I set out early yesterday morning to try and beat the Texas summer heat in my quest to explore parks in the Houston area. My first stop was the Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park in the Westchase area. There is a large retention pond with an island in the middle and on this day the trees at the edge were filled with Grackles coming and going and making a racket. (Excuse the photo quality, these were taken over a significant distance.)
On closer inspection I discovered the cause of their concern.
Yep. Gator. Probably waiting for a fledgling Grackle to take a tumble.
On the west side of the pond a family of Black-bellied Whistling ducks was just setting off from the shore and headed to the island maybe for a little shade as the day was heating up early.
Then this happened halfway across the waterway. I noticed mom and dad stopped and their brood of 8 ducklings began swimming in another direction.
I thought to myself that the little guys may be exploring some freedom, exercising their freewill, setting off on their own just because they wanted to. Basically being rebellious as kids will tend to be. Then I noticed this back at the island.
Mr. Gator had dropped out of view. Mom and Dad's behavior began to make a lot of sense. They held their position as their ducklings paddled further from the unseen underwater danger and closer to the shore they had departed from minutes earlier.
When their babies were out of danger they rapidly caught up and began guiding them to a new refuge.
Lucky for me they got closer to where I was standing so I could get a better look at this family.
There was a hierarchy at work with the siblings.
The lead was clearly in charge when mom and dad gave them a little space. His/her neck held high and proud allowing for a clear view of the water ahead with the smallest of the brood right on his/her tail feathers. The last was the largest and had taken up a position of protection in the rear. So interesting to me. It's like they were playing mom and dad.
Again I apologize for the quality of the photos, but I couldn't resist sharing the story.