Penelope got married. This was a news that is no longer news because I was reluctant to share it. Penelope the goddess (see other duck stories) married her stalker. The male duck (pictured with her) lurked around our backyard for weeks as she was growing up last year. He has a tall slim body and deep grey feathers. His head was the darkest amongst all the other ducks. I had not seen him before Penelope was born.
I think I kept chasing this male duck away because subconsciously, I believed he would take her away. None of my threatening moves scared the duck and I was surprised by its persistence to stick around.
Each time I yelled at it, I was scolded by my sons. They argued that the male duck could be Penelope’s father.
“Oh really, you’re serious?” I would say, knowing the duck wasn’t her father.
The dark headed stranger would wait in our yard, in nearby trees and bushes and watch her. I had a name for it, but this blog is G rated so I won’t say it. As she got older, Penelope became silly and stubborn. Her behaviour changed in the evenings, she wanted to stay up and outside the coop. This is the story of Penelope, the baby duckling we raised. I guess I could not say Penelope grew up, got married and lived happily ever after. Not yet, as her story has not ended. Pictured here the feathered couple sat away from the pack and watched the new ducklings swim.
“I am afraid they are getting new ideas”, I said to my own children.
“Mum, stop messing with duck-business”, my son Nathan said.
Standing under the hot Brisbane sun, I watched Penelope and thought of her when she was tiny and had a broken foot. She grew up too quickly and being able to fly in November last year, she left home and disappeared for a few days. Then she returned home with ‘him’. I was not impressed at first, but after a while, I watched the way they spent the day and it melted away my anger.
The male duck serves the goddess with his love and patience. Penelope is very demanding and seems to bark orders at him. He obliges and keeps calm. Most times, he just follows her. Yesterday, she took him to my second garden near the neighbour’s yard. None of the other ducks go there and I was surprised to see the pair. But, that was where she and I used to spent most times; me pulling out weeds and she eating them.
I am okay with them spending time in my garden. She is happy and she is still here in Bellbowrie and that makes me happy.
I was laughing as I wrote this story, but I did get really annoyed in the beginning with Penelope and this male duck. If you think this post is ridiculous, say so, but I needed to get it off my chest.
Ten ducklings had their first day with their mother in the water yesterday. The Pacific Black duck pair had been living in our backyard this last year. These are their first hatchlings.
The test begins now to see if they would all survive into autumn. Last night, between 7pm and 9pm, Nathan, Chris and I barely managed to put them into a safe enclosure for the night.
At 4:30am this morning, I woke up to some loud scrapping sounds only to find, it wasn’t the usual suspects, the possums, but the local rascal, the wild cat that kills birds in our neighbourhood. The cat tried to get into the enclosure. I got out, just in time to chase it away.
Princess celebrated motherhood yesterday when her eight babies learnt to fly for the first time on our lawn in Bellbowrie, Queensland (Australia). She is a wild wood duck who grew up in our family home. I have written three stories about her on this blog, see the links below to bring you up to date with her life story.
You could say – after all she has been through, she deserved one happiness, and that she has. She literally grew up inside the house – in my son Nathan’s bedroom – she lived in a crate at night and during the day, we watched her wander around the yard, and making friends with other adult wild ducks and our laying chickens. She would always come back upstairs when it got dark.
I had rescued Princess in 2013 just after Christmas with five other ducklings in our back-yard. During the course of raising the ducklings my sons and I became parents as well as students, learning how we could help the ducklings grow and then release them back into the wild. Goodness knows what was going on in the communication from duck to human language, but soon, the ducklings fell into a pattern of eating, playing, swimming and just following each other and anyone of the three of us, in a line when we walked around the property. When we decided to name the ducklings, she stood out because she was the smallest and had a nervous twitch – everything had to be done for her. She would just wait to be served.
Princess’ four siblings died in the process of growing – the vet said, it could be anything – the stress, cold, fright, and drowning. There were two ducklings left. Princess and her sister. They continued to live with us inside the house in one of the spare bathrooms at night and much to the disgust of our visiting friends and family who sometimes accidentally stepped on duck poop. As they got older and stronger, we let the two sisters swim in a small water tank which was deeper than the bath. Later they took to our swimming pool and we could see them really enjoying themselves. When they became taller and their wings got bigger we knew they were ready to fly; my son trained them to fly off our balcony into the pool (15 metres away) and also fly onto the lawn from the two story house.
With her nervous twitch, we noticed, her big sister became protective of Princess any time she found things difficult. She would nuzzled Princess and peck her gently to settle her. I became very attached to the confident big sister. She was a very smart and a caring big sister, She always tried new things and places before involving Princess. The two ducks bonded closely and were almost ready to be trained back into the wild together. Early one evening while we were having dinner with the two ducks tucked into their large box on our verandah, a python came up, unexpectedly, slipped into the box and coiled around one duck – the confident sister.
