Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cuteness x Eleven

There is a gorgeous courtyard where I work. A fountain, lots of wonderful landscaping and a great habitat for birds, including ducks. Every year, a mallard mom lays her eggs in the courtyard and raises a family. This year, there were two moms - one with 8 babies and one with 11. That's 21 ducks in a very small courtyard. Not healthy for the ducks or the fountain! So we decided to relocate the family of 12 (the duck dads were absentee fathers: wham, bam, thank you ma'am). The Maintenance staff noticed that the ducklings could not climb out of the fountain so they built a small brick staircase for them. It worked. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the ducklings climbing the stairs!

So one afternoon last week two Maintenance staff (Craig and Josh), a Marketing Department staffer (Heather) and I gathered empty trashcans and cameras and trooped into the courtyard. Both moms (Ethel and Lucy) were sitting under a tree on the babies (it was drizzling). We approached cautiously, but the moms hissed and made their displeasure known.

Check out the gorgeous blue on Ethel's wing.

Hard to believe she could fit 11 ducklings under her.

One of the men threw a towel over Ethel and we put her in an empty trashcan. The chicks ran helter-skelter in all directions. The chase was on!

One by one, we gathered chicks - or should I say we TRIED to gather chicks. It was cold and muddy and rainy. Here were four educated, mature adults outsmarted by tiny balls of fluff. They ran under hedges and bushes and darted between our legs as we lunged helplessly after them. We got scratched by thorns and twigs, covered with mud and leaves and rain.
While we were searching, we found one of the nests with the empty egg shells. Pretty cool.

Catching the ducklings may have been
difficult, but holding and cuddling them was
worth the effort.

A little one (damp around the edges) in the holding tank.

Craig proudly holding one of his captures.

One youngster peeping loudly at me as I try to
focus the camera with one hand while not squishing him.

Heather enjoying her new friend before putting him in the trashcan with his brothers and sisters (with Craig and Josh still on duckling patrol in the background).

I tried holding them the way Bill Hilton taught us at

the bird banding demonstration at New River Nature and Birding Festival.

It calmed them right down. (Check out the mud on my hands and arms).

Soooo soft....

After an hour, we had located nine ducklings. We had to give up - the rain was getting harder and we were afraid of stressing out the family any more than we already had. We assumed that Lucy would adopt the two leftover ducklings into her brood (we checked back early the next morning and she had done just that). It was time to move the family to their new home (the pond on the campus about 1/4 mile away).

The new home for the transplanted family.

Loading the ducks onto the van for the short ride to the pond.
We let mom out first and the ducklings swarmed after her. They made an exploratory circuit around the new pond and seemed to settle right in. A happy ending for both families.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

You look like a pro handling that little duckie! I would have peed my pants to hold one.

Goooood job!

Susan Gets Native said...

Oh!!! Little piles of duckling!!!
I've dissolved into a puddle of goo. You have found my Kryptonite.

Mary said...

OH, Beth, that's so sweet. I like the way you held the little duckling. Good job!

We had the same mallard and her usual 11-12 babies in our courtyard at the high school. Every year, our biology dept. chair would wait for dismissal, quiet in the hallways, coaxed them and walked them outside, down the hill, to a small pond where they lived happily ever after :o) A few of us helped him do this and of course, I never missed it!

Anonymous said...

Oh, there's so much to like in the post, from the beautiful courtyard to the maintenance staff building stairways for ducklings to the great roundup, duckling closeups, and happy ending.

They are so cute, and you and your friends are heroes for doing this.

Awesome, Beth. Awesome.

KatDoc said...

Too cute! And, I'll bet the mom with 11 didn't mind leaving a couple of her kids to the mom with 8 ducklings.

Wish I could have seen you all running around in the rain doing the birdie round-up. Hey, next time - try a big butterfly net!


Beth said...

Hi Lynne, Susan, Wren, Mary and Kathi - yes, I was a puddle of goo, also. Too cute for words. After re-reading my post, I think I figured out why the ducklings ran from us - I was wearing a chef coat - not an everyday occurence - I am usually in office-type clothes. They were probably thinking - "uh-oh. Sauce l'orange. I'm outta' here!"

Beth :)

dguzman said...

AWESOME! I found out that my work ducks were also gathered up (wish I could've been there!) and taken to a larger pond in the area.

I know it was for the best, but I miss them. I'm glad I got to see them and post about them before they left.

And check you out, all professionally-holding-that-baby and everything!

jalynn01 said...

i just loved everything about this story. The pictures were great too! You DO look like a pro holding that ducky in your little hand. So glad the rescue went well and they were relocated and both moms were happy.
Good to see your sweet face!!

Bird Girl said...

That one picture of the two ducklings looks like they are kissing! So sweet!