Yesterday when he was in the garden, Bunty saw a pair of mallards waddling down the road. Cars shot by heedless of them, as they began to cross. Bunty contemplated vaulting over the fence to usher them back to the verge, but feared he would panic them and drive them in front of a car instead. Then, a car hit the female duck. The driver had slowed down, but not enough. The bumper clipped her head, knocking her unconscious.
Bunty collected her from the tarmac before another car ran her over, and carried her carefully into the house. She came round as they reached the kitchen, and struggled to get out of his hands. Her wings and legs seemed strong and healthy, so Bunty took her to a corner of the field beside our cottage and placed her on the grass. She waggled her tail, found a place to settle down, and remained there for the next few hours, her head tucked under her wing.
Bunty told me all about her when he picked me up from college. We gazed at her over the garden wall, and she lifted her head briefly to look back at us. In the late afternoon, she perked up and began pottering about in the floody puddle nearby. She showed no interest in flying away, or in walking far, and we felt she was probably still concussed.
Things were looking positive until dusk fell, and torrents of rain came battering the stone walls of the cottage. I messaged our local bird nerd Gillian to get advice. Gillian suggested keeping her indoors for the night, in a warm dark box, with the addendum that if she was difficult to catch, she would likely be fine outside. We made a box cosy with hay and climbed over the garden wall. The duck was gone.
We got a torch and searched the field, the lane, the hedge and the main road. There was no sign of her. The fact that there were no feathers left in the field suggested she had not been attacked, and had probably flown away. I was pleased, and so was Gillian, but Bunty fretted about his duck. He wanted to know for sure what had happened to her.
The next morning, on his way to the car to drive me to college, he paused to scan the field for her.
“Hey!” he said.
She was waddling toward us, with a drake in tow – perhaps the one who had been crossing the road with her. Upon sight of us, they both took to the air. There was clearly nothing wrong with the duck’s wings.
They returned to the corner where Bunty had first placed his duck. While she settled down to rest, the drake stood on the alert nearby, eyeing me with suspicion.
It is afternoon now, and they are still there. It appears that Bunty has two new best friends. He has thrown them some bread in case they get hungry. It’s important to feed one’s guests.