Easter was good this year, but the two holidays before and after, Good Friday and Easter Monday, through our smoking schedule out so that five days had to be squeezed into three; as result I was rushing about the County Cork yesterday replenishing stocks in delicatessens and restaurants.
In Bandon I was delivering to URRU Delicatessen, which overlooks the River Bandon and the weir. Ducks are no strangers here, but yesterday there was mother duck parading her 10 one-day-old ducklings up and down the road, dodging the traffic and getting into a bit of a flap; a couple of people were shepherding them up and down the street, but the little family were just getting more and more confused!
Mother duck then took off and flew down the street, presumably to try and distract our attention from her ducklings, who then proceeded to vanish under my Caddy Van. One of the shepherds had got a couple of long handled brooms, so there I was on my knees sweeping duckling by duckling from under the van, ably assisted by other volunteers, and popping them one by one into the polystyrene box that I had just delivered smoked salmon and smoked chicken in to Urru!
What to do with the baby ducklings now calm inside their new home? And don’t even think of Smoked Duck!
Because the river was running through the town, the bank of the river was stone faced with the river some 20 ft (6 metres) below me, it wasn’t a simple question of ushering them into the river to join the many ducks below, one of which was hopefully their mother. Fortunately there are some steps down the wall to the river, and at the bottom of the steps it was just a short swim for the ducklings to a series of islands where the ducks gather.
There was one nasty moment halfway down the steps when my feet started to slip on some slime, and I could see white polystyrene box, 10 ducklings and myself descending to the river and floating down through Bandon Town!
However, we made it. I waited until I could see a solitary (and possible maternal) duck before tipping out the ducklings onto the rock at the bottom of the steps; they waddled into the stream and paddled into the wake of the duck who led them to the island. We were a bit surprised and concerned to watch as the duck started pushing the little ones away, and snapping at them with her bill; we presumed that we had the wrong duck and that she was rejecting these orphaned ducklings. Adoption clearly isn’t an option in the duck world.
There was little else I could do, so I ascended to the top with my now rather messy white box, and going back into Urru to report on the events, I saw a very distraught duck way up on top of the three storey building; I presumed that this was the real mother searching and crying for her chicks. Having regaled Ruth and her colleagues in the shop with tales of daring do, I had a last look over the wall to check on our little orphans; to my surprise they had settled down and mother duck looked as though they actually belonged to her; and on the other side of the little island, the duck from the roof top was excitedly waddling up to another clutch of ducklings that were clearly hers!
So all ended well, and I will not be smoking duck for the moment!