Today Has Given Me The Bird

muscovy ducklingsThey look so innocent, don’t they, this group of Muscovy ducklings snuggled up in their nest, but getting them there was far from a jolly jaunt.

Mother duck had decided to lay her clutch of eggs in the woodpile by the top pond so had to be protected from the rain by laying a tarpaulin over her and her eggs. She would emerge once a day, puffed up and ready for aggro, to bully all the other ducks off their food and then would return to her bijou residence, rolling the eggs under her to give an even heat to all parts.

Yesterday we noticed that she had hatched a chick or two…but raking her from her nest revealed more eggs unhatched, so we left her in peace until today, when we meant to capture the chicks in a bucket and take them – with mother following – to an enclosed pen to keep them save from snakes and other predators.

But the best laid plans, as we know, gang aft agley.
Going up with the bucket at six o’clock this morning…no sign of mother or of ducklings, through three unhatched eggs lay abandoned in the nest.

No sign of them on the top pond.
No sign of them under the orange trees where the scent of the blossom hung heavy in the moist air.
No sign further down the slope past the bananas…nor among the mango trees…
Nor in the papyrus where the vile curses consequent upon slipping on the greasy slope would have raised the dead…
Not even in the clump of bamboo.

Mother duck had decided to take her babies on the long march to the tilapia ponds below, where she and six assorted ducklings were disporting themselves among the water plants which cover the surface to protect the young fish from the attention of herons.
Beautiful birds, herons….but decidedly in the Billy Bunter school where it comes to fish.

A pretty sight…but from experience with baby ducks disaster would not be long in coming. These babies tire easily and are too small to clamber out of the water up sheer sides without the help which mother cannot give.
Cold and tired, they drown.
When we lived in France a river ran through the garden and, year after year, we would spot tiny yellow dots on the water from our windows or the balcony and have to go rushing down with landing nets to try to rescue them from the current before they were swept away.
No current in the tilapia ponds, just the slow surge of water through the network of pipes, but the babies had to be brought to land.

The person who had dug the ponds had had no idea that one might need to remove ducklings from same, so the pond they were occupying was too wide to enable access to the middle – where, of course, as soon as danger threatened, mother had taken her babies.
One at each side our arms would not reach, though mother certainly reached our outstretched hands with her beak, leaving several small intensely purple bite marks as souvenirs.
We went one side, she went the other, the babies bouncing through the leaves in her wake.

Monty the lamb, fascinated by the activity, stopped eating the palms and attempted a flank attack which ended in mother attacking all parties with beak and claw and Monty having to be hauled from the water and confined to barracks.
His plaintive bleats accompanied the rest of proceedings, backed at a distance by the matriarch of the flock with her fog horn bellow that made one think more of the Muckle Flugga than Santiago de Puriscal.

What to do?
We needed a greater reach.
Higher Authority went off and returned with a remnant of galvanised roofing sheet which was laid out springboard fashion over the pond with about half its length on the ground alongside and propped on two poles crossed under it for support.
Higher Authority went to the opposite side where he crouched, wicket keeper fashion, ready to gather the ducklings who would be fleeing Scylla only to fall into the clutches of Charybdis.
I lay down on the roofing sheet and edged forward: the poles came apart, avoirdupois had its way and I fell in.
The ducklings rose in a wave of yellow fluff and were neatly caught by Higher Authority who headed off for the pen with injunctions to me to hurry up and follow.

Feeling like and probably resembling Grendel’s mother and with similar thoughts in mind, I did so and was rewarded by the sight of mother and babies happily tucked up in the warm, safe from harm.

I was heading for the shower when the barking of dogs announced a visitor.

You have to hand it to the man from ICE ( the electricity board whose acronym accurately describes its speed of action).
Faced with a sopping householder he did not turn a hair.
He greeted me politely and informed me that he was part of the team doing the study for the power installation for the new house up on the hill.
He had something to tell me.

There would be a delay in the works.

How so?

Well, they had thought to use the wooden post already in place on the roadside.

And now you can’t?

No. It’s been hollowed out by woodpeckers….

47 thoughts on “Today Has Given Me The Bird”

  1. You are a good woman to subject yourself to pond submersion in order to rescue those ducklings. That has to bring good Karma back to you in the future. 🙂

    1. Something about that particular pong, isn’t there….persistent is the word for it.

      No, no mention of confit, oranges or capers …they are as yet too small….

  2. So let me see if I got this right…you plopped into the pond and the resultant bow wave washed the ducklings to safety? Hehehe…don’t worry, I won’t go there.

    The notion of ducks drowning seems just wrong, like birds suffering from acrophobia or worms crushed by dirt. I was happy you rescued them. You should design a duck-saving costume and recreate the adventure for film. I’m quite sure it would be a summer blockbuster and give Spiderman a run for his money.

    Great story, told supremely well.

  3. You tell a mean tale, Helen. It was thoroughly entertaining. What would you do without your menagerie to keep you occupied?! 🙂

  4. I was going to say you had a ‘ducking’ there but I will avoid that.

    What a lovely tale, adventure, humour and Higher Authority working in the same caring manner as always. Brightened up my morning.
    There is a strange aroma hanging around now however, I wonder where that came from…

  5. …and I thought I had it bad dealing with a couple of delinquent Labradors! Mind you, winter past was probably as wet as your pond! As an ex-structural thingy I could have told you the springboard contraption wouldn’t have worked – had you but asked 😀 .

  6. Hello Helen,

    What fun we have had in reading this! Yes, we can picture it all, in part due to the fact that in our Herefordshire days we often found ourselves doing something similar. In our case it was to rescue Pheasants caught in the stream when waster levels would rise so quickly that they did not have time to leave their nests. Not known for brains, Pheasants!

