Interruption due to duck rescue

June 28, 2022 • 9:58 am

There will be a slight interruption today as I rescued six newborn baby ducks from Botany Pond when the mother brought them in and was immediately attacked (I saw this on the pondcam). I went down with a butterfly net, a cardboard box, and plenty of paper towels to dry ducklings. I waited a bit until it became clear that the babies would be repeatedly attacked and killed, and then went to work. That means having to get into the damn pond.

There were seven, but one had already been killed by Audrey or another adult hens. After a lot of effort, which included going underwater several times by tripping, getting my leg cut and bare feet banged up, and swallowing a bit of pond water (ugh), I managed to rescue the remaining six. One was being pecked by Dorothy at the end, and I thought it was dead, but when I picked it up and dried it off it seemed to revive. I think it will be all right.

I’m now scrubbed, clean, and with antibiotic cream on my cut. I’m going back to work. And I’m very happy, because I saved six lives. But it’s also sad because those babies were taken from their mom, and she raced around the pond quacking like mad as I caught the little ones.  The upside is that all those babies are already on their way to rehab, and have a great chance of growing up. The downside is that it’s hard to love Audrey and her twelve babies when you know what they’re capable of. Not all adult mallard hens try to murder interlopers; sometimes several broods coexisted in Botany Pond in past years.

If you go to the Botany Pond video site, below, and wind back to about 8:15 a.m. Chicago time, you might be able to see yours truly wading around crazily, trying to catch ducks.

More to come; I wrote a post right before the fracas began, and that will be up shortly. And we have photos of the six rescued babies.

12 thoughts on “Interruption due to duck rescue

  1. Ouch! That one spill looks like it’s gonna leave a mark.

    The folks at the rehab must be becoming quite familiar with Prof. Jerry Coyne and the travails at Botany Pond.

  2. Yikes, it’s been a very dramatic duckling season this year – your efforts have certainly been above and beyond.

  3. It might be worthwhile getting a pair of neoprene booties. Actually, a thin/warm water wetsuit — if only for the skin protection — isn’t crazy either.

    1. Yes, people have mentioned that before. But once you see the fracas, there’s no time to don all that gear. I just took out my wallet and cellphone and then jumped into the water with a net. When ducklings are getting pecked to death, there’s no time to lose.

      1. Jerry, you say ‘wind back to about 8:15 a.m.’, but the vid only shows a duration time scale, not a clock scale. Any other way to pinpoint you? And, is that a subsurface pump making the water swell up or what is it? I guess it’s to do with oxygenating the water, is it?

  4. Kudos to PCC(E) for all his humanitarian (mallardian?) efforts to preserve life.

    But do we know why established populations of ducks attack newcomers, or even other families who are also already there? Is it overcrowding? Is it the inevitable outcome of territoriality in a fairly confined space? (I often visit a large reservoir, the biggest in SE England, which has many families of ducks and other waterfowl, who don’t seem to get in each other’s way or space).

    Nobody wants to push ducks around. But is there any humane way of relocating newcomers to a more congenial home, before distressing events like this take place?

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