Ducks! Mentioning the word ducks brings back fond memories of some pacific black ducklings I raised when we were living on an acreage the other side of Samford, before we moved over to the Redlands.
Firstly, there were Huey, Dewey and Louie. A phone call came from a man with three ducklings only a couple of days old. He found them in his pond when mum took off and didn’t take the whole family with her. We drove over, put them in a box and headed for home.
When I looked in the rear vision mirror I realised that putting them in a box didn’t necessarily mean they would stay there. There they were, two little tiny feathered creatures sitting looking out the back window. TWO! Where was number 3? We pulled up and searched everywhere in the car, but couldn’t find him. No duckling. How did he escape? Did he get out when we stopped to look for him?
We went home and sadly I put Huey and Dewey in a cage. We made a final check of the car, and heard a tiny peep. Lo and behold there he was, sitting under the front seat on the runners. If anyone had put the seat back he would have been flat Louie, but anyway he was safe.
I had no idea they were so messy. We put them in a bedroom on a sheet of plastic. Not a good idea due to their unhygienic and smelly habits, so they were quickly moved outside. Within a day or so, another eleven motherless ducklings arrived, and were put in the sheltered cage with the first three.
They shouldn’t swim for two weeks when they don’t have a mum. It was hard to find something shallow enough for them to drink out of that they couldn’t swim in. Rules are don’t mix their food and water – they do it themselves. And how! What a mess they made!
When they were big enough, we put them in the lawn (grass) tennis court, along with four or five more we had collected. They had a pair of the shells used by little children for sandpits etc. to swim in, and boards to allow them to get in and out. My husband built them a lovely shelter, it was a home away from home. I’m not quite sure how many we ended up with but our grass tennis court was a mess of holes they had dug.
Just to watch them follow me in single file when I walked round the tennis court was a delight. They were not pets, but I guess they thought I was their mum so they trailed after me whenever I went into the tennis court.
One day we had a flying visit from two adult wood ducks. It seemed as if they just dropped in to see what was going on. Our young ones followed them as they examined the tennis court, and then my little ducklings’ heads were raised to the sky as they watched the wood ducks take off. “Never mind,” I said. “Soon you’ll be able to go too.”
Some time later Huey and Dewey did some practice flights round inside the 12 feet high tennis court fence, but Louie couldn’t make it off the ground. Louie, along with getting lost early in the piece, was bandy so he waddled even more slowly than normal ducks. He had been checked by a vet who said he was fine, just bandy. However, he always lagged behind. This proved a great disadvantage when it seemed that Huey and Dewey had decided to leave home.
I remember it was a New Year’s Day when, to our surprise, Huey and Dewey flew huge circles then landed reasonably gracefully (for ducks) inside the tennis court. This happened every morning, until one day Louie, who obviously had decided he’d had enough of being left behind, lumbered off as well. After several tries, he made it over the fence. All three ducks circled then headed for home.
Unfortunately, Louie couldn’t land in the tennis court. He crash-landed so many times into that fence that he must have been dizzy. There had to be someone around to open the gate and let him back into the court. Eventually, he made it on his own and there was great cheering from us, as it had been a wobbly journey for Louie.
By this time all the other ducklings were ready to go, and when our house sold, quite quickly, they were all taken down to a big lake to be released. I set them free onto the lake, feeling a little sad, as I had enjoyed raising them. It was a beautiful sight as they swam off with not a backward glance; except for maybe Louie, who looked back at me and I swear he gave me a wink.
Further information about being a wildlife carer
Being a wildlife carer has given Jan Smith much satisfaction. It has also made her very concerned about the threats faced by native animals in the Redlands due to habitat loss.
If you want to know more about wildlife care here are some links that may be helpful:
Information about rescue and rehabilitation of native wildlife provided by the Department of Environment and Heritage
Information about being a wildlife carer provided by Redland City Council
Information about Redlands 24 Hour Wildlife Rescue coordinated by Redland City Council