Gardening with Jennifer: Duck Tales, conclusion

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Concluding the story of duckings lost down a storm drain, a frantic mother duck, and helpful neighbors (did you miss part one?)

By Jennifer Rotermund

Mallards in the garden
A quick series of events unfolded over the next ten minutes. Unified in a single purpose, this strange man who approached me on the street and I worked together to exhaust every option we could think of for rescuing the chicks on our own. Other neighbors began appearing to offer their suggestions, someone affixed a large colander to a broomstick with duct tape in an attempt to scoop up the ducklings, and the female Mallard stood by us, quacking occasionally as she patiently watched us all work.

Grabbing his cell phone when it became quickly apparent that we needed more assistance, the man who approached me plunged through a series of phone calls that began with calling 911 (before I could stop him), involved a repeated and harried description of the situation (in which he kept using the word "chicklettes" in place of "ducklings") and finally ended with Animal Control responding faster than I've ever seen the SPD respond when called upon (...but we won't go there right now). 

Thank you Animal Control! 

Neighbors scattered, I went back to my gardening work and, checking in every so often, I noticed that Animal Control (two men in official uniforms with a truck containing all the proper tools for such a rescue) spent at least two hours carefully coaxing out to safety every last duckling and planning the location of their safe re-release at a large, nearby body of water.

The entire event was as humbling as it was comical and brought to view the plight of the wildlife that daily attempts to navigate their way along our streets and sidewalks, our gardens and greenbelts, scavenging for food, dodging cars and attempting to protect their young from disasters at every turn.

A wildlife friendly garden
from WOWTA tour
Almost every day, in my job, I have a conversation with someone about making their garden more "wildlife friendly" and obtaining certification for it as a wildlife sanctuary. Some times people ask me, "What's the point?" or "What benefit does it provide me to do that?" 

I'm always very polite to these people as I talk up the entertainment and education value of attracting a diversity of wildlife to their yard before I go on to extoll the praises of how low-maintenance a wildlife sanctuary can be. 

If they're still listening at that point, its then that I dive into the deeper, richer conversation about the "bigger picture" - building green corridors for wildlife through cities and neighborhoods as well as the difference it can make to provide reliable food, water and shelter for local (all too often invisible) wildlife.

I've written many times about the basic ingredients of a wildlife-friendly garden. Christine Southwick, board member for the Puget Sound Bird Observatory and regular contributor to the Shoreline Area News also writes about these requirements in her column “For the Birds. The information is readily available and easy to initiate - Food, Water, Shelter, and a Place to Raise Young. A wealth of resources are available about this topic through the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation. This is part of the very reason why Shoreline holds an annual "Where Our Wild Things Are" Backyard Habitat Tour.

From the WOWTA Tour
The thing to keep in mind is that a garden that invites and cares for wildlife is not a "perfect" garden - in the traditional sense - but is instead a deeply satisfying garden because it takes care of you, the environment and the wildlife (rather than you laboring or paying someone to labor non-stop over it). 
What I observe, but so rarely am able to talk about, is that despite (or perhaps because of) our fast paced, high tech lifestyles that seem bent on removing us from our contact with the natural world, that we yearn for more contact with nature and each other. 
I believe that we haven't yet forgotten that core connection between ourselves and all other forms of life on this planet. And I believe that many of us, because of that innate connection, when confronted with a particular situation, would care enough about wildlife to approach a complete stranger and ask for help.

Jennifer Rotermund is the owner of Gaiaceous Gardens (an urban farming and wildlife gardening business with a teaching garden/urban farm and certified wildlife habitat/ sanctuary located in Shoreline). She is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Habitat Steward and is a Docent with the Krukeberg Garden.


Joann Loos October 1, 2011 at 7:40 AM  

I had a similar experience in Eugene, OR. The babies were in the drain, and would disappear down the pipe when we approached. It turns out I do a fairly passable duck quack. One of my neighbors put a large fishing net (for getting trout out of the water) on the end of a stick. I'd quack to get the ducklings out where we could see them, and he'd scoop up a few. We did this several times and got all the babies out. It took Animal Control 4 hours to get there, so it was a good thing we didn't wait.

I also had my garden turned into a bird and butterfly sanctuary there. It was organic, and planted with local species. It turns out that the finches preferred my weeds over my landscaped areas LOL

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