I saw them all again today, paddling about in the distance.  I grabbed the binoculors to spy on them as I was very excited to see their progress.  I counted, 1,2,3 ducklings, 4,5 6, oh- and the last two?? Here they come- right behind!  But no.  Only one more came. Seven in total.  I guess Cheepy was not destined to live a life on the ocean wave.  So long, old Cheeps.

Last night as we left the boat for east london the tide was very high.  We wondered how Cheepy would ever make it back to the world of wildlife, so treacherous it is.  And as we wondered this, lo and behold, we spied the entire Cheepy family, (well, depleted family), balancing on some sort of floating platform in the water- pecking and scrabbling they were.  It was kind of a relief to see mother duck- we realised this might be our big chance to get Cheepy rehabilitated into the wild, especially as he had been doing so well lately.  The problem was, Mother duck and co were all in the middle of the river, tidal water all around, and we didn’t think Cheepy, in his condition, stood a chance of making it across the waves to be reunited.  Then, when the duck family got off the floating mound and swam back to the reeds by the banks we realised that this really was our big chance.  From the banks we could put Cheepy down to re-join his family (remember how he needs lubricating by the mother or else he’ll drown etc) and then he wouldn’t have to swim solo.

So Pat (he’s always the active one) seized the opportunity, ran back and collected the little guy.  It was pretty tense- as Pat came running along the ramp, Cheepy in hand, the mother and ducklings gathered together and swam back to the floating mound.  ‘Shoot!’ we thought, this is gonna be trickier than we thought.  But, AH! The laws of nature had already a plan in place. Cheepy, from his temporary box home, starts to Cheep loudly.  And of course, mother duck, from her floating mound, suddenly stretches up her long neck in response, ears pricked. (If indeed, she had any- which I guess she does, just not sure where she keeps them.. in her beak maybe? or by her little beady eyes?) She them cheeps loudly back and suddenly, nature takes over.  In she dives off the platform, into the water, and all the while cheeping and swimming, she makes for the little cheep somewhere on the banks.  Meanwhile all the remaining ducklings tumble off the mound, spluttering and wriggling following mother duck.  Pat places Cheepy on the step (see below) and before we know it, they’re off, in convoy into the river.

BUT, will Cheepy keep up? Will his rehabilitation period have sorted him out?  Or, as the runt of the litter, will he be swiped off the block at the next hurdle?  NOW, it is out of our hands, and our wheelhouse (which is a good thing because actually having a pet Duck is not brilliant- they quack all the time and poo everywhere and want to swim but can’t until they wait long enough for their feathers to be ready).

Cheepy seems to be doing surprisingly well.  I just spoke to someone from the ‘rehabilitation’ place and she advised warmth- put a hot water bottle in there to keep it cosy (if it’s looking ill- but to be honest, I think Cheepy’s on the mend).  I’ve put a very shallow saucer of water in there for him to drink, and Pat has gone off in search of ‘chick crumb’ which is apparently the best food for it at this stage. She also said that if the mother really has gone off (which the mother has, because the tide is strongly going off down river) then our duckling wont be able to swim.  Ducklings need their mothers to lubricate them so that they can swim in the early stages. Without that lubrication, they drown.  So for now, Cheepy’s going nowhere.  And then the final thing she said, which made me most amused, was that if you can, put a feather duster in there!  That reminds them of their mums.  Aren’t animals great?!

I just went in to give it some more cosy down-feathers from the nest and it was very animated, cheeping away and even ran towards me when I took the water out.  To be honest, it looked like Cheepy had attempted to go for a swim in the saucer, because most of the water was on the outside of it.  I’m not convinced it needs a water bottle any more, however I’ve put one next to the box on the side where Cheepy’s leaning.  I think strength is restored.

Pat is trying to imprint on him, he’s been looking deep into Cheepy’s eyes and saying ‘who’s your daddy?’.  This is worrying.

I just called the RSPB and I need to keep the duckling ‘comfortable’ until it’s mother returns (if indeed she ever does).  And if she doesn’t I can take it to a duckling rehabilitation centre!! HA! I LOVE BOAT LIFE!  The lady also told me to keep the duckling at arms length as it is so young that there is ‘the nasty possibility that it might imprint me’!!  Is this really so bad?  A little ducking to follow me everywhere I go.  How sweet!  I can hear Cheepy cheeping like a wild thing already- recovery seems to be happening.  Oh, how lovely!

There was a duck living in one of our lower pots (see above first photo…) she’d made a nest there and had been sitting there very quietly for a long, long time.  Well.  Yesterday they hatched- all nine of them. And then today (they waste no time) they all leapt off the boat- one by one, following mother duck.  Then they simply swam off and around the boat and made a little camp for themselves on the mud-bank.  I sat and watched them for ages, the baby chicks following mother duck around and being very cute. I noticed two were particularly pathetic, and one just kept rolling over in the mud- it couldn’t hack the cruel reality of the non-nest world.  And then it kept running under it’s mum and wriggling.  Eventually I had to stop watching them and get on with some work.  Next time I went out (some 70minutes later) the ducklings were 2 down, only 7 left.  So Pat and I scoured the banks to find the lost two but couldn’t, and eventually found one.  So Pat rescued him from the mud, as he had clearly been abandoned by his family and was looking very peeky.  And now he’s in a box surrounded by some earth and duck-down from the nest and with a small saucer of water next to him. (or her).  But all the little duckling does is shiver- so I’m not sure he/she’ll make it.  Maybe I should name it, then I don’t have to worry about the gender so much…. Cheepy- Peeky Cheepy.  (Although there’s not much cheeping going on at the moment).  Cheepy will need warmth, love, water and eventually worms.