From that day onwards, Princess remained in the house with us, less confident to fly and became very attached. A few weeks later she started to regain her confidence. Then she tried to fly so Nathan took her to the window and she flew into the pool – about 30 metres away. She was natural. Swimming, diving and fluttering her wings. She loved it and started there all day – we had to bring her food to her, like a true Princess. She also flew a complete circle around our neighbours yard and took a swim in their brand new swimming pool. I jokingly told Princess, it was okay as long as she did not poop in their pool or get caught.
Then, one day a bunch of young male ducks that were hanging around our pool flew off and we saw her go. We followed her through a few neighbour’s property and decided, she was ready to go.
She returned to our property regularly and pretended she did not know us when we called her name. Sometimes, her twitch would become obvious – perhaps from worrying, we were trying to get her back. Amongst other wild ducks, when her name was called, Princess would be the only duck turning to look at us. It was funny. She had many suitors who often fought over her in the front lawn and the pool.
It was only a short time before Princess established herself with a pack of wild ducks that frequented our yard. Then Princess fell in love. Earlier this year, I posted a story about Princess and her first ducklings.
On their first day, she brought her babies out for a walk and played in our yard and then a swim in the pool. Within a few days, she decided to leave our property and cross the main road into a vacant block which led into the wild, a creek and then Brisbane River. I followed them to the edge of the bush concerned she had made a grave decision. There was a big storm, the next day. The mother, partner and babies – did not show up for two days.
Seven weeks ago, my son Nathan was very excited about new ducklings in our yard. Ducks don’t always have babies in winter so we were surprised. We rushed out and counted eight baby ducks. Sure enough, someone had been busy, it was Princess and her partner with their ducklings. She had also lost the nervous twitch. The ducklings were not newborn. They were at least two-three weeks old. She had hid her babies until they grew up. It was clearly a clever plan by Princess. We could not work out where they were before they came home.
Attentive and followed by her partner and their babies, Princess headed for the chicken’s feed. Even the chickens let the ducks eat. We were all overjoyed.
I decided to buy some duck food from our local produce store. I did not post a story about the new arrivals earlier, just to let Princess have the quiet life she wanted and raise her eight daughters. Our family tried to keep our distance and no paparazzi were allowed. It has been almost five weeks since they arrived and adding the first few weeks in hiding, they have grown rapidly and are now ready to fly. Usually the babies grow their strong feathers by six weeks and fly at eight weeks.
The mother got them started in the pool – flapping wings and lifting off – then falling on the water. The training also takes place in the water and on our lawn – just as we tried to teach her. It is quite funny and heart-warming to watch. Ten days ago, wild foxes got into our chicken coop and took Lady Stella. (That’s another story). After the midnight drama and the shock of losing the toughest hen – we raced about our property trying to find Princess and her family. We discovered, after all this time, she had cleverly nested her family in the thick layers of my flowers just on the water’s edge in our fenced swimming pool where no large animal can get in. She family planned well in the sense that being winter, even the snakes would be hibernating. So…they are safe for now and it is only days before the new girls will fly. Then, they will all be in the wild together.
I feel that Princess has truly achieved motherhood and as her mother, I am very proud of her.
The rain eased at noon in Bellbowrie, Queensland today, but only for a few minutes. It has been storming for two days. The rain’s destruction was evident in washed garden beds and the main road overflows. I found some of my cuttings and seedlings floating in odd places, near the main road.
Yesterday, at the Coles Supermarket we were unable to purchase staple food like bread and rice. A Cole’s staff member said residents had a panic buy, stocking up in case it flooded like the 2011 Queensland floods. The supermarket was empty.
Several places outside our house were flooded. I had kept indoors and started a new artwork and read blogs. Only two days of wet weather and storms – yet there was too much water. On the news Brisbane was supposed to have 500mm of rain over the weekend. More rain will come.
In the distant, I heard a familiar cry that tugged at my heartstrings. I left the watercolour and went outside to the balcony.
“Listen!” I told my son Nathan.
We both waited and the cry was muffled by the sound of rain on our iron rooftop. It came again and I knew the cry was coming from the open field and then it moved around the back, near the duck’s nesting ground. She did come back. Her cries were strange, long and despondent. I knew.
“It’s her, something has happened”, I said.
I put my raincoat on and walked through the drizzle in the soft mushy flooded ground to her. The male duck, her partner was by her side, quiet. They made a striking couple. Her brown and white spotty breast and belly topped with deep brown-black wings, and he with a touch of spotty chest, blue-grey and black flumes. They stood on the fuzzy open plain of short stubby blue couch, Queensland’s native grass. The rain water was caught in the grass blades giving it a wet, fuzzy sheen.
I looked around the two ducks. The seven ducklings were nowhere to be seen. My heart sank. The inevitable had happened. The mother’s face was turned towards the pool, where she had hatched them. Her neck stretched forward and long in a breaking curve. Her mouth was wide opened, showing her pink insides as she wailed. Her cries were louder as I got closer. My eyes warmed into tears.
She looked at me and stopped crying. I stopped a few meters away. I wished I had some duck-words to comfort her. I could only offer her some food and walked away.