January 11th, 2008



I stood with the owner, looking at his swimming pool. Bobbing in the centre of the pool was a pacific black duck and five ducklings. "I don't mind them," said Mr White. "It's just that there's a cat next door and I don't want it to get the babies."

"The other problem is that the ducks are vegetarian," I said. "And there is a serious lack of pond weeds in your pool."

He looked at the sparkling blue water. "Yes. I suppose the chlorine won't do the ducks any good, too."

"No." I hoisted the leaf net and considered the strategy. The plan was to catch one duckling, hassle it a little to make it peep so that the mum tries to rescue it, then net the mum while she was distracted. After that we could just scoop the little duckies in the net. As it turned out the capture was much easier. As soon as I entered the pool enclosure she huffed at me and put herself between me and the ducklings. I tried to get closer, she swam at me, and I dropped the net over her. The next 30 seconds were filled with much spashing, flapping and quacking, then suddenly I was drenched and holding a very grumpy duck. I put her in the box and stood back. She called and the raft of ducklings in the centre of the pool swam over.

I moved the net into place and the duckings immediately dived under water, scattering in a starburst formation you usually see at air shows. They popped to the surface and gathered in a raft. After a few more attempts I realized this wasn't going to work. The next time they dived I chased one underwater with the net, so that as the duck popped to the surface the net rose up around it. Fifteen minutes later I had a box full of duck and duckings.

I took them to various places along the river but it was full of kids escaping the heat. In the end I drove to Butlers Falls reserve 10km out of town. I carefully tipped the box onto its side, opened a door and waited. A few seconds later the duck came out and looked around. She gave me a dirty look and made a soft "Kwit kwit kwit!" noise. The ducklings came out of the box and flollowed her into the river. Two minutes later they were lost in the willows on the opposite bank.

I love rescues like this.