life, death, dam!

 

Yesterday morning we had a rude awakening.

Its not like we didn’t KNOW Kevin was coming over with his diggy-diggy to do our driveway and fix the dam… its that I was so wiped out I’d been in bed since 7.30pm the night before (I should  say afternoon before) and Wayne was living in denial or something. He’d woken up, got a coffee and come back to bed with a book.

When the truck arrived the dogs went bezerk. I was up, running around trying to put some clothes on, get to the door, keep the dogs in all at once.

Of course the dogs hadn’t been out to pee cause that’s my job in the morning… so they needed to go out and pee and not eat Kevin before he did our job for us.

So here I am, running around pulling on track pants with one hand, boots with another, breasts bouncing cause who has time to pull on a bra at a time like this, with dogs frothing at the mouth around me, barking at the machine wielding murderer who’d obviously come to massacre us as we slept.

I rounded the dogs up, heading them out into the paddock where I thought I’d release them so Kevin would be safe for a while, get to the gate and what do I see???

Three tiny ducklings in a little pile right outside the gate.

SH#$*#^#T!

Can’t let the dogs out. Those tiny things are like squeaky toys to them!

I go out the gate, grab the ducklings, yelling “WAYNE!!!! WE HAVE DUCKLINGS!!! I NEED YOU! HURRY UP!”

I mean, this is the end of the world.

I have a handful of tiny ducklings.

Again…. its not like we didn’t KNOW they were coming. We just thought we had another week or so.

And yet, this last week I came home one day and saw crows hanging around. One had something in its mouth. I knew we had ducklings…

Wayne and I had discussed this whole plan in detail.

We were going to get out into the area around the dam before Kevin came over. We were going to remove the electric fence which used to protect the willows I’d put in there (which we moved a few weeks ago and which seem to be doing fine in their new spots thankfully), and search the reeds for duck nests.

I’d already found one with about 10 or more eggs in it. We knew there were more cause we hardly ever saw about 3 of our female ducks… we knew they were sitting on eggs.

The plan had been that Wayne would fix up the old dog pen, line the bottom with bird wire to make it duckling proof, then we’d go out, grab the eggs and mothers and move them into the pen to safety.

Because:

1. Every year we have tons of ducklings and none survive unless we can catch them and lock them up. The crows eat them all. Its heartbreaking.

2. Kevin was going to work around the dam and might squash the nests, eggs, ducks….

Right.

Good plan.

So here we are, yesterday morning, running around like jumping beans on speed. Cause we had a plan!

A mother duck hissing at me with her ducklings under her wing.

First nest was the one I’d found first time around. It had no eggs left, just a few ducklings. About 6 of them I think. I put them in a basket and started fixing up the pen. The mother duck was going crazy. We left the gate open and she eventually came in and sat near the basket. Good. When the pen was finished, we put the basket inside and she followed.

All’s well.

Well. Not all.

One duckling was dead at the bottom of the basket. I don’t know if I killed it when I was catching them and it wriggled and I dropped it… It wasn’t high. But it was dead. sigh.

Later on, I found another one dead. Both the dead ones were fawn coloured…. probably girls.

Then I went out and found another nest. Right next to the first. It had an egg with a hole in it but nothing was happening… dead duckling. Sigh again. 6 unhatched eggs and 8 ducklings. We got all of those, picked up the entire nest, and put it all in the basket.

This mother didn’t seem to care that much. She didn’t come for the ducklings.

Mind you, they were much quieter (younger) than the others. They weren’t squeaking for mom.

Plus the excavator makes a lot of noise. And our neighbour was brushcutting on the other side of the paddock. Even if they were squeaking, she probably wouldn’t have heard them.

I covered them with a blanket to keep them warm.

Then I spotted 2 ducklings, most likely from the first batch, on the dam.

SH#$*#^#T again.

No way I could catch them on the dam. They were on their own.

I hated that.

