A photographer has been left horrified after encountering a group of adorable fluffy ducklings attempting to eat a discarded cigarette butt.
45-year-old Kym Welsh expected to capture some scenic wildlife pictures when she headed over to Anton Lakes Nature Reserve last month, armed with her camera
Kym, from Andover, Hampshire, had heard the ducklings had hatched, and headed up to the picturesque nature reserve in the early morning. However, she was appalled by the sight of the ducklings discovering and trying to eat a used cigarette stub.
Hoping to raise awareness about the consequences of littering, Kym took some pictures of the duckling siblings holding the cigarette butt in their beaks while foraging for food, passing it between their beaks.
Fortunately, the ducklings reportedly opted against swallowing the piece of litter, following their mother back into the lake. However, Kym fears this could well have had fatal consequences for the newly-hatched ducklings, had they eaten it.
Creative Kym, who has been a photographer for just one year, said:
I just think it’s absolutely atrocious. There are bins dotted all the way around the lake so there is no need to litter. I was concerned for the ducklings. I felt bad that I was taking pictures of them but there was nothing I could do because even if I hadn’t been there they would still do the same thing.
I felt concerned for them because the cigarettes contain toxic ingredients so I was rather hoping for their sake that they wouldn’t eat them, so it’s good news that they didn’t.
I was worried that they were eating them. It’s not going to be any good for them. It was a worrying thing to see because I didn’t think they would bother with stuff like that but they just pick up anything.
I was worried they would be at risk of dying. When I got home I googled cigarette butts and wildlife, and I read a few things. The toxic ingredients inside the cigarette butts are extremely harmful. That’s why I took the pictures, because I thought more people need to be aware of this.
Kym’s photographs truly capture the innocent playfulness of the little ducklings, so vulnerable to man-made dangers beyond their control.
Kym, a self-described ‘massive anti-smoker’, said:
How could you do that? Just think. I had heard the ducklings were born so I went down there first thing in the morning.
I just popped down to my local lake, and they all came out of the water with their mum. As ducklings do, they looked for food all the time. One found it, picked it up and passed it to the other one. They dropped it and went off after their mum back into the water.
It was at a nature reserve which is why it really upset me because when you walk around there that’s what you expect – nature. You shouldn’t just throw away your fag butts. That’s terrible.
People that go to these places need to remember that it is a nature reserve and you can’t just throw your trash down because little tiny things like ducklings and cygnets will eat anything.
Kym proceeded to lament how the litterbug had shown ‘no consideration for the wildlife’:
It really got to me. If even one person thinks twice before littering and walking away after seeing these photos, then I will be happy with that.
It’s a very tidy nature reserve. They do have wardens around there, but the area where the ducklings were was the entrance to it.
They have a lot of footfall compared to the rest of the lake. Some people come in to quickly feed the ducks and go, have a fag, drop it. It is quite a nice, tidy nature reserve, but unfortunately that happens.
This isn’t the first time Kym has used her photographic talents to capture the harmful effects of litter on wildlife.
She has previously spotted a seagull in Cornwall attempting to eat a foil butter wrapper which had been left thoughtlessly discarded.
According to Kym, the sight was ‘absolutely atrocious’ to behold:
It was in his mouth and he was picking up litter and it had a foil butter wrapper in its mouth. It probably did eat it. There were bins around and that sort of thing can also fly off a table too.
I suppose it happens all the time where wildlife is dealing with litter, but unless you see it for yourself it’s not something you really think about. It’s just a shame.
Kym’s work is beautiful, with each glistening feather made vivid and touchable under her careful eye.
Hopefully these photographs will also help people empathise with these lively little beings, forcing them to think again before tossing their rubbish in any old place.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.