We know ‘baby bird season’ has started here at Ard Jerkyll when ducklings are brought in to us, and sure enough we’ve had several different single chicks and sibling groups brought in over the past couple of weeks.

We have also noticed a disturbing trend on social media of people posting images of ‘rescued’ ducklings that they are keeping and hand-rearing themselves.

This may seem like a good idea at the time but a genuinely abandoned ducking needs expert care and husbandry, and then appropriate introduction back in to the wild after eight tiring and messy weeks.

You may encounter a mallard mum escorting her brood along the side of a road, or trying to cross it.

If you think she and her offspring are in danger of being run over, then do what you can to alert oncoming traffic until she has reached safe ground. But don’t frighten her (she may panic, fly off and not return) and don’t endanger yourself.

Please don’t assume that a lone duckling, even a forlorn looking one, has been orphaned or abandoned – it’s likely that its parents and siblings will be close by, and the best course of action is to observe the young bird for as long as possible (ideally for at least an hour).

If it is in immediate danger from a predator or passing vehicles, carefully relocate it to a safe place nearby if this is possible.

It is vital that the parents should still be able to see and hear their offspring, and so it needs to be placed out of danger but near to where it was found.

However, if the duckling is clearly injured it will need to be taken to a vet for treatment, before it can be rehabilitated.

When they arrive at Ard Jerkyll young ducklings are kept in heated incubators (coincidentally, the collective noun for ducklings is an ‘incubation’), and although they can swim from day one of hatching they are at risk of drowning, and so they have to be supervised when they are in water.

For this reason they must be given drinking water in a very shallow bowl or special drinking container.

When they are old enough and their downy feathers have become waterproof, they are moved to the outdoor aviary pens where they can develop their swimming skills in large water troughs before being released back into the wild.

Ducklings do well when they are reared in captivity, not least because they are fairly self-sufficient as soon as they hatch, but other species of bird are more of a challenge because they need regular hand-feeding.

Members of staff take these birds home with them so that they can be fed from dawn until dusk, as they would have been by their parents, and we are given invaluable support by the team at Manx Wild Bird Aid to help us to do this.

They are usually able to take the smaller birds from us (sparrows, robins, blackbirds, etc), and get them to a point where they can go into an outdoor aviary before being released.

Hatchlings sometimes fall out of their nests, and every effort should be made to put them back again if possible.

Fledglings, like ducklings, often seem helpless but they need to spend time on the ground whilst they develop the final stages of their flight feathers.

The ‘watch and wait’ advice applies here too, and usually the fledgling’s parents will appear before too long.

The biggest threats to fledglings are larger, predatory birds and cats.

But if you’d like a cat who will happily ignore birds in your garden, then Jess may be the one for you.

She is a very sweet-natured ‘senior kitizen’ aged 20-plus, who likes the quiet life and simply enjoys a bit of pottering around, doing her own thing.

She was very loved by her previous owner, who is sadly passed away recently, and she now needs a peaceful retirement home where she can see out her remaining days.