Emma Newman Profile picture
Apr 27, 2021 29 tweets 6 min read Read on X
Bloody hell, everything is just awful and I am so angry about so many things... so I'm going to tell you about something good happening, something tiny and sweet and inconsequential in the hope it might help you if you are feeling as overwhelmed by horror as I am.
My Dad lives in an apartment near a canal and a certain duck has taken a liking to his balcony. So much so that she nested there last year and is nesting there again this year. But there are some things you need to know about this situation.
First: my Dad's apartment is on the 9th floor. It's about 150 feet up, if memory serves. Ducks usually nest close to water. And in fairness, the water is close.... just a really, really long way down.
Second: My Dad absolutely LOVES wildlife and birds especially. He's been a member of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for my non-UK lovelies) all his life, since he was a child (he's in his sixties now).
So when this duck picked his balcony, out of dozens of potential nesting spots, she did well. Apart from the whole DEADLY DROP OF DOOM to the water bit. She found the best human to help her. And my Dad takes this responsibility VERY seriously.
So last year, it was a bit of a saga. He was amazed she chose to nest on his balcony, delighted in fact, and watched over her and the nest during the first lockdown. Honestly, it was a gift for him too. He rearranged the planters on the balcony for safety...
And he made a plan for when the time for the ducklings to hatch came. My Dad used to be in the military (survival specialist) so he applied his many skills to making sure all would be well on the big day. He sealed off the gaps in the balcony so the ducklings...
wouldn't tumble to their deaths moments after hatching. I mean, they bounce pretty well, but not THAT well. And he already had a bucket and also a rope long enough to reach the ground because, like me, my Dad thinks ahead re. fires etc.
Anyway, the day came, and the ducklings hatched, all 7 of them, and he lowered them down to the ground in a bucket while Momma Duck watched carefully and provided a loud commentary throughout. Then he raced down to ground level and made sure they reached the water.
There were predatory birds circling, so he made sure none of them picked off any ducklings as they made their way to the canal. It was pretty much the best thing that happened last year. My Dad is so great.
So this year, the duck came back. Mrs Mallard, as Dad calls her. She scoped the balcony out, destroyed a few plants, picked the planter she wanted to nest in and settled down. My Dad - and I in fairness - were absolutely delighted she came back.
She laid a month earlier this year. And there are 11 eggs! She sits for about 20 hours a day. My Dad has stuck loads of old maps over one half of his patio doors so he can walk around his flat without frightening her. It's adorable.
So I enjoy regular updates on Operation Mallard as he calls it (I call it Operation Mallard 2, Electric Boogaloo, because I am silly). Apparently, Mrs Mallard has friends (maybe her children?) who call for her everyday.
As my Dad put it (imagine a soft Lancashire accent) "They fly past, about six of 'em, calling away to her. Then she covers the eggs with down and leaves and goes of with them for an hour or so. For a coffee and a bit of a natter, I s'pose, then she comes back."
I phoned a week or so ago and he didn't answer, which was strange. He phoned me back right away. "Sorry, didn't get to the phone quick enough. Forgot to move it last night, so had to commando crawl across the living room so I wouldn't frighten Mrs Mallard."
Imagine a man in his sixties COMMANDO CRAWLING ACROSS HIS OWN LIVING ROOM to get to the phone without frightening a nesting duck. That's... that's probably all you need to know about my Dad, really. He is that good.
As ducklings tend to hatch first thing in the morning, he's also shifting his sleep cycle so he can be certain he'll be awake and ready to help them get to the ground when the big day comes. And, my lovelies, the big day this year will be in early May.
And yes, I will provide regular updates. As my readers know, I am a monster who loves to make people cry. But only with my fiction, my lovelies, and this is the real world. This is actually serious shit. The fate of 11 ducklings rests in my Dad's hands. Soon, literally.
Lovelies! An #operationmallard update already! Just spoke to my Dad and he tells me that he expects the ducklings to hatch on May 5th (next Wednesday) but could be the days either side of it. He's finished fully prepping the balcony so the ducklings will be safe.
Mrs Mallard is happy and well, and as the nights have warmed up a little bit, she's hopping off the nest for food and water for a couple of hours after dark, when it's safer. But today, she popped down to the water in the morning and Dad said this (it made me laugh):
"When she comes back, she stands on the rail and looks at me. It's like she's trying to place me. I look back at her, and think 'Do you remember me from last year? Do you remember that I helped you? But you'll not think I'm brilliant next week, will ya?'"
She went for him last year, understandably, when he went out onto the balcony to rescue the ducklings. But it makes me laugh to imagine m'Dad and this duck having these silent conversations, these moments of connection. He is so adorable.
Oh, and I said you were all VERY INVESTED NOW and he's apologised in advance for not being able to film the moments they hatch but he'll be too busy running around trying to catch tiny beeping ducklings and putting them in a bucket with a grumpy Momma duck complaining.
He said his friends have been nagging him to get a proper camera and a tripod and he said "Oh I can't be doing with all that, I wouldn't know where to start. And anyway, it's the ducklings that are the priority." Too right. He takes his Duck Dad responsibilities very seriously <3
Little update: I thought it might be sensible to post this video I've made so you can meet Sir Duck Dad at the end of this thread too:
And just tucking the latest video at the end of this thread too, so it's all tidy :)
(Lovelies still following this original thread - Operation Mallard 2 happened today! I'm not sure how to link to the thread here, so check out my latest tweets and once the video is up for it, I'll post the link here!)
Oooh! The video for Operation Mallard 2 is up now, just thought I'd tuck it on the end of this thread so it is all in one place!
And if you loved the videos and want to buy me a nice cup of tea, my Ko-fi is here: ko-fi.com/emmanewman - I will be donating 50% to the RSPB ( @Natures_Voice )
- just put 'Operation Mallard' in the Ko-fi message!

