Monday, June 28, 2010
Previous History & A Blessing in Disguise
For many years we'd had a dream. We really wanted to live in the countryside one day, and in the year 1993, this dream came true. After having searched for a long time we, (my husband and I) got the opportunity to buy a construction site to build a new house.
The place was situated not too close to a small town center, in a small and tranquil street.
Behind the plot there was a meadow with two grazing sheep, and behind the meadow was a small woodland.
This first picture was taken at the plot there where later Pipke's pen and pond would come.
We picked “this place” especially because, on the other side of the street there was a little pond with ducks and alongside a big old Willow tree. From the moment we saw this place, we were charmed by the lively mallards who inhabited the pond. It was a real beautiful spot, and rather an exceptional natural place for the surroundings (the other front gardens in the street are all cultivated).
This is a vieuw of the pond just after our house was finished, see our house in the background
During the construction process of our house in 1994, the ducks made nests alongside the wall of our house. Sometimes they laid their eggs in not so safe places, and it happened even a few times that the masons destroyed a nest because their material fell on top of it. Therefor, we created a shelter for them by putting a wooden board sideways against the wall, so the mother ducks could brood in safety under it.
In October of that year – right after the house was finished there was still no fence around the garden, and one day, after a heavy shower, the whole duck family came to visit us.
It was really funny to see how they waddled all through our garden, slurping on every puddle of mud they could find.
Notice the Laurel tree on the left, later in the story I will talk about it.
We were very surprised.
We discovered that there was a newborn duckling – a very special one – it had a very little tuft on its head. It was the “only one” with such a tuft (or crest).
Here you can see Pipke's dad and granny together near the pond on the other side of the street. (Because of the color of the background you can't see the tiny crest of Pipke's dad not so well.)
We wondered how that could be – all the other ducks were ordinary mallards – they had no tuft, so we thought that it was perhaps just a malformation.
In November we finished to set up the fence around the garden, and now the ducks had no longer access to it, but we could often see them in our front garden.
In the Spring of 1995, again the ducks made nests near our house, and this time – one in our front garden – next to our front door – straight under the window of our living room.
It was beautiful to see how the mother duck protected her eggs, how she turned them one by one and covered them carefully when she left the nest to go to the pond.
After almost one month incubating on the nest, her task was almost finished, already several eggs had been hatched.
A Blessing in Disguise.
It was in the early morning of May, 25 and now almost all eggs had been hatched.
At least 12 little ducklings were jumping very vividly around their mother – you could see that she was having problems to keep them under control – close to her – and in the early afternoon it really became too much for her. As it suits a good mother, she brought them to the best habitat for them: the pond.
Two eggs were left behind in the nest – still closed!
In the assumption that there was “no life” – at that moment – my husband said he would bury them the next day.
Later that day: it was already late afternoon, I was home alone (I had to stay home because my left leg was injured, I couldn't rest on it and I had to lean on a stick to walk around). I was standing at the window – watching a heavy rainstorm outside when suddenly – I saw something move below on the ground – in the deserted nest!
A duckling was cracking its eggshell! The shell was already split in halve, and the little one was still fighting to free itself from it.
I watched it for a moment and hesitated what I should do. It lay there so helpless – splashing in the pouring rain – I couldn't let it lie there. It was heartbreaking to see how it fought against the heavy rain.
It was a real severe storm, and no weather to start a life all alone and so unprotected!
Thus: I threw my stick aside, hopped outside on one foot and I took the poor thing out of the nest very carefully. Soaked through by the heavy rain – and still holding it in my hands – I hopped inside again to the laundry room.
There I inspected it.
It seemed to be OK, although it was also soaked and it felt a little cold, it was also a little slimy. Therefore I washed it with a soft tissue and lukewarm water, and afterwards I cupped it in my hand and dried it with the hair drier. It really enjoyed the warmth of the drier. Of course, I held my hand between the duckling and the drier to inspect that it wouldn't become too warm.
First it was a sticky thing (like a little chicken that just hatched), and now that it was dry it became – a cute little creature – almost a cuddly toy – and the big surprise was that: it had also a “little tuft” on its head!
(I couldn't see this when it was still wet.)
