Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting my Ducks (and ducklings) in a Row

Heehaw, heehaw, heehaw. Do you really think that you can get that mama duck to follow you for a half mile? Honestly? Give it a try, but don't hold too much hope.

Dear Friends,

AWOL here. I know it, but I've had lots and lots of work to do and am just beginning to breathe easier. I sent in my entire manuscript, glossary, bibliography, author's note, dedication, epigraph, and acknowledgements. Anyhow, about 300 pages of work. A load off my mind.

I know that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you just can't get to the camera and take photos. So this time words must suffice.

I'd been working all day, and Jeff said, "Let's go for a walk and go out to dinner." He did not have to twist my arm. We got into the car and backed out of our driveway. Not easy. We live on a busy street near the freeway offramp.

Just as we were leaving, Jeff said, "LOOK!" Walking right in front of our garage was a mama mallard with a flock of little ducklings.

"Quack, quack, quack, quack." "Peep, peep, peep peep."

Oh no. They'd be creamed, crushed, run over by a car, eaten by a dog or a cat. We had to do something.

Jeff pulled over. I took off my sweater to use as a sling. He took off his jacket. We followed mama down the road and smack into a sheltered front porch where she promptly knelt down and called all her ducklings to her side. Great, but still, right along the road and at the home of a big dog and some fat cats. We tried to corner mama and catch the babies, but mama ran away, quacking like crazy. The ducklings took off in every direction.

I managed to net 11 of the ducklings and had to chase the 12th. Meanwhile, Jeff quietly stalked mama in the hopes of catching her so we could take her and her youngsters the half mile back to Cuesta Park and San Luis Creek. Impossible!

Our route. From the orange "A" marker on the left to Cuesta Park and San Luis Creek, the red arrow on the right.

What a zoo. Mama wouldn't let us close to her. Traffic stopped. Some college students helped. Ducklings peeped and fought to escape the net. Jeff grabbed a big box, and we put the babies inside, but I had to keep stirring them up to keep them peeping, which kept mama mallard following us (but not too closely).

We were getting desperate and knew we had to get them back to the park before nightfall or mama would fly away and the babies would have to go to Pacific Wildlife Care. We didn't want that, but we did want to get them off the road.

Light bulb. I asked Jeff to put up the trunk lid on the Saab and herd mama mallard my way. By this time, we were the laughinstocks of the neighborhood. So, there I sat, illegally dangling my legs over the rear of the car with a flock of ducklings screaming for their mama.

"Mama will follow us," I yelled to Jeff. Just drive slowly, and I'll keep the ducklings awake. 

He drove slowly. Traffic backed up. College students directed people, bicyclists, and cars past us. We had to make it a half mile alongside one of the most heavily traveled roads in the state.

Mama ran along, then took to the air, veered over the offramp of the freeway, YIKES, and flew back behind us, quacking wildly. 

I looked up, and there she was, about 10 feet off the ground and flying directly at the back of the car and traveling about 25 miles per hour. I wish I could've caught her in a video. 

I was rehearsing what to tell the police when they nabbed me.

Then things got scary. The ducklings settled into the corner of the box and tried to go to sleep. I kept having to stir them around so that they would keep peeping to attract mama.

Mama flew along behind the car, quacking, quacking, babies peeping, peeping. Then, mama veered off and took to the hills. The sun was setting, and as I told Jeff, "Wild animals just accept things. She is probably going off to sleep."

Then mama duck flew over us again, made another wide circle, and disappeared. I felt sick. We had one last chance before it got too dark for her to fly.

We had traveled the half mile from home to the edge of the park and the creek. Jeff dumped me at the top of the bank, and I slid down with the box.

A bunny watched our progress.

The babies were peeping wildly, and from somewhere above we could hear mama's answering quacks. I had to trust my instincts. We set the box down on the ground by the creek, and the little ducklings tumbled out, peeping to a faretheewell.

We turned and crawled up the bluff. We sat. We watched. The babies cried. Mama quacked. The sun set.

The babies peeped pitifully. Mama quacked like crazy. Mama looped high above us, dipped, and flew low over the sycamores and creek, quacking loudly the entire time. When the ducklings heard her, they answered. Mama landed somewhere by the creekside and called to her family. The babies quieted and lined up behind her.