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More from @EmApocalyptic

Jun 22, 2021
#Operationmallard 3 lovelies! Let me tell you how stressful Dad's morning was! Yesterday (21st of June) lots of the ducklings hatched, but Mrs Mallard showed no desire to leave the nest and take the family down to the water. Dad could only count about 6 ducklings at most.
It might have been that the last 2 or 3 eggs hadn't hatched, or she just didn't fancy leaving yet but either way, they all settled down by evening and stayed the night. Dad got up just before 4am, thinking she'd want to leave at dawn, like last year.
But no. She stayed put. Dad waited. Then, to his horror, a group of workmen arrived right at the base of the building and started up a generator! He knew the ducklings would have to go to the water soon, so he went to speak to them...
Read 19 tweets
Jun 21, 2021
Calling all #operationmallard lovelies! I have an update on the current nesting duck on Dad's balcony.

If you just read that and wondered if you were having a Groundhog day moment, you might have missed this thread:
So Dad and I were expecting the current clutch of 9 eggs to hatch on Wednesday. However, he phoned me this morning to say that Momma duck's behaviour ('OG Mrs Mallard' from 2020) has changed today, so they might be hatching earlier than we thought!
He counted the 28 (+/- 1) day incubation period from the first day that she sat for 22 hours on the eggs. However, the day before that she sat for 12 hours, and the weather up there has been really warm and sunny for weeks, so....
Read 17 tweets
May 24, 2021
Ummmm... #operationmallard lovelies? I have some unexpected news and you might want to get a drink and a blanket. I am quite nervous about telling you all about this, I have to say.

I got this message from my Dad a couple of days ago: Picture of a duck in the pl...
He said he did a proper double-take. He couldn't believe it. It was like Groundhog Day, but with ducks. He was just stumbling to the kitchen first thing in the morning, glanced out the window... and there was a duck there!

He sent back: "Well, it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck... yep, it's a duck 🦆😯"

I phoned him. "Is it Mrs Mallard?" I asked, very worried that she had returned so quickly. Where were the ducklings? What was going on?
Read 21 tweets
May 4, 2021
Lovelies, I have an #operationmallard update! A BIG ONE! Pull up a chair, maybe grab a blanket and a cuppa? You're about to get on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster...
I got a message from my Dad at about 8:30am, saying that Operation Mallard 2 was about to begin! I replied, wishing him luck, then he phoned and said he'd seen two tiny little duckling heads peeping out so far. One problem though: the wind.
A storm blew through yesterday with gale force winds and rain. Today it's much sunnier but the wind this morning was still just over 20mph - and 9 floors up, it really whips around the building.
Read 20 tweets
May 3, 2021
Good morning, my lovelies. In case you missed it last night, I've put an update video on YouTube all about how Dad is preparing for the big day - he made some footage for you containing cute diagrams! #operationmallard
A few people have asked why he's not just taking them down in the lift. He feels that the bucket approach causes the least distress to Mrs Mallard, makes sure that the maternal bond is preserved and is also the fastest solution.
Using the 'ducket' means that Momma and ducklings can hear each other throughout - which is absolutely critical - and it's only a few seconds of separation. Also far, far less stressful for them than many minutes of trying to corral them all through an alien environment.
Read 4 tweets
May 1, 2021
Lovelies, I've just had a chat with Dad and there are a couple of updates I thought you might like if you're following #operationmallard :) First is regarding Mr Mallard as a few of you have asked about him. I've been fixated on Mrs Mallard, so never asked him before!
So Mr Mallard is nearby! He stands on the big white bridge over the canal and they quack at each other! Earlier in the nesting cycle, they saw much more of each other - she lays an egg per day so they had to... do some lovin' daily ;) [feels so British and awkward!]
Once all the eggs were laid, he called for her on most days and they would go off for a bit of time together, when she wasn't off on the razzle with the other ducks who came calling for her. She's quite popular, our Mrs Mallard ;)
Read 8 tweets

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