Doris and Derek had been courting for some time, inseparable it would seem as they frequented our back yard, surveying every nook and cranny for a suitable crèche for the chance of a family.
A handsome couple they would preen together, flap their wings as do all courting couples. We watched on many occasions with their flirtatious behaviour and amorous moments in our pool, they were not aware that we had a watchful eye upon them!
It was not long after that Doris and Derek would fly into our pool, but only Derek would leave, allowing Doris to nest in a carefully attended section at the end of the pool, under reeds. Surrounded by flowering azaleas, irises, roses and pig face, it was such a pretty
nesting spot. We all waited patiently for the next 30 days. Doris had exclusive rights over the back yard. All humans were banished from the back garden. I was as anxious as Doris about the new arrivals!! At times I thought she was not nesting enough, but after 28 days it was evident that she had done everything just right. Doris and Derek were proud new parents. Dufous, Dandy, Daisy, Debi, Davis, Darby and Donald.
Donald was the largest quite a tubster, with Dandy and Dufous by far the runt of the litter. They chirped merrily as they followed Mum’s every waddle, movement and gesture. Learning how to swim, feed and to know what stranger danger was. Any bird that flew above, meant run for cover.
Their faces so sweet with beautiful markings of lemon and black highlights. Their down so soft. They were truly little angels of cuteness.
Doris set up her nursery close to the house, upon the seaside daisies and underneath the orange blossom. Their first night was spent with her 7 little ducklings nestled gently under her wing. The next day when we awoke it was odd to see Doris fly off leaving her ducklings unattended, we had not witnessed this before and I did fear for the little duckling’s safety. Sadly it was a week day, so we reluctantly had to go to work. Upon coming home from work I ran to the back window to see how the family was doing. It was not good. Doris was nowhere to be found nor was Daisy, Debi, Davis, Darby or Donald. Two fragile little ducklings chirping longingly, it was Dandy and Dufous. My heart bled for them, I was anxious and feared for their fragile little lives. It was a wave of relief that washed over me when Doris flew into the pool. The excitement from Dandy and Dufous was incredible. After a quick dip in the water they snuggled under their mother’s wing and spent the night in the nursery. The next morning we awoke to once again only Dandy and Dufous, mum had flown off again. This time I had to shoo off a menacing looking Magpie perched on our back gazebo. We reluctantly went to work again and hoped that Mum was not too far away. Excitedly I ran to the back window after work, this time only to find Dufous, the smallest of the clutch the only survivor, Mum was nowhere to be seen. Poor little Dufous so anxious and alone, running here, hiding there. He managed to find his way down the bottom of our steps, however he was unable to get back up. It seemed he was getting weaker. I could no longer bear to see this predicament so I went down to scoop him up and assist him up the steps. As light and delicate as a feather, he chirped and squirmed. Before I knew it Mum flew in. Dufous squawked with glee as he heard Mums calls. A flurry of fluff, as he ran to be by her side.
So much Joy!!!
I searched the backyard when we got up, no Doris and no Dufous to be found, I assumed that they had left the confines of our backyard to face their next journey. I decided I should clean up all the duck droppings that Doris had so kindly left us over the past month. Due to the fact that I would not let anyone in the back yard there was quite a mess. Scrubbing and hosing down the sandstone was the order of the morning. I went about my business then in the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something. I dropped to my knees and wept. In the pool, face down lay Dufous, lifeless and cold. I scooped him out of the pool with my hands. A limp little body lay in my hands,lifeless yet peaceful. I sobbed for his life and for Doris’s loss. Our little cherub had gone to heaven. Tears flooded down my cheeks as we wrapped Dufous in a tea towel and placed him in a special spot. With a daisy and an Iris that we placed above him we lay our little duckling to rest.
We figured that he had drowned, from his weakness from getting out of the pool, and realised that Mum must have left him. As I rose to my feet from where Dufous lay, Doris flew in, she had just missed saying goodbye to Dufous. I wept uncontrollably for the loss of his life and for the immense pain and sorrow that Doris was experiencing. She quacked out for Dufous but this time there was no greeting. An impossible situation filled with sorrow and heartbreak.
Doris spent an hour in the pool, it was a silent vigil. Her head nestled in amongst her wing, she was lifeless and withdrawn. Every part of me wanted to run to her side and tell her that she was a wonderful Mum and that she did everything she could. She is a beautiful Mother.
I hope she stays strong and that Derek comforts her. For next year her maternal instincts will reignite and she will begin the Circle of Life yet again.
The gift of life is so very precious, we must live life to the fullest for the future is unknown.
In memory of a brave little duckling “Dufous”.