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Make way for ducklings, in West Lakes

Annie the Duck makes herself at home with the Bowmans

NORTH LIBERTY– In 1941, Robert McCloskey wrote and illustrated Make Way for Ducklings, a children’s picture book, which has become a time-honored classic and Caldecott Medal winner. The book tells the tale of a pair of ducks, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and their search for a home in Boston, culminating in a journey through the city’s streets with eight ducklings in tow.
At the Francis and Jolene Bowman residence in the West Lakes subdivision of North Liberty, Annie the Duck played out her own version of the story this spring. Annie started nesting in some tall ornamental grass alongside the Bowmans’ house a couple of years ago. This year, however, she moved into a large flowerpot on their deck and made it her home. Annie laid a dozen eggs, one per day, starting on April 2, and spent considerable time each day sitting on them to keep them warm and protect them from predators.
The couple gave her the name Annie, and the rarely seen male was named Ed.
“Good morning, Annie,” Jolene would say each morning when sipping her morning coffee out on the deck. Annie, she said, would look back at her, and seemed to know she was in the company of friends. “I guess she felt safe out there.”
Jolene did some research and discovered hatching day should be 28 days after the last egg was laid. On Saturday, May 16, she stepped outside with her coffee, expecting to tell Annie, “It’s hatching day!”
Instead, she was surprised to see the flowerpot empty but for the hole for the eggs, and egg shells. After a quick look around, she found Annie in the back yard with her little fluff-bottom ducklings close by on their way to the pond.
“It was like she was waiting to say goodbye,” Jolene said.
The journey from the deck to the pond had to be as perilous as Mr. and Mrs. Mallards’ trip, but instead of traffic, Annie’s brood had to contend with getting up and out of the flowerpot, a drop to the deck, and a series of steps down to the grass; surely a challenge for newly-hatched little quackers.
Soon after, Annie led her flock to the pond, and their new home. “We see them two or three times per day when she brings them out,” Jolene said noting there were only 10 spotted a few days later, leading to speculation of what might have happened to two of the ducklings. Perhaps a largemouth bass in the pond, or a bullfrog got them, or maybe, sadly, they just didn’t thrive.
“It was fun and amazing to watch,” Jolene said, “We felt privileged she chose us, and we will be on the lookout for her next year.”
Plans have already been made to make the flowerpot more comfortable for Annie if she should happen to return.
For all the doom, gloom, closures and cancellations during the ongoing virus scare, Bowman said Annie’s story was “a wonderful quarantine distraction,” and added, “This is one thing that was not canceled!”