Sunday, 10 April 2016

For Duck's Sake

When we moved to our Forever Home last Christmas, I was delighted to find the surrounding countryside also had a beautiful duck pond.  It was privately owned, as were the birds paddling around on the water’s surface.  One morning, whilst walking Molly Muddles, I saw an elderly lady throwing grain at the ducks. We started chatting and it transpired she was the owner of the pond.  She’d bought the three beautiful white birds as ducklings from a County show the previous summer.
          ‘What are their names?’ I asked.
          ‘Oh, no names,’ she shook her head and smiled. ‘I don’t want to get too attached to them in case the foxes get them.  I shouldn’t have bought them really, but as ducklings I just couldn’t resist.  They were so gorgeous.  I’ve made the pond as secure as possible.’  She nodded at the mesh fencing surrounding the bank, and a duck house on stilts in the centre well away from the water’s edge and any sly prowling fox.  ‘I can only hope no harm will ever come to them.’
          Sadly, a month after that conversation, two ducks disappeared overnight.  However, village gossip was that no fox had visited, but instead a two-legged thief.
          ‘Why didn’t the thief take all three ducks?’ I asked a fellow dog walker.
          ‘Probably because he didn’t have three arms.’
          Ask a silly question and I suppose you get a silly answer!

          The sole remaining duck looked very lonely as she swam around on the pond all by herself.  Every morning I’d walk past the pond and – as nobody was around – stop and talk to her.
          ‘Hello, Jemima.’  Yes, I named her.  Jemima Puddleduck.  Couldn’t be anything else really, eh!  ‘How are you?’  Molly would plant her feet on the fence and greet the duck, who would swim over, waddle up the bank, and honk several greetings.  This became a pattern.  I raised eyebrows once when I forgot myself whilst with another dog walker and yelled out, ‘Hello, Jemima!’
          ‘Who’s Jemima?’ asked my companion, which left me feeling rather foolish.
          About a week or so later, Jemima perked up.  Two moorhens were swimming around on the pond.  Mr and Mrs Moorhen were quite happy to exchange pleasantries with Jemima as they got down to the serious business of nest building in the rushes.
          Friday morning was like no other.  I passed Jemima busily diving, her fat feathered bottom up in the air, neck well under the water line as she dived for…well, whatever ducks like to dive for.  She was so busy she didn’t stop to greet me.  Smiling, I set off across the fields.
          I’m a bit myopic.  On the horizon a flash of something moving was flitting in and out of my vision.  I paused to stare, hesitating whether to let Molly Muddles off the leash.  Was it a hare?  Yes…no…yes…not sure.  I carried on walking with my pooch firmly on the leash.  Then I spotted the streak again, this time dipping over a hill.  That was no hare – it was a fox!
          Molly was already straining at the leash and yapping excitedly.  ‘Let me chase it, please let me chase it.’
          ‘No.  Come on.  This way.’  And off we set.  Over the hills and far away in a completely different direction.
          On the route home, I walked past the pond.  And abruptly stopped.  Where was Jemima?  My eyes flicked from side to side.  Nope, she wasn’t huddled anywhere along the bank.  Or in the duck house.  Or…wait…what was that movement in the rushes?  I walked round to far side of the pond but couldn’t see anything.  There was another very small movement, and then Mrs Moorhen peered over some greenery.  She was on her nest, one beady eye anxiously watching me watching her.  And in that moment I realised Mr Fox had taken Jemima.
          To say I was upset was an understatement.  My sister wasn’t very sympathetic.  ‘You live in the countryside.  Stuff happens.  Get over it.’
          Frustrated and furious, I silently wished Mr Fox a very bad case of indigestion. However, much to my surprise and joy, Jemima was back on the pond the following morning.  Where did she go?  I haven’t a clue.  Either this was the second resurrection or Jemima managed to outwit the fox.  But one thing is for sure – I’m chuffed to bits.  Which reminds me.
          What do you call a clever duck?  A wise quacker…

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