Cool day today! I was out watering my resident’s raised flower bed when one walked by with her daughter and her daughter’s dog. The daughter says “Hey mom, there is a duck!” I turned my head just as I saw the duck think “Hey, there’s a dog!” It flew up and over the low ledge into the fountain. That is when I saw the writhing mass of fluff. 11 babies, probably not more than a day old. I pointed them out to the group.
The daughter, mom and dog move closer to the ducklings so mom can see. We all have a look and I process the scene. Mommy duck is calling, but babies can’t get over the ledge. Human Mom, daughter and dog move away because dog just noticed the ducklings. But the ducklings start to follow them! I process the scene again. Babies are imprinting on lady, dog in thinking about the ducklings and the daughter is focused on mom and nearly stepped on the babies TWICE!
There was nothing for it but to pick up the babies one or two at a time (“oh my so soft and fluffy…don’t pet them…just get the work done…they are not pets…”) and toss them into the pond with duck mom. It was quickly apparent that they 1) had never been swimming before, 2) they took to it like…well…ducks to water 3) this was mom’s plan all along and 4) she wasn’t worried that they smelled like a human. They all had a leisurely swim with their dinner.
Please take note of the pile of bricks at the top center of the above photo. They are hidey holes built for the fish and become part of my story in a bit.
While they enjoyed their swim, I ran around trying to figure out how they will get out again. If they couldn’t get in, they certainly wouldn’t be able to get back out. I decided to use the bricks and build them a stair case. That meant taking off my shoes and getting into the rocky, slimy, fish poopy water. I took apart one of the hiding places and built the stairs and tried not to think about what I was walking on. You can see it in the top center of the photo below.
It didn’t work. And now they seemed tired. And duck mom agreed. So she swam over to the pile of bricks you see in the first picture. She jumped on top and the babies tried climbing up with her. But there just wasn’t room for 12 ducks on that pile and mom kept pushing them, flippers over fuzz top, off the pile. The now small crowd gasped in horror every time we saw one bounce down the layers of brick!
So my shoes came off again. Back into the pond. I tried herding them back towards the stairs. But I couldn’t move fast enough on the rocks to keep them going in the right direction. I tried fishing them back out in the hopes that mom would follow but she just herded the rest back out of my reach so I had to toss the ones I “saved” back in! The only other thing I could do was rearrange the bricks so they’d all fit on.
That was when the grounds keeper that I called, arrived with the duck ramp he had whipped up.
They didn’t figure out the ramp but the wider brick surface worked.
I left them to have a rest and hopefully figure out the ramp later.
An evening staff person sent me this update:
Someone had the good idea to extend the ramp to the little duck island I built and it looks like they may have added some food to lure them down the path.
I couldn’t have planned a more exciting program for my seniors than that one!