Mystery as Wapping ducklings fall victim to mysterious predator

Update 13:02 hrs Saturday – Eel sighting confirmed!

First there were ten. Then there were five. Then four. Then one.

Now? None.

The Wapping ducklings have disappeared.

But who or what is responsible? The answer may surprise and shock you.

Mum and 10 ducklings
Mum and 10 ducklings

Before blame is laid it should be pointed out that mother duck (pictured above) is pretty useless as mums go. So it is hardly surprising that she has lost some of her brood. But to lose all of them?

Our Wildlife Rangers (Duckling Counting Team) made sure that they counted the ducklings on every canal patrol. For the first few days there were ten then one day, less than 24 hours since the last count, there were only five left.


Then a couple of days later there were only four.

Then another day passed and the duckling count was down to one.

Then there was one.
Then there was one.

Ah! Mother duck still seemed oblivious to the rapidly dwindling family and the last lone duckling did not survive for very long either.

So who – or what – is to blame?

It is to be expected that not all 10 ducklings would survive – that’s why they  have so many – but to lose all of them within a few days?

Mr Burns Is Innocent

First likely culprit was Mr Burns (below) who had been taking a keen interest in the ducklings but he had got fed up being harassed by the swans and cleared off while there were still 10 left.

Mr Burns the heron fishing in the canal.
Mr Burns the heron fishing in the canal.

Mr Crow? Unlikely as they rarely if ever hunt on water.

Gus & Gillian Gull? Possible and one had been seen picking up a duckling – but then dropping it when it realised it was not a piece of bread.

Colin Cormorant?  Possible and he has been seen back on the canal the last week or so.

Mr Fox? Unlikely as they prefer nice dry land and, to be honest, some fried chicken and chips from a bin.

Ask An Expert

We asked Chris from Bow Landscaping who looks after the canal what he thought as he is the canal expert. His money was on crows.

This was the working theory for a while or so until one day Chris climbed out of the canal and remarked to our Wildlife Ranger that he had just seen one of these…. and a big one!

An eel. (Anguilla anguilla)

The Wapping Canal Eel

An eel. In the canal. Chris thinks it is about 1.5m long. Which is quite big.

We then checked with Tower Hamlets Ecology Team if eels eat ducklings and they considered it unlikely but not impossible.

A quick Google soon found that eels do eat ducklings. Sob.

So it might well be that the eel has eaten the ducklings.  This would also fit in with observations by one of our Rangers of mother duck suddenly diving under water and attacking something in the eastern part of the canal. At the time the Ranger thought it was one of the canal carp – but maybe it was the eel?

Obviously we have to let nature take its course. But in this case I think we could make an exception.

So if any intrepid angle would like to catch the Wapping canal eel and put it in the Thames we would be most grateful.

Of course if the ducklings and the other birds had somewhere decent to nest they would be a lot safer from predators. There’s an idea…

On The Bright Side…

To cheer everyone up here are some nice black and white cygnet photos from local resident Cathryn Reese who also took the duckling photos.

Hitching a ride.
Hitching a ride.
Some cygnets are lazier than others.
Some cygnets are lazier than others.
Learning to look for weed.
Learning to look for weed.

Many thanks to Cathryn for the pics!




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