The call came at midday.
One of the residents on the estate had discovered a mother duck with seven ducklings on her pond. Unfortunately the dog had already eaten two ducklings and they were concerned for the safety of the rest. Could we possibly relocate them down here, to the moat?
Hmmmm. Not as simple as it sounds. Even if I caught the duck, how was I to get it the mile and a half down to the house?
I texted McColleague. "Do you want to be involved in a duck rescue this afternoon?"
She did. Which was good, as she is the only person I know who keeps ducks, so has a handy duck carrier to transport them in. "Should I bring my husband?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied. "I have a feeling the ducks will go everywhere when we try to catch them, so the more help the better. Mr Sparrow and I will meet you there."
Pausing only to fill a carrier bag with corn, we headed off to the top of the estate. McColleague and her husband were waiting for us. He was holding the large plastic box, in which we hoped to place our captured ducks, and McColleague was holding a small yellow fishing net, of the kind found in seaside souvenir shops. We rang the bell of the house in question. I am sure we made an impressive sight. The plastic bag of grain, which I had now discovered had a hole in in the bottom, the fishing net and the box. A truly professional outfit, guaranteed to inspire confidence at a glance.
"Hello," I said, brightly, as the door opened. "Did you call Duck Rescue?"
They had indeed. Ushering us through into their back garden we immediately spotted our prey. "Ok," said McColleague's husband, "we're only really going to get one shot at this."
Carefully we fanned out around the tiny pond, to form a pincer movement. Mother duck and her babies stayed just beyond the reach of the tiny fishing net, in the middle of the water. I threw corn. They ignored it and refused to come closer.
"Put your arms out," said McColleague's husband, demonstrating by assuming a cruciform pose. We did. The ducks moved a little further towards one side of the pond. There was a lunge, much quacking, some running around over the rockery and flower beds, and mother duck flew off into the garden next door.
McColleague and I stood guard over the ducklings, to ensure we didn't lose those too, while our respective husbands climbed over the wall to try to shoo mother duck back into our garden again. There was much quacking, the sound of foliage rustling, thudding feet, a cry of "Aargh, I almost had her!" and then mother duck flew overhead and out into the surrounding parkland.
The couple who had originally called us in as a duck rescue team came out to see how we were doing. We explained the situation as our husbands climbed back over the wall, duckless, and it was agreed mother duck would probably return if we stopped chasing her about and had a nice cup of tea instead.
We drank our tea and listened to the sound of anxious quacking from the other side of the wall. The ducklings were still with us, on the tiny pond, cheeping and cheeping for their mother. We waited. Mother duck did not return.
"OK, plan B," I said. "If we stress the little ones too much they'll die anyway. Mother duck isn't going to come back while we're here. The ducklings can't get to her as they can't get over the brick wall. Let's catch the ducklings, put them back with mum, over the wall, and hopefully she'll decide here is a bad place and take them away to somewhere safe."
At last the small yellow fishing net came into its own, as one by one the tiny ducklings were scooped up and carried over the wall. Mother and babies were reunited and left to take their chances in the wider world. It was the best result we could hope for, and at least they were away from ravening pet dogs. Foxes and other predators would still be a concern even if we had got them back to the moat.
We gathered up our duck busting kit: the dripping net, the bag leaking corn, the empty box. "Right, well, we'll be off now. Just call us, you know, if you need any other ducks rescuing."
We returned to our cars, glowing with the sense of a job well done and the exertion involved in chasing a small duck around a rockery.