Ducklings find their freedom
The ultimate aim of any wildlife rescue is, of course, to release the animals back into their natural habitat.
As a recently signed-up volunteer at the trust, I had my first experience of a release day recently when half a dozen rescue ducklings were due to be set free.
Most of them had come to the centre as ultra-cute yellow fluffballs, and over what seemed like a very few weeks they’d grown into young adults, swimming alongside the cygnets and swans in the Rollo Centre’s large pool enclosure.
Only when animals are fully recovered or old enough to survive in the wild are they released, and now it was the ducklings’ turn to taste freedom.
Dick had already managed to get them all into a large pet carrier when I arrived on release day.
As I’m at the centre on Wednesday mornings, it was nice to meet the Tuesday volunteers for the first time, getting on with the daily routine of preparing food for the various ‘guests’ and making sure their accommodation was clean and comfortable.
With the ducklings sitting quietly under cover in the back of the car, Dick and I set off to Hunting Hall Farm, just off the A1, inland from Holy Island.
It may seem a long way to go from Berwick, but it offers an idyllic secluded setting for the ducklings to adjust to their new life.
Tom Burn, whose family has been farming at Hunting Hall since the early 1950s, led us along paths through glorious wildflower meadows to a beautiful large pond, surrounded by willow and full of water plants that the birds could dabble at.
The gorgeous natural surroundings owe much to Tom and Karen Burn’s commitment to wildlife conservation, and visitors can explore their award-winning environmentally-managed farmland using a disabled access footpath and a farm trail. Go to www.huntinghall.co.uk for more information.
As for the ducklings, they soon overcame their initial reluctance to step out of the carrier. Two bolder ducks took the first tentative steps towards freedom, then seeing the water they launched themselves off the little wooden jetty and into the pond. After a few seconds, the other four piled out and took a running splash at the pond, paddling away without a backward glance.
The little group were soon dabbling among the weed, upending themselves and sampling the vegetation on the opposite bank as if they’d been there forever. Their obvious delight and excitement at being in their new surroundings was the culmination of weeks of patient care by volunteers at the trust.
With all the pressures on the natural world, it’s a difficult time for wildlife, but our ducklings have been given a great chance at survival.
You can see the release on the trust’s new YouTube channel. Just type ‘Ducklings Berwick’ into the YouTube search.