The Cottage Smallholder


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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. We were delighted when a week ago mother duck and her 10 ducklings waddled out from behind a bush and made their way to our garden pond. However, within minutes, a crow swooped down, killed one duckling and flew off with another. We immediately erected a net over the pond and covered the garden in large pieces of tinfoil, and so far, no more murderous attacks! We have put down the correct food for them (definitely NO bread)so hopefully they will be safe and well fed until they are old enough to fly away. However, next year we will have to discourage any ducks from nesting here, because our dog (which is very partial to a bit of duck dinner) has been temporarily banned from the garden, and spends his days looking out through the french windows at the little upstarts. His walks to the park have increased, but he wants his garden back.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Polly

    What an enchanting story. Love the idea of the ducklings swimming in the dogs’ water bowl.

    How wonderful that one of them returned to raise a brood!

    Hi Hank,

    It was sad. I didn’t find any eggs. The Min Pins would kill the mallards, given a chance.

    I can totally understand that even though you hunt duck you enjoy watching them at other times of year. Most of the people that know who shoot love wildlife.

    I don’t shoot myself so I don’t know whether we try not to shoot hens in the UK. Duck shooting is not as popular as in the US. The focus seems to be on pheasant, partridge, snipe etc over here.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Oh, that is so sad! I hunt ducks, too, and I still find it sad. Did you find any eggs? Hope not. Will your dogs really kill the mallards? I suppose you can’t fence them in. I know it sounds odd, but even though I hunt them I love just watching them for the other months of the year.

    I don’t know about English hunters, but in America we try not to kill hens. We don’t always succeed, but we try.

  4. We landed up with a mother duck and her newly-hatched ducklings taking up residence. Mum disappeared off for hours on end each day and eventually left them entirely to our tender care. I could bore for England on their antics: nibbling my toes through my extremely holey gardening shoes; swimming around in circles in the dog’s water bowl, with the canines looking on in a somewhat nonplussed manner, joining me in the shower (uninvited) one glorious summer morning, having to winkle them out of the local pub where they’d popped in for a quick one (snack, that is)! I was relieved when they eventually departed. A couple of years later,a duck laid her eggs in the garden and I had the joy of watching them hatch. The next day, Mother waddled into the kitchen followed by her fluffy brood – she must have been one of ours!!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Magic Cochin

    How exciting to find a nest and leaping ducklings! What a shame that you didn™t spot it before. Did they survive the 15™ drop?

    It™s a shame about the Min Pins. I love the breed but there are drawbacks.

    Mariana is a droopy creature but I like the poem. It™s beautifully written.

    Hi Clare

    I thought about your comment all day. I can access the comments on my site via email on my mobile but can™t answer them until I return home.

    The arrival of the ducks must have given your father so much pleasure. Visits from smaller creatures at key times have so much power. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Hi Pamela

    This is so hard. We want to protect wildlife and then it all goes belly up.

    Last summer 5 teeny ducklings strayed into our garden. They lasted a matter of seconds. Hopefully the parents will not return.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Ducks are generally not the best mothers. I am amazed that ducklings survive, anywhere.

    Hi Sally

    I wouldn™t put a wild fowl in our run, having tasted freedom they™d be miserable.

    It was sad but we knew that it was just a matter of time.

    I agree with you about Clare™s story, it moved me too.

  6. Yes, that is sad. As she was wild, I suppose you couldn’t have put her in with the guinea fowl?

    I have to say Clare’s story really touched me.

  7. Kate(uk)

    We had a similar experience at the school I worked at- the ducks were attracted by the little pond outside the Biology labs. Every year they came, the boys duly tiptoed around them, got gooey eyed over the babies and every year the Red Kites had almost all the ducklings…I don’t know if they still arrive each Spring, but for many years there were optimistic, and it must be said, rather dim, ducks nesting in the quad.

  8. During my first teaching job a pair of ducks took up residence in the quad and after the ducklings hatched the quad was duly closed to students although I think the magpies got most of the ducklings. Subsequently we discovered that that was the worst thing we could have done as the ducks returned, convinced they had found a good safe place to rear a family. The ducks now cohabit with the students and were on their fourth annual visit when I left. I have no idea why they were attracted in the first place as there is no pond in the quad. Perhaps the pond in the grounds of the nearby Bubble Factory was too overcrowded? Or had they been evicted by the other ducks? Ducks with ASBOs?

  9. The housing estate where I grew up was built on the gardens of three large houses near the centre of birmingham, and there are still various relics around such as a small walled garden and lots of mature trees, but about halfway down the estate there is a duck pond. When I was a child we’d be visited regularly by two drakes and a duck, who my dad dubbed “im ‘n im ‘n er” (spoken quickly imanimaner) They’d come up to waddle around on the grassed area in front of our house and my brother and I would be given crusts to feed them with. We never saw them with ducklings, and we were never quite sure which of the “hims” was “her”s husband. At some point in my childhood, they stopped coming up, or perhaps we just didn’t notice them any more. However, two years ago, when my dad was in the very last days of his life, at home, the ducks came back. Mum, my brother and I were living that terrible waiting game of endless cups of tea and numerous jigsaw puzzles and we were astounded when im ‘n im ‘n er camped out on our front lawn, unphased by the traffic of nurses and wellwishers.
    Three days later, my father died and the ducks waddled back down to the duck pond. My dad was aware that they’d visited, and was convinced they’d come to say goodbye. We were so happy to see them.

  10. magic cochin

    Oh 🙁 how sad. What a shame your min pins won’t co-exist with mallards.

    The other year we noticed a pair of mallards about the garden, and I often met Mrs Duck by the greenhouse door. One Saturday afternoon our neighbour telephoned to summon us quickly into our veg garden where it was “raining ducklings” !!!!
    Encouraged by Mrs Duck’s loud quacks the newly hatched ducklings had to launch themselves into the big wide world by leaping off the top of our 15ft brick wall! They then had to follow Mum down a sheer 4ft drop into the brook.
    We hadn’t noticed the nest in a tangle of clematis montana within sight of our bedroom window!

    Celia

    PS Oh dear, Mariana wasn’t a happy bunny! Tennyson’s so good at wistful, mournful odes.

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