Thursday, 24 September 2009

Ducks and Suppression

It's been a while since I reported on the ducks, but as I'm off on holiday next week, an update's in order.

Despite their advanced state of development, they've still not made the slightest foray off the ground and are still waddling around the quad. As of today, there are seven "ducklings". Five remain from the original batch of survivors, and they're indistinguishable from adults now. And there are two from the later batch; while they still have a bit of duckling in their feathering, they also look just like adults to a first glance.

But there's been more duck news this week.

The quad is due to be re-landscaped during the winter, and one of the future developments will be a proper pond. However, furious debate has arisen about whether the ducks will continue to be fed in the future. Although attrition is particularly high in the quad (less severe this year than last), year-on-year the number of ducks that returns to breed is rising. So there's been heavy discussion between "stakeholders" (estates, duck-feeders, duck-lovers) about the pros and cons of continually incrementing the quad's population. My contribution to this discussion has been to point out that, even with feeding, duck mortality is pretty high, apparently through inter-brood competition (= murder by competing mother ducks). Anyway, it's now been decided that the ducks won't be fed in future years, so that their numbers can equilibriate (Malthus-style) to the quad's unassisted carrying capacity. But, in order to avoid drawing attention to future duck famines (and their attendant PR disasters), I've been instructed not to report duck activity on our local e-mail distribution list, nor send around pictures of cute ducklings.

As I basically concur with the no-feeding decision, I'll be going along with this strategy. It'll be interesting to see how long the news blackout can hold - a lot of offices look down into the quad ...

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