A Labrador which touched the heart of the nation last year after adopting nine ducklings is back to his old tricks with six new fledglings to look after.
Fred the Labrador hit the headlines after becoming a stay-at-home parent for nine baby orphaned ducklings when their mother vanished.
But after seeing them all fly the nest, Fred has once again found himself fostering a second set of doting ducklings.
The 11-year-old pooch is the resident pet at Mountfitchet Castle near Stansted, Essex, where staff are touched to see him playing such a key role in the birds’ welfare.
Jeremy Goldsmith, director of Mountfitchet Castle, said: “He took to his role like a duck to water.
“Fred has got an absolutely wonderful nature. They absolutely love him.”
The ducklings were left behind by their mother, a Muscovy duck, when she wandered off with six of their siblings.
As soon as Fred was shown the little ducklings all huddled together, he instantly lay down around them to keep them warm.
It wasn’t long before the birds clambered on top his back, with one playfully perching on his head.
Jeremy added: “Fred indicated straight away that there would be no ducking out of his duties as he settled in around them.
“Within minutes the ducklings accepted their odd looking new mum and were climbing all over him.”
Mountfitchet Castle is a Norman Motte and Bailey castle, built of wood.
Formerly an Iron Age hill fort, the historic site was also a Roman signals fort and later a Saxon and Viking settlement before being attacked in 1066 by William the Conqueror.