By Chad Beranek and Rodney Hunter
Storms are a natural part of life and essential for breaking down atmospheric nitrogen, to biologically available forms. Sometimes they rapidly escalate and wreak havoc upon human altered landscapes and Mother Earths ecosystems. Storms can form swiftly and forcefully, especially along the meteorologically erratic eastern coast of Australia.
Urban areas are challenging enough for wildlife, before storms emerge and surge and endanger ducklings in drains near a road verge. I was driving home from a south coast adventure, when I noticed a distressed mother Pacific Black Duck anxiously patrolling a storm water drain. Curiosity compelled me to take a closer look. Where I come from, ducks use residential swimming pools as crash pads. They’re everywhere in other words, however this one was unusually distressed.
I emerged from my car with head torches to guide me and the eyes I came into the world with a quarter of a century ago. My vehicle travels with the care of a womb, not the recklessness of a tomb, it’s the mother ship. The environmental situation was more fixable 25 years ago, than it is today.
Tweeting ducklings alerted me to their presence in the storm water pipe. They must’ve been washed down with the recent rising surge. I drove home, in search of reinforcements (my mum and sister) and wasted no time returning.
The mother duck was as paranoid and aggressive as a bipolar victim surrounded by peace time thugs. It didn’t know we came in peace. I detached the grating of the drain and handed the captured ducklings to my mother and sister, who gently placed them in a spare Tupperware container. Some of those fluffy little darlings hid deeper and deeper in the hostile drainage pipe murkiness. Eventually I managed to locate all of them, including the paranoia victims.
We were astonished to find the mother duck had eleven offspring! Persistent in our efforts to capture her, we cut off the ring so to speak, in other words lured it into a tight spot, without making overly dramatic movements; for its own good. Not that she had any means of realising that though. Ultimately she was too swift and cunning. I feared she’d be squashed under the unforgiving wheels of a passing land rover. It was a close call.
Rather than continue the chase, we soundlessly emulated the march of the pied piper, by beckoning the Mother Duck to follow an offspring crate to my place. The ducklings tweeted the directions to their mother. Just as I was contemplating comics of cute baby ducks literally using the internet to find help, I was swooped by a shadowy sky being. I wondered if the shadowy sky being was one of those wingsuit inspiring sugar gliders. Well I would’ve if there were any in the area.
At that point it could’ve been Mothman for all I knew. Baffled, I scanned my surroundings. Nearby movement, in a dimly lit footpath shrub revealed the culprit. Quickly, I illuminated the dark silent figure. I marveled over the discovery, the shadow assassin, as I ultimately called it, was in fact a Southern Boobook, a species of owl to be vague. That swooping ninja must’ve recognized duckling distress calls and imagined a feast awaited it.
Evading the silent aerial ninga, the formerly panicking parent followed me and the duckling crate into the kitchen. She seemed too calm to be having nightmarish visions about what wasn’t on the menu, but would’ve been at some people’s places. My sister stashed the ducklings in a shower cubicle, in the hope their mother would fall for the benevolent trap, instead of risking injury by roaming around my spacious booby trapped headquarters. I don’t want Greg Hunt, the minister for environmental vandalism, to wander in unannounced do I.
Once again we failed to set our well meaning trap effectively. The mother duck seemed intent on doing laps of the hallway, as though she thought she was a Roman Colosseum chariot hero.
As the mother duck wandered into the lounge room Dad began to wonder what I might’ve blended with his lager saga. Eventually the unlikely vision reminiscent creature sought it’s sons and daughters, and found itself safely locked in the bathroom. The following day, the Pacific Black Duck family were happily released, in Caringbah’s painstakingly picturesque Camelia Gardens, a great venue for weddings
In summary, always be on the lookout to help distressed wildlife in storms. Below is a checklist of what to look out for:
- Animals around storm drains
- Animals gathered around fallen trees
- Don’t be surprised if an animal takes up residence in your house to shelter from the storm! Warning to all those arachnophobics, Huntsmans seem to seek out shelter in houses during heavy storms!
Comment below, if you have been involved in any interesting wildlife rescue situations!