Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 8, 2016

The Mothering Instinct

We most naturally associate “mothering” as being something between a mother and her own offspring. The mothering instinct, though, extends beyond the mother’s connection to her own child.

We sometimes use the term in a pejorative sense when someone is guilty of simply doing too much of it (“Stop mothering me!”), but that’s not my subject here.

Instead, I want to salute two unsung mothers: one almost certainly the natural mother of the offspring involved, and another driven by that age-old instinct to take care of the little ones.

This story takes place on a busy Sunday afternoon in Long Beach, California, at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Loynes Avenue. I didn’t take a picture of the setting, because I was driving, and all six or seven lanes were packed with weekend traffic. Here’s the scene on a quiet day, courtesy of Google.

CA PCH at Loynes Dr

What if you were a mother taking your your children home from swimming at the pond that’s in the trees on the right? You’d have to cross that massive thoroughfare on a day when it was jam-packed with traffic. What if, on top of that, you were not only too short to activate the crossing signal, but unable to understand the system of lights? What if you were this mother?

IMG_3373 Duck crossing CU Brad Nixon

On that day, someone — certainly a mother at heart, if not in fact — saw mama duck and her 9 ducklings, stopped six lanes of traffic (!) and escorted them through the crosswalk while we (and several dozen other cars) waited at the light.

IMG_3373 Duck crossing Brad Nixon

Here’s to the Moms, everywhere, on Mother’s Day.

IMG_3374 Duck crossing Brad Nixon

Yes, all 9 made it. The surrogate mom herded them around the corner to the wheelchair cut-out in the curb. Who was she? Just a mom, doing what comes naturally.

© Brad Nixon 2016. PCH photo captured courtesy of Google®.


  1. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms! Very cute story.


  2. You should be submitting your photos to National Geographic. You always seem to be at the right place, at the right time. Congrats, again.


    • It was the eagle-eyed Counselor who spotted the action. I just happened to be on the right side of the car. No Nat Geo photog will admit to luck being part of the deal: it’s all about those years of preparation, training, research, etc. etc.


      • You have those, as your spectacular pix of New Mexico and other places can attest.


  3. Heart-warming story and pics. Made my morning.

    Liked by 1 person

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