Fourteen young Mallard ducklings, Ryers by birth, hatched within sight of Rye Church and Rye Mill but what are their chances of survival?

Their natural bird enemies, Crows, Magpies and Herons have multiplied out of all proportion since the shooting laws have been changed by pressure from well meaning do-gooders, mainly from cities and large towns. Country people, who have maintained the balance of nature and species by their on the spot observance of life around them have been pushed into the background.

The proportion of Mallard Drakes to Ducks is about thirty to one on the Tillingham, mainly because the female of the species is brave and sits tight on her eggs when a fox appears. The fox has been responsible, in the main, for the discrepancy in the Drake to Duck ratio.

Cats can also be a danger to the small ducklings, but as cats don’t like water they are not a major threat. Rats are more dangerous, they will take the youngsters from the nest, even when they are under their mother’s wing.

Other hazards include choking or getting entangled with rubbish that lies neglected by Rother District Council. Rye has been so neglected by Rother it now needs a team of volunteers, organised by the Rye in Bloom Committee to clear areas like the river banks that are rarely, if ever, visited by Rother’s waste collection unit.

There have also been instances of cruel behaviour by a small group of teenage boys seen on several occasions throwing stones at duck on the Tillingham.

So how many of the fourteen little ducklings will survive to see their first birthday? One perhaps if we are very lucky, and the chances are that it will be another Drake as the male of the species are usually stronger and grow faster. The smaller ducklings are always the first target of the predator. We hope for the best but fear the worse!

Rye’s Own May 2005

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