Val Compton, Marlborough’s unofficial duckling patrol, saves two more tiny ones from death
Tiny ducklings who suddenly find themselves lost on the River Kennet as it flows through Marlborough are being dramatically rescued by Val Compton, who lives on the river bank in Kennet Place.
The baby birds, often born to large families, sometimes get swept over the mill race and/or fish pass and become so exhausted that they lose contact with the rest of the family.
One real danger being that it might not be accepted back. “Ducks will kill a duckling they feel doesn't belong or that they've seen you return -- it's horrible to watch,” Val told Marlborough News Online.
So it was that Val, the unofficial duckling patrol and equally well known and admired as a campaigner for Marlborough, saved a duckling only one day old yesterday (Wednesday) and another two days earlier.
And she explained: “All my life I've nurtured half dead and helpless creatures -- I kind of never grew out of that childhood phase. When I came to Marlborough 17 years ago and lived by a river, it quickly became apparent that I needed to get a grip on what to do with ducklings and cygnets.
“The young water fowl have always washed over the mill race -- just as they do now over the new fish pass. They're not that easy to catch quite often, but I've worked out my own techniques.
“The same with injured cygnets which sometimes need removing from the swans. I found if I turn into a huge hissing swan myself -- with the help of an open umbrella -- I can get away with quite a lot.”
And she added: “There have been some memorable rescues -- times when I've slipped a duckling into my pocket to take to work, having got it through the night by taking it to bed with me.
“I never quite expected to find myself sitting with a fully grown swan on my lap whilst a friend drove us to the vet though.”
The lonely duckling she discovered earlier in the week provided no problems in returning to his/her brothers and sisters near the Mustard Seed café in the Waitrose car park.
“I managed to pick it up minutes after it was swept over the fish pass.
The second duckling, which was in an exhausted state, proved more difficult.
“I thought I’d found the right mum but when I popped the duckling back she immediately tried to drown it,” said Val.
“I eventually located the duckling’s family down by Castle Court. I knew I would be looking for a big family – there were 14 of them – because I could see the duckling was only about a day old.
“Often a lot of ducklings hatch out at first and you get that number, the next day you are down to a lot less quite often.
And it continues to go down. I dropped my one in the middle of all the little ducklings.
And I hope its mum didn’t notice its return. So, in the end, we had a happy ending – just like a Disney movie.”