The Story of Tebay’s Ducks!

From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings
By water cool,
Or finding curious things
Frank W Harvey

In our experience, many a ‘favourite service station’ conversation begins and ends with ‘the one with the ducks’! Tebay Services simply wouldn’t be the same without our feathered friends. It’s not just our youngest visitors who love the sight of ducklings paddling around the pond, our colleagues play their part, keeping an eye out for our ducks and ensuring they’re looked after.

Mallards were introduced at Tebay Services Northbound in 1988 when the pond was built alongside an extension to the Farmshop and Kitchen. The pond was intended to encourage wildlife on the site and we typically have around 40 adult ducks on the pond year round.

Mallards are common, classified as a species of ‘least concern’ in terms of conservation, thanks to their easily adaptable nature. They live happily in our pond area, eating water plants and small animals along with the morsels often offered by the outstretched hands of our generous visitors! As a species, they are known to thrive in areas unlikely to support wildlife; often in urban areas, even on roof gardens and as we know, on the side of motorways! They prefer the northbound pond to our southbound one as it is more accessible to visitors and therefore they enjoy a consistent supply of food throughout the year.

Small islands were built into our pond along with plenty of flag iris, creating perfect nesting and bedding sites. Female mallards prefer nesting sites that are well concealed and inaccessible to ground predators and we’re proud that the ponds at Tebay provide the perfect environment for ducklings.

Our ducks have built quite a reputation for themselves, providing entertainment amongst visitors and colleagues alike.

Tash Donnison, Kitchen Team Leader at Tebay North explains:
“I joined in 2006. In my interview I was too busy watching the ducks to concentrate on what I was being asked! I’m lucky I got the job! I love seeing them every day in work. I’ve always been interested in wildlife and not long after I started working here I brought together a group of my colleagues to organise a duck house for the pond! They have quite cheeky personalities. One summer they must have decided it was getting a bit hot outside and came in our front entrance, perhaps to cool down!”

Our environmental manager, John France, adds:
“They provide a lot of interest throughout the year. They’re even here when the pond freezes over in winter and they create quite a spectacle when they come in to land and skid across the ice! It’s particularly lovely when the ducklings appear! There has once been a nest over the other side of our car park, opposite the pond. Colleagues have occasionally had to rush out and direct traffic to let the ducklings cross the car park to the pond. They waddle across the pedestrian crossing!”

Ducks are social animals and happiest when congregating in flocks. They have become so accustomed to the constant ebb and flow of our visitors that they’ll be disappointed if the next time you stop you should forget to share a hunk of bread with them! So don’t forget to say hello on your next visit!


All photos taken by our Environmental Manager, John France.