My parents have flocks of ducks on their farm in Hawaii, and every time I go home for a visit I pester them to put a clutch of eggs on to incubate.
Their ducks are mainly khaki campbells and mallards, but they keep a few muscovy ducks (muscovy are to ducks what donkeys are to horses – they can breed, but their offspring will be sterile ‘mules’) as mothers. Muscovy are much better mothers than many other duck breeds – they are devoted nest sitters, and intensely protective of their young. My parents let their muscovys (and muscovy-cambell hybrids) create nests and lay a clutch of sterile eggs, and then they swap them out for fertile khaki campbell or mallard eggs.
On my last trip home they started a clutch of eggs the week before I arrived, to hatch the week I would leave. I waited and waited, and the darn things didn’t hatch. On my last weekend Mum and I went away to Kalaupapa (if you haven’t read that story you really must), and when we got back, there were the ducklings!
Well, sort of. Mama muscovy was so protective we could hardly see them behind her, and she kept hissing at us. I leaned over the fence and cooed at her anyway, until a sudden rainstorm forced my Dad and I to flee for cover under a garden shed.
Sitting on the porch of the shed, looking out over the rain sweeping over the garden, I noticed something odd. One of the ducklings was trying to climb the fence. It was doing a good job of it for such a wee thing too – getting a good half a metre up the fence. What was it so desperate to get at?
When the rain ceased we went to investigate, and quickly discovered why the duckling was scrabbling up the fence: the poor thing had managed to get under one layer of fence, and was now trapped between the fine inner layer and the heavy outer fencing, with its frantic mother stuck on the other side.
I carefully reached down and extracted the duckling, Dad fixed the fence, and (of course) as long as I had a duckling in hand, I got a few shots:
Mama fluttered frantically during all this, scolding and hissing at us, wanting baby back. With pictures snapped and the fence secured, I leaned over the fence to put the baby down gently and then….
Yep. Mama duck totally took me on – launching herself off the ground and using wings, beak and claws for all she was worth.
I ended up with a bite on my thumb and some pretty reasonable scratches on my wrist, plus lots of mud.
Silly mommy duck. I was just trying to help!
(and a reminder, do enter the giveaway if you haven’t already!)