The first day the ducks padded up to her door, Linda Lambert put a wheelbarrow with water on the green opposite her house for them.
“They jumped in, they were washing themselves,” says Lambert.
She watched as they sucked water into their beaks and then spat it out to shower themselves.
“This is fascinating. What are they doing?” she thought to herself. And then she thought: “They are beautiful.”
It’s been 32 days since then, she said, on the phone last Friday.
And each day since, sometimes two or three times, a pair – one male, one female – will toddle up to her home. She feeds them, she says.
“I know this sounds really funny, but I’m convinced they knocked on the door the other day with their beaks,” she said.
“That is noteworthy certainly,” says Niall Hatch, the development officer with BirdWatch Ireland. “It is very unusual, I haven’t come across that before.”
Ducks often nest in people’s gardens. But visiting people in their homes, following them inside? He hasn’t heard of that before, he says.
“It shows how the Covid-19 restrictions are having an effect on our wildlife,” he says. “It’s fascinating.”
Lambert’s ducks leave at about 6pm, she says. The foxes show up around 7:30pm or 8pm.
What if they coincide? It could be carnage.
That won’t happen, says Lambert. The foxes don’t come out until the traffic is gone. “We live on the Malahide Road. It is a busy, busy road,” she says.
She lives opposite the Casino Marino monument. Not far from a little forest where the foxes live, she says.
Her neighbours had seen them before, says Lambert. It’s only since lockdown that they have started to come up to the houses though.
One fox is skinny, she says. Its coat is damaged, and is missing hair and its tail isn’t bushy. Lambert has been feeding him scraps of meat.
Her neighbour, Christine Melia gave the fox a tablet to help to improve his coat. “Hopefully that tablet will work,” says Lambert. You have to wait about a month to see if it has worked, she says.
The fox takes some of the scraps away too, says Lambert. Back to the forest, to another fox perhaps, she says, or a mate even with cubs.
That’s her theory anyway. So she bought a full pack of hotdogs for them recently, she says.
The ducks follow her around now, says Lambert. Neighbours have started to call her Dr Dolittle.
Mary Joyce Glynn says she is surprised that Lambert’s ducks are so tame.
“It is unusual, it means they are hungry,” says Joyce Glynn, who is secretary of Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue. “In fact, they are normally very skittish.”
That or they could have been “hand reared”, she says. That too could explain their comfort with humans.
Lambert did some research online, she says. Wild birds can come to trust people, she read. But you wouldn’t normally see the same ducks again and again, she learnt.
Before lockdown, ducks would have landed on the green for an hour or two, she says. But not stuck around for long.
There’s no water to attract them near her house, she says.
“Ducks are most at home around water,” says Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland. It is nesting season so “around this time each year we do get reports of ducks nesting in people’s gardens”, he says.
Most birds don’t realise that humans are feeding them, he says. But city ducks know different.
They “are conditioned from a very young age, to know that human beings are a source of food”, says Hatch.
Bread isn’t the best for them, though, he says.
Give them vegetable peels: raw potato peels, cabbage or lettuce, says Hatch. “They adore the tops of celery and carrots.”
Lambert’s husband will be pleased to hear that. He’s been complaining, she says, with a laugh. “The husband told me I should stop buying the Brennans bread and give them the cheap stuff.”
She refused. Not for her ducks.
“When I wake up in the morning I don’t check on my kids. I run down to see if the ducks are there,” she says.
[CORRECTION: This article was updated on 21 May at 16.25 An earlier version stated that Linda Lambert gave the foxes a tablet to help it’s coat, when it was in fact her neighbour . Apologies for the error.]
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