Four more ducklings are in the brush beside the creek. They quickly joined the parade behind mama.

Don't you love happy endings? 

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. The winner of the random drawing for the fabulous Botanical Interests Sunflower seed collection is Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings. Dee is a Grimy Hands Girls' Club member and will receive a bonus gift of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for All Climates (Timber Press) by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden.


Lori ann said...

oh wow sharon! what a story, and yes so happy for the happy ending! i love that you and jeff did this, and i bet if a policeman saw you he would have given you an escort. sweet mama duck and babies safe and sound now!

and congratulations on your book too!

rebecca said...

I'm tired just reading it! (I think you have another children's book in the making here, Sharon.)

From the Kitchen said...

What a fine way to start my morning. I felt I was there cheering you on your odyssey. Well done!

Did you get to dinner?


Lori said...

Oh, what a sweet story and I'm so glad it had a happy ending! Blessings to you. <3

Julie Marie said...

Oh dear cousin Sharon!... I read this with bated breath, but knowing all the while you would get the babies and their mama to safety... you are such an angel... and Jeff too... I have tears running down my face... but they are happy tears when I saw the photo of mama and her babies... of course she knew you were helping and guiding her and her little ones to safety... animals and Nature can sense that, I know for a fact... and I am so proud of you!!!... this just made my day... happy also that your book is complete and all sent in... sooo excited for it!... and for you... congratulations to Dee... I just planted my white icicle radishes I got from you last Summer and they are already coming up in a nice little row... can't wait to eat them!... much love to you... and to mama duck and her babies... xoxo Julie Marie (quack quack... peep... peep)...

eidolons said...

You and Jeff are amazing! This totally tops the turtles my husband saves from the road on the way to work and the baby possum we rescued. (:

Nellie said...

Oh, my! At least it wasn't a "wild goose chase!":-) There should have been a newspaper reporter somewhere nearby! You would have made all the newspapers, maybe even the TV news!

Have a happy Friday! The week-end is near!


Anonymous said...

Oh Sharon, how wonderful you were able to rescue that family! What sweeties you and your husband are. xoxo ♥
Martha Ellen

Pat said...

A delightful tale with a sweet ending. I have seen traffiic stopped completely when a little family of ducks crosses a busy intersection.

Love your story!

Vee said...

Oh thank goodness! You had me on the edge of my seat. Yes, I do love a happy ending. Now I'd just like to know Mama Duck's side of things. ;D

Unknown said...

Wow, what a story! That would make a good illustrated children's book, I think.

AnaGF said...

OMG! What an adventure! I was getting stressed as I was reading through your post, but finally, everything ended happily! And the police didn't get you! Well done!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a delightful story with a happy ending.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

MandaBurms FarmStay for Cats. said...

PHEW I was a tad scared. so glad you followed your gut!

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon-- you've had me on the edge of my seat!! I think you've found your next story to write-- and--- be sure to include that picture if you sitting in the trunk of the car.!! The whole thing is just priceless-- and could only happen to you!


The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sharon, I saw something similar recently, but they got back away from the road before intervention was necessary. Thanks the good Lord that you helped those ducks and that the Mama heard them. I love happy endings.



Anonymous said...

Sharon, What a wonderful story this morning! Love the image of you keeping the babies awake so Mama would hear them. Hope you managed to get some dinner after all that exercise. Sharon from Maine

Susan said...

Anybody who knows you, would say, "you wouldn't have done it any other way." XOXO

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Mim said...

I live in the Boston area and "make way for ducklings" is (of course) one of my favorite books. This tops it in suspense and danger but it's a great story.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Mim, of course I LOVE that McCloskey book. Big fan of his work and that is one of the best.

Vee (in Maine), yeah, Mama's tale of the "kidnapping" would be quite different.

All of you, thanks so much for your sweet words.



Carla said...

This is the best human helps animal story I have heard in a long time, Sharon. You must feel like a Grandma Duckling!

Bonnie K said...

