WASHINGTON -- After four weeks as Washington's newest tourist attraction, a mallard and her 11 ducklings were transported in a motorcade yesterday to a far more suitable setting, in Rock Creek Park.
The whole group took to the water, well, like ducks, although there was some drama along the way.
The transfer had been mapped out like a military operation for the mother duck, a capital celebrity since taking up residence at the main entrance to the Treasury Department. The building is on Pennsylvania Avenue, the prime thoroughfare that tourists use in walking to the White House next door.
The Secret Service uniformed division had provided protection for the nesting mother over the past four weeks. Agents had built and then extended metal barricades to keep tourists back from the nest, which the mother had constructed in a mulch pile surrounding a tree.
Even after appearances on national television and in newspapers around the world, the mother -- whom some Treasury employees had variously named Duck Cheney, Quacks Reform, and T-bill -- seemed oblivious to the attention as she stuck to her job of keeping the eggs warm.
The hatching began Saturday afternoon and continued into a stormy night with heavy rain. Wildlife specialists who had studied the nest thought there were nine eggs. It turned out there were 11.
The family was left on the nest overnight so that the ducklings could get oriented. Early yesterday, in an operation more elaborate than the ducks' move in the children's classic ''Make Way for Ducklings," government biologists gently captured the mother and her yellow-and- black ducklings and put them in cages for the short ride to their new home.
Once at the park, the ducks were placed in a holding pen to get their bearings. But in only a few seconds, the mother had found an opening and was headed to the creek. Her ducklings scurried behind in a single line.
Duck Number 11 had a little trouble at first, stumbling and landing on its back, its webbed feet fighting the air. It quickly righted itself, only to trip again and tumble down the muddy riverbank before landing with a plop in the water.
From there, all 11 ducklings formed a line paddling after their mother and set out to explore their new surroundings.
Though they had hatched in the rain, their first journey in their new home took place under a bright sky.
''Ducks are born knowing how to navigate in water," said Laura Illige, chief park ranger at Rock Creek. ''We are happy to take the new additions under our wings."