Why did the ducklings cross the road?

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DANGER­FIELD

They may be very cute and ex­ceed­ingly fluffy, but sadly road safety aware­ness is not on the list of duck­ling at­tributes, which is why the guys at Ox­ford Bird Res­cue are want­ing to high­light duck­ling sea­son.

Scott and Tracey Bow­man al­ready have about 20 baby ducks in their care be­cause of road ac­ci­dents in which the ducklings have ei­ther been hit or or­phaned while cross­ing the road. The cou­ple have been in the bird res­cue busi­ness for a num­ber of years and say some years are worse than oth­ers.

‘‘A cou­ple of years ago we had hun­dreds of ducklings,’’ said Scott. ’’Maybe it was just a baby boom for the par­ents that year, but you never know from year to year.’’

Tracey said they wanted to get a mes­sage to road users to be ex­tra vig­i­lant for the next few weeks while there was the pos­si­bil­ity of duck­ling pro­ces­sions cross­ing the road.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously you can’t al­ways stop safely with cars be­hind you, but if it is safe to brake, please do so.’’

Peo­ple of­ten did not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween shoot­ing a duck out of the sky and run­ning them over on the roads, Scott said, but it was heart-break­ing to see the ef­fects on the ducks.

‘‘You have only got to see a dead mum on the road with all her ba­bies cud­dled around her, or a mum whose ba­bies have fallen down a drain. They def­i­nitely have feel­ings.’’

While there were some ducklings around al­ready, many more mums would be sit­ting on their nests now, so over the next month there would be an in­crease in ducks cross­ing the roads.

Tracey and Scott spend much of their spare time on the not-soglam­ourous task of clean­ing up af­ter the ‘‘pooey lit­tle bug­gers’’, although for­tu­nately they are nat­u­ral for­agers so they don’t need feed­ing round the clock like some of the oth­ers in their care.

Be­cause the cou­ple run the bird res­cue in their own time from their home, they have had to put a limit on the ser­vice they can pro­vide and there­fore would rather raise aware­ness to pre­vent the ducklings need­ing to be brought in to be­gin with. They also have other birds to look af­ter in­clud­ing one blind and one in­jured owl, and a pair of plovers. In the past they have helped more ex­otic species in­clud­ing a white heron, a pukeko and a weka, as well as tak­ing on hawks through the win­ter.

While they have a lot of sup­port from the SPCA and oth­ers who pro­vide food, they are al­ways short of tow­els and would wel­come more clean­ing prod­ucts too. They hope to be­come a char­ity soon so they will be able to ac­cept do­na­tions for things like petrol which is a big cost for their op­er­a­tion, and for which they cur­rently pay out of their own pock­ets.

Fol­low Ox­ford Bird Res­cue on Face­book to keep up with all the news.

One of this sea­son’s ducklings be­ing re­ha­bil­i­tated ready for re­lease from Ox­ford Bird Res­cue. Own­ers Scott and Tracey Bow­man want to alert peo­ple to the po­ten­tial of ducks cross­ing the road at this time of year.

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