Five years ago I noticed a larger that average mallard living on Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve. It’s not easy to tell one mallard from another, I know, but there are times when one individual stands head and shoulders above the rest. Mal, a loner, is now missing; I’ve not seen him for six weeks or more. I was able to identify Mal because he was steadfast: the big mallard that didn’t fly away on my approach.
One day, I stood watching this duck sunning itself on a tree stump at the edge of North Pond. A fox hidden in the reeds attacked and knocked Mal from his perch. Unperturbed, this courageous mallard immediately and viciously set-about pecking the living daylights out of the stunned red dog until it gave up and ran away.
I rarely get attached to individual animals, but the spirit of this duck impressed me. If a marsh foxes has eaten Mal, I feel natural selection might have lost out in this instance. I hope Mal managed to pass on his genes.
Mallards can live well into their 20s.