BANGOR, Maine — Debbie Currier looked a little bored as she shopped the lawn and garden section Tuesday at The Home Depot in Bangor, until she turned a corner and saw something afowl.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Currier. “Am I really seeing what I’m seeing?”
“We get that a lot,” said Brenda Hatch, who works in Home Depot’s lawn and garden section.
Surrounded by hostas, impatiens and Miracle-Gro potting mix sat a female mallard atop a nest containing seven eggs. The scene — cordoned off by strips of yellow tape and overshadowed by a sign that says “Please do not disturb the duck” — represents an unprecedented chance to see a nesting duck from only a few feet away, but if you want to touch her you’ll have to get through Hatch first.
Hatch feeds the duck every morning and brings her water twice a day. In the morning, the duck sometimes follows Hatch around as she waters plants and restocks shelves. Sometimes when Hatch goes too close, the duck puffs up and starts breathing hard. And once in a while, the feathered fowl lashes out, nipping Hatch with her bill.
“When she does that I just say, ‘Now you stop that,’ and she puts her head right down,” said Hatch. “My father used to raise ducks, but I could never get this close to them.”
The duck showed up about three weeks ago. At first it just walked around until it found a suitable row of shelving to build a nest on. According to Hatch, the same duck came around last year but store employees put her in a box before she laid eggs and relocated her to Bucksport. As it turns out, though, the duck prefers a retail setting.
“She came back this year and laid eggs in the same aisle where we found her last year,” said Hatch. “We try not to disturb her. She’s wild.”
The duck hardly moves as customers file past, snap pictures and remark about how remarkable she is. Every morning she takes off through the open ceiling of the lawn and garden section, but returns within an hour.
So what’s her name?
“One manager calls her Paulette, another calls her Rosie and another calls her Daffy,” said Hatch. “I don’t think she likes Daffy.”
Hatch just calls the duck “the duck.”
A game warden who visited the scene said ducklings have an incubation period of three to four weeks, which according to Hatch’s calculations means the eggs are nearly ready to hatch. One person suggested that if the duck returns next year, dropping one of the first-laid eggs on the floor might cause her to choose another nesting area.
“I’m not going to do that,” said Hatch. “I’m not going to let anyone else do that, either.”
As many as 20 people a day visit the store just to see the duck — a number that spiked on Tuesday when the Bangor Daily News published a photograph. Ducks near humans aren’t completely unheard of, according to reader comments about the photo. A duck nested this spring under some stairs used by third-graders at the Weatherbee School in Hampden. According to Susan Carpenter, a secretary at the school, 10 ducklings hatched from nine eggs (twins!) last week. Mother duck and the ducklings walked across school property toward water and haven’t been seen since.
Jim Bishop of Bangor spent a few minutes watching the Home Depot duck Tuesday before continuing his shopping. He was philosophical about the experience.
“The intersection between this absolutely commercial enterprise with the wilds tucked right into it is amazing,” said Bishop. “I’m not sure what that says, but it encourages me.”
Scott Haskell of the BDN staff contributed to this report.