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It was a fabulous sunny day at last, and I knew I'd be inside all afternoon.  Fortunately, there was just enough time to hang out at a duck pond for a little bit.  The Palace of Fine Arts is a lovely building beside the road to the Golden Gate Bridge.  (You'll have to trust me on how lovely it is, because I neglected to take any photos this time.)  

I was not the only one who had that idea.

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Ring-necked Ducks relax under clear skies.

There were lots of gulls around, the resident swans, and a smattering of ducks and geese.  I often see ringnecks, but they're usually way out in the middle of a lake somewhere; getting up close and personal was a treat.

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The group from the first picture drifted across the water, in and out of shadows, creating patterns in the water's surface reminiscent of marbled paper.

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Continuing around the edge, I came across a truly squee-worthy scene - a mama mallard and her ten fuzzy, days-old ducklings.  Families walking past were quick to point out the baby ducks to their baby humans.

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Mom took them on a tour of their little corner of the lagoon and introduced them to one of the neighbors.  One duckling enthusiastically tried to climb the neighbor but didn't quite have the skill set.

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But there were a few dark clouds on the horizon on this sunny day.  If you've ever watched male mallards around females this time of year, you know... it's not a pretty sight sometimes.  They are, to say the least, aggressive in their, um, courtship.  Mom has spotted one coming her way and tries to tell him to back off.

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Within seconds, a group of five males is pursuing her, chasing her from the water and trying to mount her as she runs.  She manages to shake one off just long enough to take flight, with three others in hot pursuit.  Meanwhile, the ducklings are peeping away in the water, wondering what just happened.

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I was worried for them, but what's this - is help on the way?

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A pair of Canada Geese swim closer, perhaps attracted by all the peeping?  The female of the pair moved closer and swam next to the little cluster of ducklings.  Was it maternal instinct kicking in for close relatives?  Was she just curious about the commotion?  Who knows.

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But she stayed with them for a few minutes, only leaving when their mom finally returned.  Family at last safely reunited, it was time to resume their explorations.  This time, they were sticking very close to mom.

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Originally posted to lineatus on Sun Apr 22, 2012 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, Photography, Birds and Birdwatching, and Backyard Science.

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