Exactly 2 months after taking them in, its time to release them back into the wild.
Scouted several weeks before to find them the SANCTUARY, a suitable place for ducks to live and breed. My feeling if putting them back to the Durian Tunggal river bank area will only jeopardise the next generation of duck as the habitat is no longer suitable for water birds. Earth works along the river bank to solve the flood problems has removed and shrunk the water beds the birds need.
After a morning breakfast and quick shower for the ducks, they were in a box towards Machap Umboo water catchment area, a large area with lotus and kiambang plants for shelter and food.
Initial release, they were put immediately into the water. Just in front there were some kiambang plants, their first reaction was to dip their heads in the water to feed on the root of the plants. A positive sign.
Then the photographer goes back to work, taking pictures for remembrance with advantage of close-up without need for hide, etc. An advantage if you know your models.
Week 5, started to put them in a 6 feet diameter outdoor pen in order for them to adjust to the elements. Rain, shine, wind, dew .... aka weather proofing. I could remember their first encounter with rain, one of them sits on its backside with the head facing the sky. Real feathers already start to appear on their backs. Previously tiny wings now starts to grow tubes of feather (hollow shaft). Swimming lessons were provided by a 1.5 feet diameter tub.
Week 6, in preparing for their release in 2 weeks time, converted the backyard for them to roam and feed. That sums up to 100 square feet of area for running and exercising their wings. Now only feed them twice a day, forcing them to pick on the greens to fill their hungry stomach. The swimming pool starts to be too crowded for all the birds to go in at once.
Week 7, the larger bird now has a more complete wing with flight feathers growing out of the hollow shaft. Wing span estimated to be 2 feet across. Only 3 of them are in this advanced stage of wing growth, a large area to run and flap their wings is really vital to ensure they are physically up to the challenges they will face in the wild.
By now they are doing very well, their size practically double every week. Looking back at the photos this is their cutest moment yet. The reddish spot on the bill is still prominent. This spot is believed to be the hardest equipment they have to break the shells when entering this world, it disappears in week 3-4.
Seen here after a swim in the tub, a good soaking is needed to remove the DIRT from feeding wet chicken feed accumulated over the whole week. The crazy design of their feather markings really shine at f/2.8 on a sunny day.
They were still unwilling to feed on the chicken feed provided. I was advised to get a domesticated duckling to show them the way to feed. Reluctant to get one because not planning to keep them for long. They were so tiny and possibly could not last another day without food. Worrying for the lack of nutrition, decided then to force feed them. The chicken feed was mixed with water into a paste and forced down their throat (at least into their mouth). Each of them went thru 2 rounds of feeding I think, because when you put them down you can't differentiate which is which.
Not a very successful attempt I thought. The remaining paste was put in the tray in their box. Then the most awaited thing happened, all of them head for the food. A good sign they will be alright.