Let me start by saying that we don’t have a duck pond. We have a lake. Lake Champlain.
And although it pains me slightly to say it, we also don’t have any ducks. Not personally, at least. Lake Champlain, on the other hand, has plenty of ducks. And when the lake freezes and the ducks run out of water to swim and eat, we offer them a small “duck pond” in front of Rosslyn boathouse to tide them over until spring. Or at least that’s our current practice.
In the Beginning…
The origin of our “duck pond” is less duck-centric. When we purchased Rosslyn in the summer of 2006 the boathouse perilously teetering on a failing timber and stone crib. The whole peninsular folly was one ice flow away from the grave. In fact, all four buildings were suffering the advanced stages of disrepair. We had to prioritize our attentions that first winter, and the house won out. In the hopes of preserving the boathouse until we could begin rehabilitation, we purchased an Ice Eater to reduce ice damage. It was a long shot. But it worked. The Ice Eater agitated the water at the end of Rosslyn boathouse, preventing ice from forming. It also created a perfect refugee for the ducks. (And the hawks and eagles, but that story for another day…)
The following winter my bride (and many of our new neighbors) insisted that we install the Ice Eater again to ensure that the ducks would have open water. I obliged. Despite the fact that the boathouse now how a solid foundation and is [hopefully] less likely to succumb to ice damage, we continue to maintain a winter “duck pond” each year.
2015 Ice Eater Foibles
Unfortunately in late January pack ice was blown into shore clogging the Ice Eater and eventually sheering both of the propeller blades that agitate the water to prevent freezing. Temperatures were bitterly cold and the lake froze sans “duck pond”. My bride and I were out of town at the time, but concerned messages began to fill my email account.
“Since George has not installed his bubbler this year the Essex ducks are cooperating to keep a pond churned with 100 constantly circling webbed feet. Their pond is a few hundred feet north of George’s boathouse…” ~ S. B.
“Greetings from ‘cool’ Essex. All those mallards are hoping you will turn on your bubbler as the ice is closing in on them and they really don’t want to leave. I was surprised to find them in my yard under the oak tree eating acorns a couple of afternoons. Never knew that could be part of their diet…” ~ D. L.
Reopening the Duck Pond
I ordered a replacement propeller for the Ice Eater and hustled home to make repairs. By the time I arrived the lake had tightened up (regional expression for frozen solidly) except for the ferry channel where the ducks were congregating, flying up with the comings and goings of the ferry, and then settling back down into the frigid water.
Doug assisted me in repairing the Ice Eater and breaking a small hole in the ice, not much larger than those used by ice fishermen. We suspended the Ice Eater in the hole and plugged it it. It whirred to life, pumping a steady stream of warmer water from the bottom up onto the ice. Within hours the hole had grown large enough to attract some of the ducks. Over the next few days the churning water swelled the hole larger and larger, finally expanding the open water enough to once again qualify as our “duck pond”. As I write this post, literally hundreds of ducks are bobbing wing to wing, beaks into the wind.
That’s the good news.
Can you anticipate the bad news?