Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ducks in a Row

Living on a lake and having a modicum of common sense and competence in water safety, makes me an accidental rescuer from time to time. Usually it is inept sailors for whom the difficulties of conditions exceed their overestimated sailing skills. Occasionally it is happy go lucky boaters who become swimmers separated from their craft or unable to get their boat right side up. Two weekends ago was my first wildlife rescue.

Late morning, as I was headed out to the dock for a few peaceful minutes of gazing at the water, I seemed to startle a family of ducks. The parents were uncharacteristically small at about 12” long, probably a pair of grebes, so my wife speculates, but the eight ducklings were mere 3” balls of fuzz. They may have been out for their very first swim. They were definitely way off the scale for cute, fuzzy, little animals. I slowed my advance to give them time scurry around the dock and down the lake, out of harm’s way from humans.

Around noon, as I was giving the cute, fuzzy animal sighting report to Mrs. Yarg, I noticed that about twenty yards past my driveway a car had been stopped for several minutes. The driver was out of the car, staring at the ground and walking around in little circles. The nosey neighbor part of me couldn’t resist seeing what was so interesting about a little patch of road. As soon as I was out the front door, I could hear the driver on his cell phone asking if any DPW workers were around and working on Saturdays. As he continued, he reported that some ducklings, undoubtedly my ducklings, had fallen through a grate and down into the catch basin.

When I arrived along with another nosey neighbor, the driver relayed the story of stopping for the crossing of the ducks, and then watching in horror as one duckling after another disappeared through the grate behind their parents who continued to march toward the wetland across the street.

Mobilized for rescue, each man produced a long pry bar, or reasonable facsimile, to use in grate lifting. (Why each man, especially the driver, would have these tools handy, I don’t know.) Nets of various sorts were retrieved from cars and basements for use in fishing out ducklings. Something resembling a lacrosse stick seemed to be the best tool.

We should not have been surprised that the ducklings would be frightened by an assault from humans with sticks and nets. Only two were captured in the initial assaults, while the others swam down the pipe toward the catch basin on the other side of the street. This necessitated the opening of a second catch basin, a narrowing of the street for passing cars, the directing of traffic, and an extended fishing expedition for the remaining ducklings. Many of us got at least one duckling save to our credit, and eventually all were rescued and escorted across the sidewalk and into the wetland. The parents waited just out of sight for their missing ducklings, and quacked frequently from the safety of the wetland so that the little delinquents could find them.

The humans left the scene feeling good that cute, little, fuzzy animals were saved, and that we humans had accomplished an act of kindness.

Today it was reassuring to see a duck family with uncharacteristically small parents and eight considerably bigger ducklings.

Nice story……….but really, how can those ducks be so stupid? Why do the parents walk over a catch basin grate? The grates are at least 300 feet apart; what are the odds of randomly walking across one? After one or two ducklings drop, shouldn’t someone re-evaluate what’s happening? Don’t ducks have some survival instincts? Was it attempted infanticide? Shouldn’t DSS take those ducklings away from their parents?

Are there morals to this story?
Ducks need to think outside the row, humans need to think outside the box and the boat?
There are pitfalls to being a follower?
Ducks are Daffy?

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