Thursday, May 22, 2008
The staff at the Aquarium of the Pacific not only talks the talk when it comes to protecting Nature—they also walk the walk and for a family of ducks, they were their Guardian Angels.
Caitlin, who works with the Alcids, shorebirds, and marine mammals at the Aquarium, had left the facility to meet with a couple of marine mammal volunteers, Cat and Megan, at the picnic tables in front of the facility. Not finding them there, she looked around and discovered the two standing on the median of the road between the Aquarium and Catalina Landing trying to stop a family of ducks from jaywalking across the busy road that leads over to the Queen Mary. The ducks were apparently trying to find their way to the water. When it was clear that the female mallard and her eight ducklings were intent on crossing the busy street, the three Aquarium staffers decided to act as duck crossing guards and stopped traffic to allow the ducks to cross safely.
Because of the layout of the highway, even after the ducks made it past the first roadway, there were more obstacles to cross as Caitlin would later describe, “The ducks still had two more medians to cross before they got over to Catalina Landing. Cat and I had to help some of the ducklings get up over the curbs since the mother duck just sat there and waited while they struggled to get up onto the median. Cat then had to run around a long fence (which the ducks all squeezed through) in order to stop more cars from hitting them. I stayed where I was to watch and make sure they made it across okay.”
Meanwhile, along with the man-made hazards, the mother mallard and her ducklings also had to deal with a marauding crow intent on adding ducklings to its dinner menu. The mother Mallard acted as a good mother should and put up such a good fight that the crow decided to find an easier meal to partake of elsewhere.
After that battle was fought and won, the ducks returned to their goal of reaching the water. Caitlin continues her chronicle of the duck family’s journey to the water, “Now, they just had one more little road to get a cross and by then Cat had reached them. She helped them cross that last road while Megan and I caught up. They then made a wrong turn into the Catalina Landing parking structure, but Cat herded them back toward the water.”
The ducks were almost to the water. As it was low tide, their last barrier was a 20 foot leap into the waters of the Landing from the walkway above. The mother duck easily jumped down into the water and then waited below for her brood to follow. However, the baby ducks were not as confident as mom as they lined up in a row looking over the ledge, clearly nervous about the plunge.
Caitlin recalled,” I think one of the nervous ducklings accidentally knocked another one off the edge and they all froze as the little guy dropped to the water. He hit the water and then bounced right back up protected by his downy feathers.”
The rest of the ducklings then realized that they too could make it safely down to the water as, one by one, they all took the leap of faith off the edge and were reunited as a family in the waters below. Because of the caring assistance given by the Aquarium staffers at their moment of need, the eight ducklings were able to safely swim off with their mom towards the wetlands neighboring the Landing. A happy ending to the Aquarium of the Pacific’s version of (the children’s book) MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS!
(Hugh’s Note: Make Way for Ducklings was one of my favorite books as a kid and I can’t help but look at the images taken by Megan of the ducklings and try to decide which ones should be Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack; the names of the ducklings from the book.)
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