I had the good fortune to have front row seats to a pair of mallards coupling in the water, as I lay in my hammock last week. It was a hot, steamy day, and any movement, even sitting on the lawn weeding, seemed to bring on a sweat! I decided to lie in my cool new hammock in the shade instead, listening to an audiobook. I felt completely enclosed in a cocoon of green (trees and fabric), and decided to peep out over the side when I heard a lonesome 'quack.'
A male, with his deep green iridescent head, and a female, were swimming towards each other, as if at a pre-arranged time and location - in front of me! She lowered her head, elongating her neck just along the surface of the water, in a very suggestive pose (for a mallard, I guess). He knew exactly how to respond, stretching his neck out in the same way. She was still, almost as if stalking something, when he climbed onto her back and waggled his tail back and forth a few times. I think her lowering her head and extending her neck stretched her body out and down to an easy height for him to mount. It wasn't ungainly at all, and it didn't look as if he was trying to drown her either!
They swam off together into the shade on the other side of the cove. The male got out and rested on the earth bank while the female continued swimming and foraging in the water. They stayed together for quite some time, as a couple relaxing together.
A few days later, we watched a mallard pair waddle like stiff wooden floats up our lawn, surveying 'their' domain, when a mother duck came onto the scene with her 7 ducklings. The male and female stopped moving, watching and waiting while the family did their exploration, unchallenged. The male had gone down low into the grass, resting on his body, while the female stood upright, her legs visible, but still. They only moved again when the mom and her babies had returned to the water's edge. I imagined it was a little like the "women and children first," code of conduct.