What a crazy ordeal! Glad you got them all back together safely. It reminds me of when my husband and the rest of the Deadwood police spent a cold icy winter night rounding up ducks lost in the freezing weather and putting them under the casino heaters to warm up. It is amazing what we do for animals.

Kay G. said...

You QUACK me up!!

I LOVE this account of your duck rescue, and I hope you still got to have a nice dinner, both of you deserved it! :-)

Our Neck of the Woods said...

Oh my goodness, what a story! I am so glad it had a happy ending. I have learned so much about nature and instincts over the past several years and it is just amazing. I love the last couple photos of the mom and her babies! Too precious! You guys did such a good thing :)

PS - Thanks so much for visiting my blog and commenting! I really appreciate it.


Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I always knew you were wonderful. Anyone owning a store like Heart's Ease had to be.
Good for you two. What a great thing to do!

troutbirder said...

What a fantastic story. I loved every word!!!

Marcie said...

Your story had me on the edge of my seat. So glad for the happy ending and that there are people like you in this world, as stewards of our wild ones. My significant other stopped today to help a turtle across a busy drive into one of the "big box stores" in the city. We probably annoyed those pulling up behind us, but the turtle will have at least a few more good days.

Sending love and good energy your way. Glad to read a post and know that all is well with you. :)

Terra said...

Incredible story and maybe a children's book for you! In your spare time, ha ha. Yes, I do need stories with happy endings especially when a mom and her ducklings are involved.
You get a gold star in heaven for this deed!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Terra dear,

I can't even imagine how many ducklings and turtles, and so many other creatures YOU have saved.

Thank goodness there are so many who care.



Audrey said...

Sharon, what an amazing story! As a mom myself, I think I was holding my breath waiting to see what happened. That Mama must have been so stressed but you were her Guardian Angel! On another daughter took your bird book out yesterday when she went bird watching (my post:! Hope you had a nice weekend!

Sonia said...

OH Sharon you had me on the edge of my chair thinking Mama duck would fly and leave her babies. So glad you got them save and sound reunited! Great bird adventure!
Miss Bloomers

La Petite Gallery said...

I used to have a collection of bottles like your header.
You really must be an animal lover.

Caroline said...

What a wonderful story. We live in Taft and have often enjoyed driving over to San Luis and watching the ducklings in San Luis Creek. That's a much better place for them than right next to the 101!

Anonymous said...

my goodness, you made my heart pump harder, worried they'd all get lost. whew! well, I guess you didn't need that walk after all! xo thea

jerilanders said...

Oh are my HERO! I know I would have done this very same thing and my dear husband would be obliging me every step of the way. Bless Jeff and ALL the other animal lovers in the neighborhood. I can just see it now! I spent most of the day searching the woods for my new peahen, who managed to get lost,and maneuvering her across the busy road and back to our property, where she is now sitting contentedly atop our roof!

Privet and Holly said...

Oh, this did my
heart so, so much
GOOD this morning,

For some reason,
the Canadian Geese
like to nest right
near the edges of
busy roads. It amazes
me how they are able
to keep their babies
safe, but they do!

We often pull over
for oblivious turtles,
creeping across busy
roads. My daughter
has gotten quite good
at this! She takes a
stick {or, her foot} and
gets them to move as
fast as they can. Or,
if they are small enough
to handle, she'll just carry
them across. But it's
not uncommon to see
turtles here with shells
as large or larger than
dinner plates.

I am going to miss my
turtle whisperer next year,
when she's at college. But,
she will be in California, so
perhaps there will be little
animals there who will benefit
from her kind heart.

You are both cut from the
same cloth : )

Happy Sunday!

xo Suzanne

Lydia said...

We're going to have to get you a duck call):-

Cris, Oregon Artist said...

All's well that ends well. phew!! A true Critter lover. :)

Art and Sand said...

I just randomly came across this post and laughed as I read it. I continued reading with the thought that it must have a happy ending or you would not have shared it.

I would love to have seen it and what a great children's book it would make.

Lili said...

I am beyond amazed with your perfect instincts when dealing with this distressing situation! This did my heart good. It had the perfect blend of suspense, laughter, adventure, a great ending and lots of love for these sweet creatures! Well done you. xo