    It is so true that ducks make very bad mothers. They often seem to lead their offspring into dangerous situations and then abandon them without so much as a backwards wiggle. So strange. But, how lovely that you were on hand to come to the rescue.

    1. Do you think that politicians are the result of genetic modification trials involving pheasants?

      I agree…ducks make terrible mothers…..and no sign of remorse either!
      We did not have pheasant problems, but the guinea fowl we had in France certainly seemed to have a death wish…we used to keep a landing net by the bridge to the islands to scoop out the latest one to try and fail to fly over. The chickens just used to walk across the bridge…

  7. Somehow this story strikes me as something out of one of a fairy tale – possibly one of those fairy tales you’re rather glad not to be in 🙂 I hope that one of the ducks granted you three wishes.

  8. The things you do to get out of mending sheets Helen!
    Loved it – looking forward to the next chapter in the Life of a Band of Costa Rican Muscovites. 😉

    1. Sheets versus a ducking in the pond…choices, choices, and none of them good!
      They are all as happy as Larry this morning…but I still smell a faint odour of mud…

    1. Laugh away…I’d have laughed too if I had been a spectator…first hauling Monty out and then descending into the mud face first like the old BBC shot of the late Queen mother launching a liner..’.there she goes, the whole vast bulk of her…’

  9. I think it was a noble gesture on your part to sacrifice so much to wash the little fellows ashore. I know the stench of pond mud!
    They make those poles of metal now.

  10. I’m sorry to have laughed at your expense, but it was impossible not to. What an adventure to get those cute little things safely into their pen! I hope you have recovered from the fall on the papyrus slope and your dunking into the tilapia pond. Did you move the abandoned eggs into the enclosure for the mother duck to sit on?

    1. Enjoy the laugh….at least the washing machine was working!
      The eggs had gone when we returned.
      I suspect a dog; the one who didn’t come down to the pond….the one who didn’t haunt the lunch table later…

  11. By far the most entertaining read for ages! Brilliant. It reminded me of a lady I once worked with, who would annually get a call at work from her neighbours when the toads were ‘crossing the road’, at which she upped sticks and went home to catch toads in basins and safely transport them to the other side of the road on their way to wherever it was they went every year… thank you for brightening my day.

  12. Oh what I wouldn’t give to see a photo of you stretched out on the springboard design gang plank….. Seconds before the dunking. It all sounds riotous but so good that all your efforts were not in vain. Shame about the woodpecker though.

    1. I sometimes think we should set up a webcam….only we’d probably muck it up and have non stop views of the sky…and then I could post such sights as Higher Authority striding forward unaware that his trousers had been caught up on a vine until they descended to his knees and hobbled him.
      Perhaps we should stick to the sky.

      That woodpecker has cost us a delay….and ICE is unpredictable. They could be back with a metal post today….which might have been the case had their agent been greeted by a young blonde bombshell in her neglige…or in a month’s time – more like the case having been greeted by Grendel’s mother.

  13. You tell a story so well Helen. I felt like I was standing watching. Bless you both for saving those ducklings xxx

    1. Mother ducks aren’t the best of parents….had we not checked the night before we might have lost the lot as we wouldn’t necessarily have been looking for them first thing in the morning.
      And it was lucky that she took them to the ponds and not to the stream further over….in the rainy season the water flows strongly there.

    1. I went in search of them willingly…I did not volunteer to do a dip in the pond!
      Monty came out of his pen like a rocet….not at all pleased by his incarceration…leaping and somersaulting in the air and butting anything in his path. He settled down soon after, luckily!

      1. Aww, thanks, I needed that repeat laugh. And, humbly I do stand corrected on the word, “volunteer” for I cannot disagree with the intent that it would not be a voluntary act, as you described. But then, I do know some who would… oh never mind all that. Give Monty a rub from an admirer up north.

  14. Glorious comic writing, Helen, and though I know I shouldn’t, I’m afraid i too was chuckling throughout your account of your duck-rescue adventure. The things we do for our livestock, eh?

    A shame about the hollowed-out pole, but if you’re lucky, your Grendel’s mother impersonation may terrify the ICEman to get the job done fast before you put the evil eye on him. 🙂

    1. I would have laughed too, if not too busy falling down slopes and into muddy water…but you can’t see little things in trouble without helping them.

      I do hope you are right about the pole….I’m fond of woodpeckers…but this one would risk a clip round his red crested ear!

  15. So funny… sorry you got all wet… but figured early on someone was going to. At least you got the ducklings where they needed to be and were able to see the funny in the visit with ICE!!! How is the new house coming along??

      Find Happy! Niki Skype: nikisims.new54 Cell: 506.8417.7271 Post Office Box apdo: 327-3009 Heredia, Ste Barbara 40401 Costa Rica

  16. I watched every second of this in my mind while reading, so sorry but I ended up giggling. So long as you and the ducklings are OK that is what matters.
    The French woman who gives me French lessons told me about their house in Charente when they went to Paris for a spell. They came home to find a woodpecker had holed the shutters and had built a nest between them and the glass!! Obviously not too fussy where they nest!

    1. Laugh all you like…goodness only knows what I looked like after emerging from the pond!

      Those woodpeckers are quite something….they – or others of their ilk – had hollowed out a post on the lower road which had become home to the small toucans…they used to amaze me…flying into the hole to nest – and not coming straight through the other side!

  17. Lucky for the ducklings they have someone so devoted to their welfare and safety, or they’d no doubt be goners by now. Glad you weren’t ducking your custodial duties.

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