It started with a new DSLR camera and some much-needed practice. A brand new family of ducks made for perfect subjects, of course. Met Q, his mom, Lucy, and his siblings in September of 2017 in a corporate park near my job in Largo, Florida. They are Muscovies: a large breed of duck with turkey-like facial skin called caruncles. These ducks are interesting to observe and the ducklings are ridiculously cute! Q was the biggest in Lucy’s ten-duckling train. And as he feathered out, he developed a noticeable white patch on his neck that none of the others had. He was very easy to recognize. His relative size and general behavior had me pretty certain he was a boy.
By mid-October, Lucy and her family would come looking for me in their park because I carried a mason jar of dried yellow corn for them to snack on at least five days a week. Excellent way to bribe them so I could take pictures without chasing them all over the park. They were crazy for dried corn, but it has no nutritional value, so I equate the snack to “Twinkies.” We would often meet on the outside deck of The Breakroom Bar & Grill for the Twinkie exchange. Q would try to eat out of my hand but couldn’t quite get the hang of it without awkwardly biting my fingers.
On November 15th, we all hung out again during my lunch break. I specifically remember seeing the “big one with the white patch of feathers” because he took a rather large dangerously close to an unwitting restaurant patron seated at an outside table. I laughed. The customer didn’t even notice because he was engrossed with his smartphone. And the poo perpetrator waddled off shamelessly.
The next day at lunch, I conducted my usual duck count. Someone was missing. Recount (as we like to do in Florida). Same result. I looked around in case one was straggling. Nope. The “big one with the white patch of feathers” wasn’t there and he wasn’t one who was prone to straggling. Had a tragedy occured?
Now it is quite unusual for a duck momma to be able to keep all of her ducklings safe from predation out in nature, but Lucy clearly was doing an outstanding job. Her boys and girls were now a large enough size that the typical aerial predators in the area would not be able to swallow them on the spot or carry them off. So what happened to this missing one? Did he get hit by a car? Or was there some other predator out there I wasn’t considering? I had to find out what happened.
I went searching immediately after work and found him sitting alone in the field between two of the retention ponds. He could not get up. He was very dehydrated so I brought him some pond water. What to do now? There was no sign of blood and I couldn’t tell what was wrong. Maybe take him to a vet? Is there even a vet open after regular business hours? Do vets look at wildlife?
He was carefully moved to the field by my car so I could find something to transport him in. A collapsable grocery bag and a towel from the trunk would work. I moved him into the towel-cushioned container and into the passenger side of my car so I could keep an eye on him. Called my husband to explain the situation and ask him to please find out if there is an emergency vet nearby for tonight.
We were in immediate agreement on what to do…
Husband: “Whatever you do, don’t bring him home.”
Wife: “Too late… he’s already in the car.”