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Six little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away!

Did you know Jill & Brett are wildlife carers with Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services. They are on call to rescue injured or orphaned native wildlife, nursing them back to health and integrating them back to their habitat. Each issue of the 'the big p' will feature a story of one of our recent rescues. This issue – Jill tells how she helped two little ducks survive the journey from duckling to duck-hood...

The first couple days were pretty hard for these little guys.Huddling together!Sitting pretty.Finding my feet!Havin' a drink!
Stop taking photos of me while I'm eating!Macquarie University SanctuaryAll grown up and exploring their new home!Not too close to the water yet!Mother Goose has come to say hi!
Coming to feast on one last easy meal!Ummm, what's he doing eating OUR food!Just checking the temperatureAnd I'm IN!!!Getting ready for take off!

Roused from some well deserved time in front of the box, the call came in... "A mother duck has been hit and killed by a car, 6 baby ducks are hovering on the curb, you have to come immediately". A cold and rainy morning, I grabbed the rescue kit and raced to the scene more than a little anxious about what I would find.

Poor mother duck never had a chance, she was completely flattened. By this time, two bystanders were guarding the ducklings to ensure they didn't get near the road. The hardest part was getting them all into the rescue basket.

They're quick little guys... if you make a lunge for one and miss they all start to disperse every which way – I thought I'd never catch them all!

It took a bit of coordination and help from my trusty side kick Brett - the super catcher! Once in the basket and safely into the car, we contacted Wendy, the Sydney wildlife coordinator for water birds. After describing their plume and size and we worked out that they were Pacific Black Ducks, about 1 week old.

Ducklings at this age are very fragile and without their mum their chance of survivial is negligible. Even with a carer survival rates remain slim. Wendy explained our most important task was to get them warm and into a dark, quiet place to calm down. I filled two mini hot water bottles, wrapped them in towels and put them in the basket with the ducklings. They immediately huddled up to each other and the warm bottles.

Next we had to find somewhere for them to live permanently. They were to be with us for about 5 weeks and as Wendy had warned - although they look cute, these guys are extreme pooing machines! A Styrofoam fruit box was sourced and became ‘home' for the short term. We lined the box with layers of newspaper, placed a small, shallow water tray inside. Stones were used to weigh it down to prevent the ducklings from getting too wet, they're down is not water resistant and cold is their enemy! Next we had to source from Duckling food. I found my keys and planned my trip to the pet store for ‘chick starter'. All this and it was only 10.15am!

We survived our first night, but over the next few days four of the brood died, life without mum was just too difficult. I was determined to keep my remaining 2 ducklings alive, healthy and loved! After that, the ducks began to accompany Hank and me to the office, I set alarms over night to ensure the ducklings were warm and cozy all night.

My routine consisted of regular feeds, changing their water and paper about 4 times every day. By the end of the second week they were bigger and stronger and growing quickly... I could barely recognise them!

On warmer days, I began to leave them outside racing home at lunch to check on them. After another two weeks they were staying out day and night (with a cover against the cold just in case!)

Now too big for the cage, it was time for transfer to a bigger run in readiness for release back into the wild. Wendy took over from here, her big garden and little pond provided plenty of room to exercise and practice swimming.

After 5 weeks, the ducks were ready for release. Unsure whether I was ready, we met Wendy at the Macquarie University sanctuary. I couldn't believe how big they were! I barely recognized them again... I'm sure they remembered me though!!

...1, 2, 3 the cage was open and they were free! I hung around for about an hour and watched them find their way in their new home, enough payment for all my hard work! It's a wonderful feeling to help a little creature survive.

If you find a sick or injured animal call Sydney Wildlife straight away on 9413 4300. A phone operator will take your details, give you instructions on what to do and send a rescuer straight away!

Find out more about Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services here or donate to Sydney Wildlife. Email jill@prettypollution.com.au for donation info.

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