Little Wildlife Dramas at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

A female mallard duck contemplates her next move when she lands in a small opening in the ice. How does she get out?

A visit to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Washington in late fall/early winter offers many surprises and little wildlife dramas.

For instance, I watched two female mallards come in for a landing on a small pond partially covered with thin ice. One of the ducks landed in the open water, but the other one landed in a small opening in the ice.  Now she was trapped by the ice. Unwilling or unable to fly up and over the ice to reach the open water, she kept watching for predators in the sky. I realized this duck was in a vulnerable position since she couldn’t quickly swim to the vegetation to hide if an eagle showed up.

Suddenly, she started using her chest to break through the ice. She looked like a little locomotive, breaking and pausing and surging forward to break more ice. Eventually, she reached open water and swam freely to the reeds.

After looking around warily for predators, such as the eagles that are seen on the refuge at this time of year, she started to break through the ice with her chest.


Free at last!


Shaking off the challenge of her morning!


The two females rest together in the relative safety of the marsh.

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