I get the photos into the computer and close in on the duck, which Meade calls a "mallard," and I resist. It's got that thing on the back of its head, that projection, like on a bike racer's helmet. And those white markings. Meade figures out it's a wood duck:
The Wood Duck is a medium-sized perching duck.... The adult male has distinctive multicoloured iridescent plumage and red eyes, with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colourful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.Crested! That's the word. Perching duck! I never knew of such a thing as a perching duck.
Unlike most other ducks, the Wood Duck has sharp claws for perching in trees... After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 88 m (290 ft) without injury. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 140 m (460 ft) away from the shoreline.Up to 460 feet? We're close to Lake Mendota, but not that close, so I guess they are only passing through, perching on our tree, perhaps to look out — with red eyes — over where the trees are by the lake and future ducklings can safely plop.
ADDED: Those ducks remind me of my own parents. Site the nest well, and that's the help. You're being watched, but from the start, you have the sense that you are on your own, making your way entirely by the exercise of your own powers. Self-reliance, by parental design, supervision, and restraint.