The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Ducks on the pond

Mallard drake It won’t be long before wild Mallard ducks find our pond again. They see the long stretch of water and swoop in. It must seem the perfect spot. A generous pond with a good supply of goldfish and frogs. A safe and secluded haven for a pair of ducks to nest and raise a brood of ducklings.

Perfect without the Min Pins.

These are hunting dogs and our pack work as a team. Running at speeds in excess of 23 miles an hour a waddling duck wouldn’t have a chance. I try to avert disaster and actively discourage ducks in our garden.

As soon as I realise that a pair are viewing our pond with an eye to a short term let, I grab our golfing umbrella and rush down to the pond. The ducks are not keen on this red and white stripped harpy with legs and there is instant lift off. I hear them quacking as they flap over Anne Mary’s trees. Ducks are determined creatures; it can take a few days of twirling umbrellas to get them to leave forever.

Last spring I discovered a pair of wild Mallards swimming in our pond. With one twirl of the brolly they were off. The next morning they were back. I crept down to the pond and opened the striped monster with a roar. The drake rose from the water and never returned.

I couldn’t scare away his abandoned wife. A determined sitting tenant with nerves of steel. I observed her sunning herself beside the pond. If she heard the thunder of Min Pin paws she would slip into the water in a trice. Bobbing about, just out of reach of the Min Pin jaws.

As the days went by I tried every conceivable way to get rid of her. She remained unfazed by loud noises and flapping sheets. She took sharp blasts of water from the hose in her stride and seemed to enjoy the shower.

In desperation, I even tried talking to her. She would stare stonily back at me and circle the pond.

Was this a duck version of Mariana in the Moated Grange?

We gradually became attached to this resolute creature and named her The Duck. After a couple of weeks we woke to an empty pond. Had she finally left?

Picking some salad leaves in the kitchen garden I suddenly noticed her limp body in the long grass. When I picked her up she was still warm.

Had the Min Pins killed her or had she died of a broken heart.


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19 Comments

  1. songster

    We have had three summers at our house now. We have excitedly watched the wild pair of ducks (who we call Jeremy and Jemima) hatch 10 – 14 eggs in March every year on quite a big pond, close to the house. Then we cry as they all disappear one by one. Then in April, with some pain, I watch the various mallards in the county mating with Jemima as Jeremy tries to hold them by the neck in a vain attempt to keep her to himself. Then Jemima lays a second clutch of eggs and they, too, usually disappear – foxes, herons, wehave seen a stoat in the garden, and jackdaws – and now we have acquired two cats!
    BUT ! After hatching about 60 ducklings since we have been here, TWO have made it to 8 weeks old. It’s even more exciting that one is a white one (born yellow)! Jeremy is rather mean to them (tries to chase them off) but they should be able to fly any day now, so we are very hopeful that they have “made it”. The oldest duckling we have ever had before this was 4 weeks.
    I really think that having the cats around has made Jemima much more careful. Before she would take them on walks ALL OVER the garden – we have two other ponds – but now she is afraid to do so (I think) so they have had to stay in the relative safety of the one pond.
    Their down has all gone and they have real feathers and WINGS instead of those little stubs! so we can see that the brown “baby” is a male but I don’t know what gender the white one is – until they are old enough to get that little [male] curl above the tail feathers.
    It would be wonderful to have a female.
    We feed the mother and ducklings raw porridge oats by hand with a dog bowl of water nearby so that they don’t choke. We also scatter the oats on the water for Jeremy, who has never fed from our hands.
    This is a bit long but I wanted to share a success story – which we have waited so long for.
    P.S. CLARE – the story of the ducks coming back for your Dad doesn’t surprise me – animals are so tuned in! How wonderful for you all. We scattered my Dad’s ashes from a small boat into the sea off Seattle, USA. Two dolphins appeared, swam along and then went slowly round and round the boat until we had finished our little ceremony. Very special.

  2. michelle sheets

    Fiona, I was reading all the duck stories, and I kept thinking you need a beaver house for the middle of your pond, but then it occured to me, have you ever considered building a float so the ducks have a safe place to retreat to in the middle of the pond? Kind of like a raft, no sides, very low so the ducks wouldn’t have to labor too much to get out of the water and on to it. You could anchor it so it wouldn’t drift to shore.
    I know you don’t want to encourage ducks because of the min pins, but it would be nice to have a safe place for them in case something happens when your not at home.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Michelle

      Yes, you are right. A float would be usefulto all he visitors to the pond. Thank you.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Patience

    What lucky ducks to have found a haven with food and treats!

    Lucky you. I’d love to welcome ducks but the Min Pins mean that all have to be turned away.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Patience

    We live in the city centre of Winchester and last year from april onwards we were visited every day by one drake and one hen, we gave them, bread, water & seeds, they would arrive early evening and stay the night, usually waddle off early morning, we have no pond just a lawn. Last week I woke to hear loud quacking in the garden looked out of my window to find one drake and one hen..I am convinced it is the same pair, they are sleeping in the garden as I write this, until finding this page I didnt realise how common it is, and have enjoyed reading the stories, some very moving and also funny!. I feel very lucky they have chosen our garden as a safe haven.

  5. What a lovely, poignant & sad story. Your story choked me Clare, bringing back sad memories of when my Dad died but it was lovely for your Dad that the ducks came back. Somehow animals seem to know don’t they. Polly yours made me laugh, you must have had a wonderful time with them and they don’t forget where their bread’s buttered (so to speak) do they.

  6. oh you really didn’t have to tell us that did you? it was fine until you came to the awful end of the story and my stomach got upset.
    you could have left that part out.

  7. Hi everyone,

    I am amaised at the stories, I was looking foer advice really but from the stories you have all told i am a bit more relaxed about mine.

    I have had a garden pond for many years and i have thought it might be nice to have a few ducks for the children and complete the pond but we had to move home but we chose a pond as one of our boxes to tick, so our nrw home a bungalow has a bigger pond but needs some work tidying it up, and much larger garden but still in a rural area.

    On wednesday 11th March 2009 an exact thing happened three ducks MALLARDS two drakes and one hen,arrived at the pond.I was so pleased i immeadiatly ran for bread great excietment, they then entered the pond splashed about for a while tucked there heads in there tail feathres and rested for two to three hours and flew off.

    But they have been coming back early afternoon on every day since, But today i think was a mating day as the drake has definatly mounted the hen and they were here most of the day and flew off just before dark. I have now bought corn for them and they seem to like it but i have so many questions to ask, where do i go.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Pat

    I do admire you battening down the hatches (dog wise). It may be some time before their feathers grow and they can fly away. Our Indian Runners are a month old and they are still just covered with down.

    We have the same problem every year. Wild ducks spot the big pond in our garden and swoop in to nest. It must look perfect place before we wake up and the Min Pins charge out of the cat flap.

    Even then we have a tussle getting the ducks to twig that the environment isn’t safe. I’m out there flapping beach towels and honking for at least a week before they finally up sticks and repair to a safer spot. My neighbours must think that I am mad but it’s vital to get them to move on. One dreadful day 6 ducklings took the wrong turn and waddled under our barn door. They only survived for a few seconds. It was horrible.

    Flapping towels have the desired effect once you have found a duck sitting. You need to check every corner of your garden in Spring. If you have a pond they will tend to nest in that locality.

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