• Rae Gellel

Ducklings, Pigeons & Bats - all in a day's work!

Another long, hot afternoon with a string of rescues!


First, MORE ducklings in an ornamental fountain at the Royal Arsenal, for the second day in a row. This one turned into a really tricky rescue.

At this particular fountain, the ducklings cannot climb in or out as the sides are just too steep. They hatched on a balcony, plopped down onto the concrete floor, then had no way to access the water - which like all of these fountains at the RA, is chlorinated and without any natural food sources anyway.

The mother duck kept climbing in the fountain and calling to her babies, not understanding why they were unable to follow. A concerned resident noticed this and thinking they were helping, scooped the ducklings up and put them in the fountain.

Although completely well intentioned, unfortunately this made the task of rescuing the entire family a lot more difficult. The trick to catching the mother duck is herding her into a corner, where she has no easy flight path to get away, and then being very, very quick with a net or even grabbing her with bare hands. Whilst the family were on the floor, this is quite straight forward - there are lots of enclosed corners to herd them into. In the small rectangular fountain however, there are no such corners - it is open on all sides and completely exposed. The mother duck would fly away however we approached.

Worse still, the ducklings had no way to get out of the water, so they would eventually become tired and drown, putting a time limit on the rescue attempt.

We therefore had the difficult task of getting the ducklings back out of the water and onto the ground with their mum, without spooking her in the process and causing her to fly off. Not an easy task. Thankfully, some extremely helpful residents produced a small ladder, which they borrowed from their ferrets' toys. We then spent a long time directing the ducklings towards the ladder, trying to get them to leave the fountain, without freaking the mum out. It was a very slow, frustrating process, but eventually the ducklings found it and hopped out onto the ground.

That done, we then had to catch them all.

All the fuss that preceded this had sadly made the mother duck wary - she knew we were up to something. We nonetheless persevered with herding her into a corner as we had originally planned. Finally, the opportunity to net her arose, we swung at her, missed her by centimetres, and she flew away, vanishing from sight. We were full of despair, knowing she was unlikely to return now that she felt she was in danger. After five excruciating minutes of waiting however, we heard a quack - she was back! Once again, we painstakingly herded her into a corner, doing this at a snail's pace to avoid scaring her off, as she was now ready to fly away again at any moment. I got my second opportunity to net her, and this time, I did not miss!

Whilst the rescue was ongoing we received several calls about an unwell pigeon in Woolwich Town Centre. This is a repeat of yesterday, when we ended our duckling rescue at the Royal Arsenal by picking up another Woolwich pigeon. We are full, but we can hardly say no when we are minutes away.

After collecting the pigeon, who has canker and possibly ornithosis, we then went to a local lake to release the mother duck and her babies - always scary as there is a risk that mum will fly away - but thankfully the release went smoothly, and the family swam away happily, reunited in a much more suitable new home.

Finally, we then collected a pipistrelle bat that had been found on the floor in Plumstead. We don't have the relevant licences to rehab bats, which have very specific legal protections, so we are merely a temporary stop gap before the National Bat Welfare Society collect the tiny creature this evening.

While all this was going on, Paul also collected three pigeons and took them to another rescue.


Phew. Now time to clean cages for several hours. Will this season ever end!?


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