn’t help but notice that our pool area and pool were sporting alarming amounts of duck excrement giving new meaning to the term “poop deck.”  With regret, I called a local wildlife agency for advice about their relocation.

I quickly discovered that wildlife agencies see ducks differently than pool-owners.  My wildlife person surmised that they had created a nest somewhere in our back yard.  What luck! she said.  Baby ducks are so cute! 

I nervously inquired about the gestation for duck eggs. Twenty-nine days, she said.  I thought I could probably live with 29 days of ducks until she added, “and then another ten weeks until they can fly.”  Definitely, she says, have to keep the dog out of the back yard once the baby ducks are born.  And btw, we’ll need to put a wood plank at the shallow end of the pool so the baby ducks can get out. 

I said, what if the grandchildren want to come and swim?  And she said, “Oh, they’ll just LOVE the baby ducks!”  One got the impression she was seriously focused on the innate adorableness of infant avians and not on (1) we have a duckling-eating dog who is not amused by intruders in her personal space (2) we have a lawn maintenance service with loud mowers incompatible with baby ducks and (3) we (sort of) have a life. 

At first the wildlife lady had an ally in Olof who was totally into the whole miracle of birth thing.  That was until he heard that a typical clutch is 12-13 ducklings.  Even he had to admit that 15 ducks pooping in our pool for ten weeks was going to be a biohazard from which we were not likely to recover.  It was also mentioned that once you make them feel at home they come back every year in perpetuity.

When the pool guy showed up a week later he nearly collapsed on the pool deck weeping when he saw the pool.  Ducks, he maintained, are harder to get rid of than herpes.

“Can you actually get rid of herpes?” I said.

“No!” he practically sobbed.  “And you can’t get rid of ducks either!”

He’d had two other clients with “duck issues” in which they’d tried everything under the sun (other than a .22).  Makes the pool very hard to clean not to mention extremely unappetizing to swim in.  He said we’d look back on the rats as good news. 

It appeared after two weeks that the ducks didn’t actually have a nest here; they just liked the locale.  I quickly learned that we are hardly the first people in La Jolla to have this problem.  No less than the pricey piscine of the venerable Beach and Tennis Club has been mallardially-afflicted in the past. 

The internet was full of duck eradication ideas, like buying a six-foot-long plastic alligator pool toy to float on the pool.  But this suggestion was followed by 24 posts of “Doesn’t work” and even one photo of ducks floating on the alligator.

Many of the suggestions required crisscrossing the pool with fishing line or rope so that the ducks couldn’t access the pool.  But you can’t either.  Dozens of other non-lethal suggestions involved bright shiny objects, fake snakes, a product called King’s Duck Solution (“ a secret blend of herbs and spices that will naturally remove ducks” but probably contains strychnine), and even hiring a falconer.  I had a feeling the falconer was out of our price range.

Ultimately I went low tech:  the hose.  At first I just sprayed a shower in their direction but they just swam over and preened themselves in it, as if to say, “OK, a little to the left.”  So I turned it to jet mode and directed it as close to them as possible without actually hitting them. (We were treating them no differently than we do house guests who overstay their welcome.)  They took off immediately but I heard telltale quacking ten minutes later.  They seem to be reappearing less and less, however; days go by that we don’t see them.  In some ways we’ll miss them.  But we have a whole lot of duck poop on the deck to remember them by.

Making themselves right at home

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