Rhubarb ducklings

4/5/2018 Ducks seem to have an uncanny ability to combine sense with silliness.

I had made up my mind that the first urgent garden job to be undertaken when the weather became more clement was to weed the rhubarb bed. I could barely distinguish rhubarb from weed, but I knew it must be nearly ready for picking by now. So, as soon as the sun appeared, I made my way through the fencing designed to keep out goats but almost as effective in keeping out humans.

But before I had done more than cut out a couple of brambles, I bumped into a duck. Almost literally: I didn’t see her until I was standing right next to her, and she barely moved even then, except to lift up her head and look at me in slight alarm.

So much for that, I thought, after I had recovered from the surprise. But then I realised, as long as I kept my distance and left her plenty of cover, I could probably start weeding from the other end without disturbing her. As I started on my task, I reflected on her choice of nesting location. Sensible duck, I thought: she has chosen a well-hidden spot with extra fencing protection against predators. I’d never have found out she was there if I hadn’t tried to weed the rhubarb bed. Silly duck, I thought: how on earth is she going to get her ducklings out?

With a sense of parental responsibility towards all (harmless) creatures that choose to make their home in my garden, I realised that it was my duty to be on duckling watch until her eggs hatched. I might be waiting three weeks or more. But it was almost as if she simply assumed that I would be on hand to help when the time came. Perhaps she wasn’t so silly after all. Morning and evening, and during the day when I could, I went to check that mother duck was still on her nest.

In the end, her timing couldn’t have been better. Nearly two weeks after I discovered her, on the first sunny, warm morning for a week, I was sitting on the terrace working on my computer when I heard peeping and quacking coming from the rhubarb. It didn’t take me more than a second to realise my services were required.

Before long, Mother Duck and her brood of 9 ducklings were across the lawn and safely launched on the pond. Thankfully the goats didn’t think it worth their while to disturb their sunbathing session to come and ‘help’ – or for that matter, take immediate advantage of an opportunity for a quick meal of rhubarb.