The 11 ducklings of ‘Ms Mallard’ who nested on the ninth floor of a Salford Quays balcony have finally hatched.
Mum and brood are now resting in the high winds before the flat owner, Steve Stuttard lowers them to the ground in a bucket.
The hen nested four weeks ago and her exploits have attracted the attention of more than 40,000 people on Twitter.
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.
— Emma Newman (@EmApocalyptic) April 27, 2021
Steve, of Imperial Point, said: “When I went to look in one of my planters, there was a single egg. Then seven days later, there were seven eggs and she started sitting properly 22 hours a day.
“The first lockdown, last year, was absolutely dreadful for everybody but it wasn’t for me because I was in my element. I was sat with the lovely Mallard Hen every day, so I was very happy with that.”
This is the second year the Mallard duck has chosen to nest on Steve’s balcony.
Steve said as a 50-year member of the Royal Society Protection of Birds, he knew last year to leave the mother alone.
It was when the seven eggs hatched, he knew he needed to help the hen, who he has nicknamed Ms Mallard.
His balcony may be overlooking the water but the drop from the ninth floor is almost 150 feet, a height the ducklings would not survive.
— Salford Now (@SalfordNow) May 4, 2021
Steve combined his knowledge of birds with a trick he’d learnt for his 36 years of naval training to lower the ducklings down with rope in a bucket to the water.
“As long as [the hen] can hear their cries and [the ducklings] can hear her, that’s a very strong maternal bond, then everything will be fine. If you break that bond, if I said ‘right, I’m going to take them down in the lift’ there is a danger, if she can’t hear them, she’ll just fly off. So, it’s very important that I lower them down like I did.”
Once the bucket was safely on the ground, Steve ran down and tipped the bucket of ducklings over. They ‘shot out and went straight to her’.
One year later, Steve is planning to repeat the whole process again as Ms Mallard has nested for a second time on his balcony.
“Being a bird watcher, I knew that ducks have a habit, if they have a successful site, successful site meaning that they raise babies from eggs and leave, they judge that as a safe site and there is a possibility that they come back,” he said.
However, this time he has the whole world cheering Operation Mallard on after a Tweet from his daughter.
“The bucket began to swing and there was a couple of times I thought the bucket would hit the building. But it didn’t thankfully,” Steve said hoping that this time goes more smoothly. He is planning on using two ropes to stabilise the bucket so it can be lowered safely.
As of May 4 15:00, the 11 eggs have hatched, and mother Mallard is doing well but is remaining in the nest due to the windy weather in the Quays.
UPDATE: At 16:30 of May 4, seven hours on from the first sign of hatching, Steve was able to safely lower the 11 ducklings from his balcony and reunite them with Ms Mallard.