And so after a few days away in the dreary (weather wise) south west I headed into work this morning to be greeted, while driving through Dagenham, by a biker herding ducklings alongside a very main road. Andrea got out and I found somewhere to park as clearly Mrs D and her newly hatched brood could not stay there being at least a mile from the nearest park with water.
The biker had been with them for 45 minutes and had them loosely corralled after several attempts to use the zebra crossing so I made a leap for the mum and thankfully got her at the first attempt. She was the priority and once I had got her secured we set about catching the superfast mini-mallards.
For just a few hours old and short little legs they sure can shift but after about 15 minutes they were all tucked into jumpers and hands as we made our way back to the car. I had no box for them and so had no choice but to put them in the boot of the Mini which was a feat in itself but one that was successfully managed. Mr Biker then mentioned that there should have been eight chicks and we only caught seven so it was back up the road again listening for the cheeping of the remaining fluffball who was thankfully making his location known. More laying on grass, in gutters and on pavements and scrimmaging under hedges saw him in my now very grubby mitts.
Duckling #8: The one we almost left behind...
Next stop was my Mum and Dad’s not far away for a box with a lid to transfer them over so that a release was easier. Finding the box was no problem, even re-catching the mum and getting her out of the boot was painless and with just two chicks left to move over the funs started.
The last two had vanished into an opening in the boot near the offside light housing and were now merrily cheeping away from somewhere down near the fuel tank. The next hour was a little bit fraught and there were quite literally blood, sweat and tears spilt in my efforts to extricate them which included tongs, putting mum (the duck – not my one) back in the boot and even toying with the idea of using the Hoover!
But having dismantled quite a bit of the inside of the back of the Mini I was getting nowhere so already being late for work and an early morning meeting, I gave up and put the box with the other ducks in the boot and decided to head back to Rainham where I would leave the boot open and see what happened.
I had only got about half a mile with the sound of the chicks somewhere behind my head when I thought I could hear the ones in the framework getting louder. Perhaps they were coming out I thought? I glanced over my shoulder and one of the little buggers was sitting on the back seat!
I am in slow moving traffic and I have a random loose duckling in the car so I lean over and make a successful grab for it which then leaves me driving a car with a small fluffy bird in my left hand with nowhere to legally pull over. Picture it now... ‘Sorry Officer but I honestly was not using the duck while driving...it was not even turned on...’ Wrong on so many levels...
A quick U-turn and back the other way trying to find somewhere to stop, praying that Number Eight was also out of the hole and awaiting capture. I opened the boot, duck in hand and there he was by the box and after another Ninja like strike I now was now back to a full compliment of traumatized wildfowl. I poked them carefully into the box and continued through the heart of the school run to RSPB Rainham Marshes where I sheepishly poked my head into the meeting with a cheeping box and explaining that I really did have a good excuse for being late...
Shortly after this we took the whole box load down to the marsh and released this slightly flustered family onto a ditch where the Mum gathered them all together and swan off strongly with them in tow.
There was a warm glow of having done the right thing but it was tempered slightly by the duo of grazed knees from the rescue and scraped arms and hands from the internal car exploration as well as a varied collection of grass and mud stains from my earlier efforts. There was only the reconstruction of the boot of the Mini to undertake which required what was left of my patience! Don’t talk to me about refitting reversing light bulbs!
All in a day’s work – there are times to leave young birds alone and this was not one of them and by the end of the day it was good to know that I had at least given them a fighting chance.
How are you?
Just to let you know that the toilets are now back in operation! We have fixed the problem, and they are looking rather nice as Dean and Pete took the opportunity to do some painting while they were closed...
Dean painting the 'ladies....
The wonderfully warm weather has resulted in many dragonflies emerging over the last few days while it has been so fair that early species like the Hairy Hawker are even still on the wing.
Hairy H... John Ferguson
Hairy H with lunch ... Tom Bell
The Dragonfly Pool seems to be a good stopping point at the moment and on calm days several species may be encountered with Black-tailed Skimmers and the odd chunky Emperor holding court.
Black-tailed Skimmer - Mick Chatman
Black-tailed Skimmer - Jerry Hoare
Emperor - Paul Rigby
The first Southern Hawker was seen today and there are still a couple of Broad Bodied Chasers near the Ken Barrett Hide although the lack of Four Spotted Chasers is slightly odd.
Southern Hawker - Nick Lay
Four Spot Chaser - John Ferguson
Common and Ruddy Darters are both on the wing now but the latter is definitely the more numerous and freshly emerged immatures (these are called teneral) have been causing some id problems with their plain orangey yellow bodies but the narrow wasted abdomen and wholly black legs help with a firm identification before the males turn pillar box red.
Mark O’Gallagher managed to capture a great sequence of one emerging the other day from climbing out of the water to fully pumped wings. No mean feat for both the dragon and Mark!
What a stunning sequence of images by Mark....
And another of a fully dried out young Ruddy from Bob Cooper
and a confusingly plain one from Mark Vale...
Keep your eyes open amongst these red bodied Darters as I saw at least one male Red-veined Darter on the Southern Trail in the scorching heat of yesterday and there are quite a few scattered across the country at the moment.