Suddenly, we heard a loud BANG! on the glass conservatory roof. And again. BANG! BANG! BANG! Not quite compus mentus at the early hour of 11am (ahem!), we wandered into the conservatory to see what the noise was – from the sky, ducks were raining down on our roof. No, seriously, ducks. Ducklings to be precise. About 13 of them (that’s a lot of bangs).
It turned out that Mummy Duck had decided to nest at the top of the house – typical London conversion, 3 flats, and we lived in the garden flat – and then after the eggs had hatched and she’d fed them up on the grain our upstairs neighbour had been putting out for them, she decided it was high time they earned their flying stripes. “C’mon kids, it’s easy, watch me!”. Only, obviously, she had forgotten all about not knowing how to fly – like you can’t remember how to not ride a bike or how to not swim. So down two stories they all dropped like 13 fluffy missiles, stumbled dazedly off the edge of the glass roof and tumbled into our garden, where the 6 foot bamboo fence presented a bit of a challenge. They were stuck.
Mummy Duck obviously did something along the lines of a sigh, and a muttered “oh bugger”, and flew down to comfort her babes and check out their new home. A quick call to the RSPB told us that we needed to let them bond as a family, and give them some feed and water. And so, we suddenly acquired a family of 14 ducks in our West London garden, and I can tell you that baby ducks poo as much as human babies!
What the RSPB failed to tell us was that in a brood of this size, not everyone makes it. After 3 or 4 days, I noticed one duckling stumbling around like a drunkard, and the heartlessness of nature as the sibling ducklings simply trampled him as he (or she) eventually collapsed. This was starting to get traumatic, and we duly gave him a little burial in the garden. No kind words were said by the family. A day or two later, Mr G had gone away for the weekend, and I sat reading a book and keeping an eye on the ducks. I looked away for a few minutes to answer a telephone call, only to return to the window as my upstairs neighbour’s washing machine finished its cycle and the water came rushing down the drainpipe, and an overly curious duckling went over to investigate the whooshing noise… only to be drowned by the rush of water. That was it for me – fishing out dead drowned duckie was just way too sad, and I rang the RSPB and demanded they come and take them away right away!
The nice chap came along with his net and a box, to capture them and take them to the Wetlands centre. While he managed to coerce all remaining 11 ducklings into the box, Mummy Duck would not go for the net, and for 3 days afterwards came back to the garden, quacking forlornly for her babies.
Why am I bringing up this random story that happened almost 6 years ago? Over the past few weeks, some more of Mother Nature’s critters have decided to make their home in our garden – this time, a vixen fox and 2 cubs. What is it about us? We don’t even live in the same flat! But this time, I have my own baby to look after, and a mother is always protective of her babies, and I couldn’t risk ending up on the front cover of The Daily Mail if Mummy Fox thought us going into the garden represented a threat to her babies. So as I type, there is a horrible cage sitting in our garden, with bits of appealing looking fox-bait inside. Once caught, the man will take them away and … sadly not take them to a lovely countryside shelter. I’ve called up several agencies, the council, and the RSPCA who have all given us the advice that we should simply not use our garden as long as the foxes are there, which with a 2-year old is not really ideal. In fact, the lady at the RSPCA with the kind voice made me feel incredibly guilty, even more so than I already feel. While I know it’s rare for foxes to attack, now that I am a mummy, I just don’t feel that I can take that risk, and in the approaching summer months, we want to be able to use our garden. Is that selfish of me? Yes, probably. Would I be feeling the same if they were rats? No, probably not.
As I look out of our window at the three of them, I wish they could understand my words telling them to run run run away, as much as I wished I could just tell Mummy Duck where to find her brood.
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