Friday 29 June 2018

Two (webbed) Footsteps Forward and One Back

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post comes a mainly duck-based one to catch us right up to schedule. Regular readers will know that we are running a small campaign to get back into ducks after recent losses to fox (and one of the terriers). We are also converting to some new varieties. The 'old school' Khaki Campbells from 2016/7 are now gone following our cull of the (2) aggressive drakes. That had left us with 3, then 2 youngsters hatched from our own eggs, the final eggs laid before the last female went extinct at the hands of the fox (13th May).

I had bought a Mum and 5 half-grown 'Appleyard' ducklings on 11th June. Readers may recall that these got landed into the long grass of the 'Hubbard Pen' and that although we knew they were settling in well, I had been unable to photograph them for you. They are real 'scaredy cats' and raced for cover as soon as a human appeared. Pictures of baby ducks in grass taller than they are is not really a thing.

"Rambling Rector" does his thing over the barn wall.
We knew they'd grow up eventually and want to come out and explore. We played the waiting game. In mid June, I 'ran out of breath', Elizabeth took over the stock and carried on with the feeding and schmoozing. She'd seen the two surviving Khaki's looking in at the newcomers through the chicken wire. It was looking good. We would let the Appleyards out free ranging when we were both there to supervise.

Mum Appleyard leads a first explore
Yesterday, I was just on a patrol, armed with a camera thinking I might get a pic of the 'Apps' around their new fruit-barrel drinker when I was confused to find a group of 6 ducks at the big pond. They must have squeezed out at the bottom corner of the gate and, by the time I saw them, they'd have met the Khakis and all seemed to be serene.

Pleasingly, there was not a sudden mass panic at the sight of me. The group gathered close round Mumma in that upright, vigilant stance that nervous ducks have. I sneaked a few pics, then quietly retreated to a distance to observe and texted Elizabeth. Not much point causing the big frightened upset rounding them all back up; we decided to bide our time till evening when they might just take themselves all off to bed. That was that for the pm, the joy of watching your new ducks explore the big pond, supervised by Mum and alongside the 2 Khakis.

New 6 meet old 2.
My 'backward step' of the title? Yes. It all went a bit downhill for a while, but not badly except for in the case of one Khaki. Elizabeth was home, I'd gone for a nap. I was getting up again when I may have (can't swear) heard an odd strangled squawk  out the back somewhere but Liz had heard nothing.

The only picture I have of all 8 ducks on the pond
It was a good hour later at the start of evening rounds, when she spotted that there was only one Khaki. The alarm went up and we searched far and wide but of the other bird there was no sign. We guess one more to the fox, returning on a day light raid 6 weeks after the last strike. 

Duck pond and blue sky
The evening was a bit of a mix of being sure that Brer Fox would not come back for a 2nd bird in the same day. This fox has not done that (yet). But at the same time, not wanting to risk him getting in amongst the new ones on their first day of free ranging. Long story short, it all ended well and everybody was safe for the night.

Not much else going on unless you want to hear of our continuing, decidedly non Irish heatwave which is now doing silly 30ÂșC stuff up in our corner. A friend has amusingly put up on  Twitter a couple of pics of her lane. She got hit by the bad snow when the 'Beast' struck over there in the East so her post has "The worst snow in 72 years and the hottest temps in 42 years, less than 4 months apart!"

Enough for this one. Wish us luck on keeping these ducks safe and enjoy the sunshine.

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