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A day of firsts

6 Oct

Well, it’s been a time of firsts for me lately, and last Friday was a particularly ‘adventurous’ day.

My day started out well, it was actually a beautiful day, the first after the most terrifying electric storms had hit Melbourne in the the previous couple of days. I usually love storms but I have never heard anything like it….it was quite funny actually, there I was calming Little B down (as with most dogs, she hates storms), patting and speaking quietly to her, as we sat on the porch watching the lightening (I always have had romantic notions of storm watching from a porch and here was my chance) when all of a sudden there was a giant crack, and lightening struck the house at the bottom of our garden!! I could have won a sprint race with the speed at which I raced inside cursing all sorts of unmentionables. Myself and Little B spent the rest of the afternoon in bed ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyways, now it was so beautiful that I decided to take Little B out for a long walk at the local creek just near our home. Enjoying ourselves and the weather, it was amazing to see what the storms had done to the level and ferocity of the water: what was usually a placid slow meandering stream was now a torrential (mini) river.

Anyways, just near the end of our walk I spotted a small duckling swimming in a slightly calmer bend of the stream, and of course, my first reaction was ‘oh how cute!!’. But then I noticed that she (for the purposes of the story, the duckling will be a she…I don’t know why) was on her own, no family in sight, not a good sign for such a young thing ๐Ÿ˜ฆ She had obviously been separated from them in the extreme weather.

Now, though I am a qualified wildlife rescuer by virtue of taking a course, I had never actually completed a rescue on my own before but the thought of just leaving the little duckling to her own devices, when the odds really are not that great at all, just didn’t sit well with me. My first thought was, if I could locate her family first, then I could try and somehow maneuver them together, but I quickly saw that she was in fact hemmed into a part of the stream that was bordered at two ends by rapids caused by the new influx of water. So, I thought the best thing I could do would be first locate the family, then capture the duckling and return her to her family (the myth that ducklings that have come into contact with humans will not be taken back my their parents is actually false), and if her family could not be located, I would take her to the wildlife sanctuary where I volunteer where they are actually currently are raising another duckling (the only survivor of a hit and run on a local highway ๐Ÿ˜ฆ )

I didn’t want to leave her but I was completely unprepared for a rescue and, as much as love her, I didn’t think Little B would be too much help being that she is a natural born hunter (it is the only thing we disagree on ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). So I took her home and made a plan. The first thing I was going to need was a net so I did a quick internet search and found that we actually have an anglers store in a neighbouring suburb which would be perfect. I got all the other things I would need from around the house: a lined box with air-holes, some bread (for coaxing purposes) and my wellie (see gum) boots then headed off the anglers store, my first first of the day.

Having never fished a day in my life since making my own fishing rod as a youngster on a caravaning holiday and surprising myself and those around me when I actually caught one ( I was horrified!),needless to say, I am no fishing expert but they were very helpful in the store though the look on the guy’s face was priceless when I mentioned that I was going to use the net for duckling rescue and not prawn catching (prawn nets are the best for rescue of ducklings and such like as the net is very fine, meaning that no harm can come to legs and wings during the process).

Then the creek. Firstly, I walked up and down the area for some time searching for the duckling’s family but unfortunately, it was to no avail ๐Ÿ˜ฆ However, I was glad to see that the duckling was still safe and sound so I spent some time quietly throwing her bits of bread trying to gain a little trust and set everything up ready for when I caught her so that she would be settled quickly and the least amount of distress caused.

For my first attempt at the rescue I tried to net her from the banks, but I knew this was going to be a long shot, so the next step was to get into the water, my second first of the day (wading in the local ‘fresh’ water creek), and hope it wasn’t TOO deep. Well, at first it wasn’t…just up to my thighs, far too deep for my wellies to be of much use except for protecting me against whatever lay at the bottom the of the incredibly muddy water (which made them well worth it, I thought!) but manageable, however, as I followed her (trying to be as quiet and unthreatening as possible and keeping the net down low so as not to frighten her too much), the water got deeper and deeper (and colder and colder, my gasps were uncomfortably reminiscent of the scene from Titanic when Kate Winslet first enters the water on her way to rescue Leo)ย  but I had come this far so I kept on until I had a great opportunity and she was within my reach…..and then I sank…and that, friends, was my third first of the day….SWIMMING in the local creek! I swear the duckling was laughing at me, in fact she didn’t even swim away, she just got onto a mid-stream rock, gave herself a cleansing shake and sat down to watch me splutter away.

However, I was determined to keep this duckling safe and so this same process went on for over two hours (one of the main things they teach you about rescue is patience!!) until I was truly exhausted. At the point when I could barely wade through the water, I had to give up! I had tried my best to do the right thing and had only come close to rescuing the duckling about 3 times. In my mind, if she could happily escape me with such poise, hopefully she would be alright on her own, at least until the flood waters died down and her family was able to get to her.

I was just getting out of the water when an older gentleman across on the other bank (many people had passed by during my rescue attempt but not a one had offered to help) called out to me. At first my thought was that he was offering to help, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was angry at me and yelling his head off!! Fearing a misunderstanding, I let him know that I was not fishing and the reason for my net…however that just made him more mad and let me know in no uncertain terms I was wrong to be doing what I was. I even let him know that I was a trained rescuer, however that didn’t seem to help, he seemed under the impression that I was trying to steal wildlife for my own personal gain, though what that gain was seemed to be a little unclear…..

So there I was standing by the creek, soaked to the bone in muddy storm water (more on that later), holding a prawn catching net, wellie boots brimming and many many twigs in my hair, having failed at my rescue attempt AND getting yelled at.

I am sorry to say that at that point I lost my temper a little and had a bit of a yell back…something along the lines of “I am trying to save a life not catch dinner”…..and as a person who avoids conflict like the plague, it was a very uncomfortable moment. Once I had calmed down, I explained the statistics of the survival of a duckling out on her own and that seemed to quieten him up and he huffed his way off. And, of course, that was the point when the skies opened and it literally poured down. In my single-mindedness, I had not noticed the skies gradually darkening!

That was a bad moment for me. I felt truly defeated, misunderstood, and all those bad things and I just stood there in the rain crying. I felt every time in my life when I tried to do the right thing but been completely misunderstood by those around come crashing down around me. Totally melodramatic, I know, but I have to admit to feeling very low at that point.

Of course, a couple of hours later, after an extremely hot shower, and some hot soup, I felt better. I had tried to do the right thing, and though it hadn’t worked out, and though people around me couldn’t understand or agree with with what I tried to do, I knew that I couldn’t have just ignored the duckling on her own and had taken the course of action that I felt most appropriate at the time.

In my contemplation, I realised it’s much like my decision to go back to university at this stage of my life. People may not understand why I’ve made this decision and may even be fairly vocal in their opposition (that is not to say that I don’t have support, I also have plenty of that too), but as long as I feel like I am doing the right thingย  (and I don’t mean only for me but also for my nearest and dearest) then it IS the right thing.

Note: I have been very sick and laid up in bed for most of this week. Turns out that during the storms, raw sewage has been released into Melbourne’s creeks and rivers to “reduce pressure and prevent sewage backing up through household drains”. Lovely. Swimming in sewage turns out to be the fourth first I experienced last Friday. Thankfully, I have recovered and am feeling much better!

I still stand by my decision to try and rescue that duckling! Maybe I am just a little bit crazy………….. ;D

Fact No 11: In light of this post……Ducks’ feet have no nerves or blood vessels. This means ducks never feel the cold, even if they swim in icy cold water.