Wednesday, 23 June 2010

One Short of a Dozen

It's ten minutes to one in the afternoon and the gardeners have, unusually, two things on their minds at this time, lunch and the England game in the World Cup Football. However, nature does not stop daily at one o'clock for lunch and an important event is beginning on the edge of the lake. A female Mallard starts calling from the water, the gardeners, Joe and Allison, turn their attention to the sound. A group of ducks also come to see what is happening and seem to form a ring at the edge of the water, where an old Chestnut tree's leaves touch the surface, but go no closer. A sound is heard from within the tree and one by one, sometimes two by two, Mallard ducklings jump out of the tree and into the water below. Five minutes later the commotion is over, eleven Mallard ducklings have made their entrance to the world of Worcester College.
According to various sources, the female Mallard starts to incubate the eggs once the last egg is laid. She rarely leaves the nest apart from taking short breaks to feed and after about 28 days the eggs hatch together, taking about 24 hours. The ducklings stay in the nest for at least 10 hours while they dry out and begin to use their legs, then the mother will lead them to water. On this occasion, the tree over hung the water and all that was needed was 11 brave jumps into the water to their mother and the welcoming committee below.

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