This tuft proved who was its father!
I took some soft tissues, prepared them as a soft cushion, and put this in a little plastic box (an empty ice cream container). Then I placed the little one on top of it, and afterwards I covered the box with a soft cloth to keep it warm.
After a while, I took the box on my lap to see how it was doing. It was still a little wobbly but OK.
Then I cupped it in my hand, cuddled it with my finger, and began to whisper to it very gently, and without thinking it over I said: “hey Pipke! “
I had given it the name: PIPKE.
She felt so soft and warm now, her color was so bright yellow, she was so tiny and frail, she just filled my hand.
May 25, 1995
Pipke only three hours old.
When my husband came home three hours later, he was very surprised when he saw the little one in my hand.
He asked me, what I was planning to do with it. I said: “I couldn't let it lie there, just let's see if it survives the night, then we can still decide what to do with it tomorrow.”
(Of course, I knew something about “imprinting”, but at that moment I had underestimated it, but if the same situation occurred again, then I would do the same.)
The rest of the evening, I kept her on my lap or in my hand and before we went to sleep I took her close to my face, I took a sip of water in my mouth and presented her a few drops (I let drip a few drops from my mouth).
I was very surprised ... she accepted the water. She took a few sips!
(I don't know if a mother duck also presents water to her baby.)
That first night we let her sleep in the plastic container in our bathroom – near our bedroom. Several times that night I inspected if she was OK.
Of course the next morning, the first thing we did was to look how she was doing.
She was very vivid. I took her in my hand and held her close to my face so we had eye contact, then she squeezed her tiny beak very gently against my cheek. This was such a lovely experience, she conquered my heart immediately.
Next we discussed what to do with her.
My husband went to the pond on the other side of the street, and there he saw that the mother (who had a brown color) was chasing away all her white (or rather yellow) ducklings.
She really attacked them!
What was the matter with her – why did she do that – was it the color that provoked this behavior?
In the whole group there was only one white duck, was it perhaps that she considered them not hers? We have never understood why she behaved this way.
It was certainly not an option to introduce her there at this moment.
So, we had no choice and decided to keep her for a while.
Thereafter we went to the pet shop.
They advised us to give her a special food for ducklings called: starter crumbs for ducks. They are basically made from milled wheat plus beans, peas and oil seeds to increase the protein content. We had to present them to her, together with water.
Already from the first time that we presented it – it went very well!
We took the special crumbs – plunged them into some water – stirred it with our finger, and she started eating immediately. We repeated this a few times, and after a while she took the crumbs by herself, it seemed almost as if she had done that many times before!
It was so funny to see and hear, how she was slurping and sifting the food from the water, it sounded so funny!
At the noon she had her first stroll in the garden with us.
We had to watch out, not to step on her because she stayed so close to us !
The fact that I had to use a stick for walking didn't make it easy for me having her around, sometimes she even ran between my legs and I really had to be careful.
During the rest of the day, we kept her indoors in our laundry room in a big plastic container with a soft bedding and water.
Every few hours we took her out, cleaned her container, fed her and had a little stroll in the garden with her.
When I then cupped her in my hand during the stroll – she fell asleep – she was very at ease, she was almost like a baby in a cradle that became lulled to sleep.
We gave her as much attention as we could and took time to cuddle her.
The next day we introduced her to “water”!
We poured some water into the sink of the laundry room and put her in. She started to swim immediately, she also began to clean and preen her tiny feathers.
In the meantime, we had noticed that there were no other newborn ducklings with a “tuft” in the pond on the other side of the street, Pipke was the only one with a tuft (or crest).
We also saw that the mother still chased her white ducklings away, only a few white ones were still alive. She also neglected the brown ones, they were also reduced in number. Sometimes we could see the Magpies diving down to grab a duckling, that was not so pleasant to see, but there was nothing we could do to prevent this, that's the way it goes in nature: to eat, or to be eaten.
I think this is a nice picture to end this post and the second chapter.
After her bath in the sink of the laundry room.
Almost one week old!
Next time we will continue with: Her first week.
The written dates you see on some of them is the European way to write the date. We first write the day, thereafter the month.