I have been eagerly waiting the chance to get a close up photo of the ducklings who first appeared on the canal a couple of weeks ago.
The weather, work, health and elusive ducklings conspired to make me wait. But yesterday, I saw my first duckling up close – and spent half an hour in its company as my partner and I protected it from a cat.
The duckling first caught our attention as it was pecked by a duck. It soon seemed clear there was a case of maternal mistaken identity as the duckling was rejected from the group. After several attempts, it scrabbled up the canal bank.
It settled down in the grass, panting as it recovered from its attack. I kept far enough away to avoid scaring it, and listened to its heartbreaking cheeps, calling for its mum.
After a while, it stopped cheeping so I offered it some porridge oats to give it some energy. Even after my partner mixed them with water, the duckling ignored them – though started cheeping again after a short rest, sounding tired.
I couldn’t leave the duckling, particularly after we spotted two cats lurking, so I sat back and took photos, hiding it from view as best I could.
After a while, another couple came along the canal. They seemed similarly entranced by the duckling as we were so we left them on duckling-guarding duty as we went in search of its mum (as recommended by Google after searching for what to do with a lost duckling. Apparently, ducklings should be given an hour to reconnect with their family before being moved.)
It was only when we were about ten minutes away from the duckling that I realised a problem with this plan. I do not speak duck. Neither does my partner. Asking every duck we passed if she’d lost a baby seemed rather a long shot.
Then we came across a particularly noisy duck, with brood of ducklings around the same age as the one we’d found.
She seemed as vocal as the chick so we urged her in the right direction with bird feed. Herding ducks is not easy – particularly when accompanied with ducklings but she eventually started swimming in the right direction.
On our way back along the canal later, there was no duckling and no sign of feathers or anything else that suggested a bad end. I like to think that the duckling found its mum (though I’d have settled for keeping the duckling safe in a box with a hot water bottle, towel and saucer full of pebbles and water if I had to. Not that I did any research, ‘just in case’, of course. ..)