Hi all, My first post to the list. I usually like to keep a low profile, but the story that unfolded before me this morning was so full of twists and turns that I had to share it with other bird enthusiasts.
I will call the two ducklings Ruth and Edek, in homage to The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. Yesterday afternoon, while walking around Beebe Lake on Cornell campus, I saw a handful of common merganser ducklings together with their parents resting lazily on a branch in the afternoon sun. Great, I thought, since it meant that I could return tomorrow morning and watch the ducklings jostle to sit on the back of mama when they go out foraging, always an entertaining spectacle. The morning arrived, and I started walking around the lake. No sign of the merganser family. Just when I was about to leave, I finally saw a lone merganser duckling, with no signs of the rest of the family. Has it been abandoned? Should I call a rehabiliator, or should I leave it be since it is able to feed itself, and is too agile anyway? I left the lake feeling somewhat uncertain. I returned a few hours later. Again I saw a duckling, which henceforth I shall name Edek, but this time playfully swimming near an adult female. Great, I thought, that Edek has finally found its mum! However, it soon became obvious that the female wasn't friendly, and what I had thought to be playful swimming was in fact frantic attempts by Edek to escape. The female finally caught up with Edek, lifted Edek with its beak, and started violently thrashing Edek about. Realising what was happening before me, instinctively I ran forward, causing the female to swim away. However, I could no longer see any signs of Edek, so I assumed that Edek had perished. With a heavy heart, I left the scene. While crossing the small wooden bridge on the southern side of the lake, I spotted a movement in the creek below. In a shadowy corner hid yet another merganser duckling, which henceforth I shall name Ruth. Quietly, I stepped back to avoid alerting Ruth to my presence. Minutes later, Ruth made a dash for the lake. Oh how fast the little mite went, perhaps wary of dangers lurking in the thick foliage on either side! Ruth didn't go very far though, and stopped to preen on a branch at the mouth of the creek. Soon, Ruth started calling. To my surprise, I heard a call back, from the direction where I thought Edek had perished! This got Ruth excited, and it started calling with increasing fervour. And lo! Edek soon came into view. Unable to contain its excitement, Ruth hopped off the branch and swam forward to join Edek. Reunited at last! I've created an eBird checklist with screencaps of the actors involved. https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56796010 Descriptions are in the photo comments. The first two are Edek trying to scramble away from the adult female, the third Ruth sitting quietly in the creek, the fourth Ruth returning call to Edek, the fifth Ruth and Edek at the moment of reunion, and the sixth Ruth and Edek resting on a branch post-reunion. Unlike The Silver Sword, the story of Ruth and Edek is not over yet, since I am uncertain whether their parents will return given that I have not seen any other female mergansers (except the hostile one) on the lake. What is the usual recommendation for seemingly abandoned ducklings that are still really small (such as those in the photos), but nonetheless able to forage by themselves? Is it better to leave them be, or is rehabilitation preferred? Regards, Wee Hao -- Cayugabirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsWELCOME http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsRULES http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://firstname.lastname@example.org/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds 3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --