Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A happy sad event

It was a normal quite day in my office when the telephone rang. I picked it up expecting the usual business caller but it was my wife calling to tell me we had some unusual visitors in our garden - a duck and her babies. At lunchtime, with much enthusiasm, I headed for the car and drove home to have a look for myself. Sure enough, a female Mallard and 14 of the cutest, fuzziest, cuddliest little bundles of fluff you could ever imagine, were wandering around our garden.

My wife had put out the only thing she could think of for them ... a kitchen sink bowl full of water. A short time later we peered through the window and fell into hysterics when we saw the mother sat on the water as if she was queen of her own lake, while all the babies jumped up and down trying to get in. The bowl was only a little bit bigger than the duck herself and she certainly didn't have any manouvering room.

Fortunately I am the proud owner of a builders cement mixing tray. You know the things ... about 4 feet square, 2" deep and made of durable plastic. I put that down on one of our patios and half-filled it with water, so the babies could have a paddle too. Very soon the whole tribe were splashing around and having fun. It may only be an inch of cold tap water to us, but when you're a baby duck it's a big dangerous shark-infested ocean just waiting to be conquered.

Soon after, the family followed Mum across the garden and they all disappeared under a railed fence between me and my neighbour. We were concerned for the ducks because, like many city neighbourhoods, we have more than our fair share of cats coming into our gardens and I have found far too many birds on my lawn with their heads ripped off for me to realise that baby ducks who can't fly are very vulnerable to such threats.

We didn't see the ducks again that day, but the next day Mother Duck returned. Sadly, this time she only had one baby with her. We will never know what happened to the other 13. It is easy to believe they were slaughtered by a rampant cat but they could easily have been plucked into the air by marauding Magpie's who swoop overhead in plenty. Truth is, we will never know.

The day after that, Mother duck visited again ... on her own.

But fortunatley for wildlife, they haven't been given emotions such as grief and misery, and the following day the Mother Duck was accompanied by 2 males, squawking and quacking for her attention. The day after that, there were 4 males, and the next day 5. Isn't it typical that when there were children to tend to, the males were nowhere to be seen, but as soon as the kids are gone, Mum is flirting with every guy on the block.

Though it is sad to think of those 14 ducklings wiped out so quickly, it has been a joy to have been a part of their short existance. Mother Duck and her entourage appear to be daily visitors to us at the moment. I'm sure there's nothing unusual in this if you live in the country, but we live in a city and this is the first time in my 60 years that I've seen Mallards in my garden. It probably won't last long, but it's a thrill to see them and when they stop coming we shall always have the memory of the 14 ducklings splashing about on our patio.


  1. This was such a sweet story, John, made magical by the lovely photographs! It is very sad that the fourteen babies have all gone but that mother duck must thnk you a fine host and your home a 5* hotel to venture back with so many admirers.

    We had a female pheasant living in out garden a couple of years ago and we live in the suburbs. She was just the most spectacular creature (I do have potos but unfortunately have no idea how to display them on site). I made some enquiries with the RSPB who said she had probably moved in to escape a stroppy hubby.

    Unfortunately she did not come back last year but it was very nice to have her as a fixture in out garden for a few weeks I must say.


  2. John--This is the very first time I've ever read someone's blog! I happened onto your site because I was looking for information about Northampton and Northamptonshire. Your histories were so nice, I was interested when I realized you''d written them. I decided to read your piece about flying to Pittsburgh after 911, and then I decided to look at your blog! I love the story and pictures of the mallards, your flower puzzle, and everything you've written and created!! Thank you so much!! I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    My great-grandfather, Frank Jardine, was born in Northampton July 1, 1866. His mother, Fanny Isabella Stubbings Jardine was born in Northampton also, on March 1, 1848. Fanny died in Northampton in 1882, but my great-grandfather, Frank Jardine, came to America and worked as a mining engineer in the silver mines in Eureka, Utah. At age 35, he married my great-grandmother, Ada Bryson (who was 23), and they had 6 children together. My grandmother, Frances Jardine Bench, was their first child. Frank Jardine died when he was 57 in 1933 in Bountiful, Utah. It was at the heigth of the great economic depression and he left Ada with only a small military pension from when he had fought in the Spanish American War in the Philipines in 1897-1898. Frank did have many good friends, and one of them, who years later made a fortune mining silver, gave money to help Ada raise their 3 children who were still at home. This mining friend said he did this in honour of Frank who had helped him; he said Frank was one of the finest men he'd ever known. Ada was a Mormon, and Frank supported her, but he always remained an Anglican. John, I guess I'm celebrating Frank's birthday--142 years ago today--by learning more about Northampton.

    THANK YOU for your website, your histories, stories, photographs, paintings, and your blog!! THANK YOU, JOHN!!
    Kathy England

  3. Kathy, what a wonderful comment you've posted and I'm thrilled that you're first ever blog-read was with MY blog. Thank you for telling me about your great-grandfather Frank and your other ancestors. I'm really pleased that you like my site and my blog and, as I sit in my armchair this evening with a fine Scottish malt, I shall drink a toast to old Frank Jardine ... happy birthday Frank.