I saw a magpie flying over…

Anyway, after about 2-3 hours of no success enticing the mother to come after the ducklings, I made an executive decision. These nests were really close to eachother, maybe ducks raise ducklings in a kind of ‘village’ approach.

I put the nest, eggs and ducklings in with the mother duck and her remaining 4.

She sat on the nest and covered all the ducklings.

Success!

I felt so much better.

This morning there were 2 casualties. Wayne found one outside when feeding them, I found another in the nest when mom and babies were out paddling in the playpool. Darn. Down to 10 now.

Still… its better odds than they’d get out in nature.

Mind you. We found another nest. It had eggs and ducklings. Some totally newly hatched. We watched some of them hatch right in front of our eyes. It was amazing. I’d only ever seen something hatch out of an egg on TV before.

I almost feel like these are MY babies…

I so want to save them as well, but we just can’t catch those other two mothers. I think they’re older and wiser. I can’t expect that one mother to hatch and raise all those babies, can I?

Someone said a chicken can raise up to 20 young… dare we try? Or do we let nature take its course and see what happens? Its almost certain death for them if we don’t try.

We don’t need a million ducks on our dam, but it would be nice to raise some more… I figure we’ll probably end up with 6-7 of the current 10 making it to maturity. I hope. Should I grab the rest and up the odds? Or not interfere?

When we moved here we had 12 ducks. We’re down to 7-8 now. Maybe less cause of the mothers on nests I have no idea how many we actually have. If we only raise the ones we’ve captured now and all 10 survive, we’ll have about 16-18 ducks. Surely thats enough for anyone, right?

What am I trying to do? Convince myself that I shouldn’t go out and catch the rest of them?

We have 2 geese coming next week. I’ve always been against geese cause they can be aggressive, but Wayne loves them. I decided a while ago to find him a couple for Christmas. I couldn’t find plain white goslings when I looked, but I found a pair who’s about 18 months old. Probably better. They can have their own young here. Then we’ll have to worry about catching goslings…

Meanwhile, one of the two ducklings on the dam yesterday disappeared. They wouldn’t get out of the water while Kevin was working so it may have been a fatality of the work. This morning the other was gone as well. Maybe it got out and joined the nest. Maybe not.

On another, related note… while looking for duck nests I found a wren nest. Darn. I picked it up and looked inside. Tiny unfeathered babies, alive but seemed asleep. I put the nest back further over cause I knew we’d be disturbing it when we went for the duck again.

I checked it later, they were still alive. Hopefully mom found them and went back to them. I dread looking again… I may be responsible for more deaths.

So, here are the ducks yesterday afternoon (minus the mothers) looking over the dam works.

And here is the dam this morning, finished. The lower side has been reinforced so it won’t leak (hopefully!!!) and we won’t have the swampy problem we’ve always had below it. The top side has been lowered to allow water to flow into it when it rains.

 In theory, any excess water in the dam will now flow out on the other side, into the paddock and away from the house. That fence is the house yard fence. The house is only a few meters from there. That’s how close to the house the dam is…

Meanwhile, Kevin has been working on the driveway.

This is yesterday morning when he’d first started. The plan is to make it so that water running off the hill doesn’t just stream down the driveway, under the house and into the casita. Seriously, whoever designed this place had no brain. The house is at the bottom of a hill and in a valley… all rain runs off under our house, our lawn and down under the casita. We hope that with Kevin’s help we can change things and direct the rain towards a drain, down the side of the driveway, into the drains on the side of the road. And away from the house.

Barney oversees the work being done.

I’ll have more photos and updates after the work is finished.
Its been a very expensive project but one that really needed to be done. I really hope it works.
z

One thought on “life, death, dam!

  1. I love reading your stories! I'm a farm girl at heart, so I appreciate what you do. Your writing is so interesting that I want to read more. Thank you for the time and energy you put into this blog.
    Wanda

    Like

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