Aaron Johnson, a correctional officer from Pikesville, wasn't exactly surprised to see seven newly hatched wild ducklings whizzing around his swimming pool this week.
After all, the mother hen and father drake have used his back yard pool as a haven the past two winters. And, he had seen the white-gray-and-brown mallard eggs in a nest beside the pool. Still, he was amazed.
"I've just sat here and watched them," he said yesterday. "They'll follow their mother around. They ride piggyback. They stick together."
Sometimes with the help of Mr. Johnson. When one duckling swam into the pool's filter, Mr. Johnson eased it back into the pool. "He went zooming back to the rest of them," Mr. Johnson recalled, laughing.
The little family lost a member last week. The drake flew off. The others remain, swimming happily
Professor Phillip D. Creighton, dean of the School of Science and Technology at Salisbury State University, said he has heard of mallards nesting in swimming pools, but never in a heavily suburban area such as Pikesville.
"I think that's really kind of interesting," said Dr. Creighton.
So does Mr. Johnson, who can't quite explain why the ducks chose his back yard for their nesting place.
"Somebody asked me: 'Are you sure they're not your pets?' " Mr. Johnson said, adding his reply. "No, they just took up residence here."
Since hatching on Wednesday, the ducklings have just about cleaned the patio and pool of insects but there's not enough such food for them to stay. Professor Creighton said it will be three to four weeks before the young birds can fly.
Mr. Johnson said he would ask the state Department of Natural Resources wildlife section to relocate the hen and ducklings. "They need to be somewhere where they have a lot more freedom," he said.
Until then, Mr. Johnson will watch the ducklings and wait for his turn in the pool.
"I wouldn't mind sharing it with them," he said. "But I think they would mind sharing it with me."