26 April 2012

Dealing with Ducklings...

  It is impossible to know what  day will hold...when I got up this morning, I had a to-do list a mile long. First on my list was to go to Lowe's hardware store to pick up some paint for the ceiling of the bathroom we are renovating. When I rounded then bend into town I was struck speechless as the car in front of me hit a mother duck and 2 of her twelve babies. The mother duck flipped out from under the car and half ran/ half rolled down the embankment to the railroad tracks. The babies, who were no more than a day or so old, tumble head over heels, rolled free of the car and then ran in the direction of their mother. The other 10 babies were trying to cross the road. I whipped into a driveway and ran back to try to get the ducklings off the road. They were running willy nilly all over the place, but when they saw me they all ran for the cover of the shrubs at the edge of the drive.
  I went looking for the mother duck and the two ducklings that went for a tumble under the car. I searched the embankment and the edges of the woods, but I couldn't see the mother duck or ducklings anywhere. I went to Waxhaw Town Hall to request that local animal control help in catching the ducklings... fat lot of good that did me... I even tried to use the logic that ducks in the road were a traffic hazard, but there was no help to be had. So I went downtown to a friends pet grooming business and asked my friend if she could help me with the ducks. She and one of her employees came with me to help round up ducklings.
   When we got to the location where I had left them, we could hear them peeping away, but they were deep in the woods in thick underbrush, so we couldn't get to them. We crossed the road in search of the mother, we searched both sides of the tracks and the surrounding embankments, the mother was nowhere to be seen. We were getting ready to give up when my friend saw one sad little duckling running down the railroad tracks. The three of us spent the next half hour running up and down the hillside, across the railroad tracks and  through the dense brambles at the top of the embankment, trying to head off this tiny little duckling. It was as fast as greased lightening and seemed to have an endless supply of energy. I was afraid of traumatizing the poor little thing but a storm was coming...the skies were black and I could hear thunder rolling in the distance. If it had feathers, I would have just let it be, but since it was covered in the fine down of a hatchling, I knew the coming storm could mean death for it. At this age the duckling is not water proof, and is supposed to be sitting snug and warm under the protection of its mother during a rain storm, (although I can't imagine how she would possibly fit all 12 ducklings under her...). So  we needed to catch it before the storm came. Eventually, my friends ran the little fella up the hill as I sat waiting in a tangle of brambles. I whisked it up as it ran by me and cradled it in my hands until we could get it closed in the box we brought with us to hold it.

  As we climbed in the car, the skies opened up... Whew!

  With my friends back at work and the duckling tucked away in a box in the trunk, I headed for home to call Wild Waterfowl Rescue to come get my little friend. There are laws forbidding the interference with or domestication of wild waterfowl, and I wouldn't want to go afoul of the law... (I just couldn't resist the pun... sorry), so I didn't even entertain the idea of raising it myself. I left a message for the rescue people and opened the trunk to get the box out. As opened the trunk, out popped the little duckling! I was startled, but managed to catch the little stinker in mid air. I have no idea how it got out since it was a box with very high sides and the flaps were closed over the top, but I was glad that it didn't get loose again, since the rain was coming down hard and it was beginning to hail!
   Once inside I put a hot water bottle in the box and covered it with shredded paper. I pulled the flaps of the box straight up and taped them so that the box sides would be higher, set the whole she-bang in the tub and pulled the shower curtain closed. The phone was ringing so I went to answer it and when I returned to check on the duckling it wasn't in the box, or for that matter, it wasn't in the tub either! I found it in the laundry room and spent another few minutes chasing it around. I have raised chicks for twenty years and never had any trouble keeping newly hatched chicks where they belong. Once they have feathers and begin to hop and flap, it is a different story, but chicks that are less than a week old generally stay where they are put. I didn't think ducklings could be much different...show how much I know! I eventually had to cover the box in cheese cloth and tie twine around it to keep it in.
  The phone call I went to answer was from the Waterfowl Rescue, they were on their way to my house to pick up the duckling. When she arrived, I told her how much trouble I'd had keeping up with the little urchin, (I did this as an attempt to explain why the box was trussed up like a Christmas package). When she looked in the box she chuckled and said it was no wonder... the duckling I thought was a Mallard was really a Wood Duck. She explained that the Wood Duck is very agile and that even at a very young age these ducks can climb trees. She also told me that most rescued Wood Duck ducklings don't survive, since they are flighty and don't take well to confinement. They often beat themselves to death trying to get free. How very sad, but I can see how it could happen.
  The rescue worker took the duckling and put it in a little net container. She was going to go back to the place where the mother was hit to use a mother duck call to see if she could get the other ducklings to come out of the woods to her. I wish her luck, it took three people a half an hour to catch one little duckling, I can't imagine one person trying to gather up 10 of the wild little things!
   The Wild Waterfowl Rescue organization is run by volunteers. This young woman came out in the middle of a terrible storm to collect the duckling from me and then spent who knows how long trying to find the rest of them. I am thankful for her efforts and the efforts of the organization she volunteers with. Whether it knows it or not, that is one lucky little duckling!

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