Quackers the Duck

First Flight
By Kaz Skoczylas

Something small scurried from the hostas in front of my home in Windsor, Connecticut. It went under my mower that I was filling with gas, on into the garage, and under my wife’s car. I stopped and walked around the car trying to see what it was. Seeing nothing, I called to my wife Pat and told her something had gone under her car and I wasn’t sure what it was. It wasn’t going fast enough to be a chipmunk or a mouse but it was about that size. I said it seemed to waddle like a duck.

She came into the garage, checked under her car and said, “Yep, there’s a duckling under my car.” I got a fishing net and gently placed it over the duckling, pulling it from beneath the car. It trembled but sat quietly and fit comfortably in the palm of my hand. It was so cute and fuzzy. I told it what a lucky duck it was to have picked my house as I made a phone call to my sister Wanda D’Agostino in East Hartford, a wildlife rehabilitator who deals with all kinds of animals, birds and rep-tiles. “Bring it over to my house,” she said. I placed him in a cardboard box with a small towel and his new life began.

Where a lone duckling came from and why it chose that particular time to leave the security of the thick patch of hostas just as I was gassing up my mower will remain a mystery. Where was the nest? What happened to his mother and siblings? Perhaps a coyote or a fox ravished his family. Perhaps as they followed their mother, they waddled to the left and he waddled to the right and became lost. The truth is we will never know.

Wanda estimated him to be 3-5 days old and determined he was a Mallard duck. He probably could not survive on his own. She began to give him vitamins and feed him clover, raspberries, chopped apple, protein rich mealworms, and a special feed for ducklings. He was given a clear plastic box and a watering dish. He would have to be looked after for 8-10 weeks until he grew into a full fledged duck and was able to make his first flight and fend for himself.

I visited him a few days later and was surprised by how much he had grown! He was twice as big as before! While he still had stubby little wings, his tail feathers were growing in and both his beak and his feet had more than doubled in size. And he was enjoying life in his pond/kiddie pool in the back yard, complete with floating clover that he loved to eat. Mealworms were thrown in as he learned to pick them off the “pond” bottom, a habit that would help him sur-vive as an adult. He would swim, then sit on his island (a brick) and preen himself before taking to the water again to enjoy the sun, surf and clover.

For two weeks, Quackers, as he was now named, enjoyed the life of Riley. He had a loving mother (Wanda) and a doting Grandpa (me) waiting for him to grow up and become a full fledged duck who would then be released to join a flock and do all the things that ducks do. Then all of a sudden it ended as suddenly as it had begun. Quackers jumped out of his container sitting on the counter. Maybe it was because of his big feet, or maybe his big beak, or maybe his little bitty wings, but he didn’t land as ducks normally do: on their feet. He hit the floor awkwardly and did not survive the fall.

Wanda and I were heartbroken until we realized the Almighty had seen fit to take Quackers on his first flight, a flight farther and faster than he could ever have hoped to fly. Now I am sure, even on his tiny duckling wings, he soars. We can take comfort in knowing that he was simply taken from the palm of my hand and placed in the palm of His hand.

Quackers is gone now but, as Wanda said, he had two wonderful weeks where he was content, provided for, well fed, and happy (as happy as a duck can be). And most of all he was loved. When all is said and done, isn’t that all anyone can ask for, even a duck?

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