Sunday, October 11, 2009

Just Ducky

Here is the article from todays paper about our ducks. I hear they are looking for an agent and wearing sun glasses. How we gonna keep them down on the pond?

"Ducks Lucky, Loved" by Mark Woods

The official name is Colonial Manor Lake Park. But I've never heard anyone call it that. It's always simply "the Duck Pond."
The man-made lake off San Jose Boulevard, dedicated to public use in the 1930s, has evolved into a popular spot to feed the ducks. We pass it every day on the way to Mia's school. And every so often, some of the birds will be crossing the street, creating a scene that always reminds me of the classic children's book, "Make Way for the Ducklings."
Now the Duck Pond has its own story.
It doesn't involve Mrs. Mallard, Jack, Kack or Lack. In this story, the ducks are named Nelson Mandela, Harriett Nelson, Lucky and September.
But it all starts with a mother goose which now is known as - what else? - Mother Goose.
She laid 13 eggs last spring. That's when Father Goose started acting differently. Suzanne Honeycutt, who lives in the first house south of the Duck Pond, recalls that he got more hyper, more aggressive. And for some reason, he kept leading Mother Goose across the street.
Suzanne's husband, Joe, was out walking their dog one morning when a car driven by a teenager came zipping past the Duck Pond, hit the two geese and kept going.
Father Goose died instantly. Mother Goose was badly injured, one of her legs mangled.
Suzanne remembers seeing their door open and Joe walking into the house, cradling the bloody bird in his arms.
They called several vets, before finally finding someone who would look at Mother Goose, Steve Hart of Hidden Hills Animal Hospital.
The eggs were bundled up, taken to Orange Park and put in an incubator. None hatched. But Mother Goose lived. She underwent several surgeries and spent about three months in the animal hospital. Then Hart, who it turns out lives just around the corner from the Duck Pond, called to tell them they could come get her.
At the same time, two ducks which had been mauled by dogs also were ready to leave the hospital.
The Honeycutts offered to take them to Duck Pond, too.
They named the black-and-white one, free after spending months in a cage, Nelson Mandela. And they dubbed the other one Harriet Nelson, as in the 1950s "Ozzie and Harriet" sitcom star.
The birds splashed into the pond and lived happily ever after, right?
Not exactly.
"The first few days it was like 'Lord of the Flies,' " Suzanne said.
The other birds in the pond attacked the weak and hobbled newcomers.
That's when Joe got a children's wading pool and put it in the front yard, creating a mini Duck Pond. He also did some research, found out what kind of food they needed, started feeding them twice a day and bonding with them. Especially Nelson Mandela.
"Nelson thinks he's a dog," Suzanne said as the duck wagged its tailed and greeted me. "He's the most social of all them."
Yes, all of them. The gang has continued to grow.
One night the Honeycutts heard voices outside the house. They looked out and there was a mother, her two children and a duck. They explained that something had happened to the duck. They had rescued her, nursed her back to health, named her Lucky - as in Lucky Duck - and now they were releasing her.
Lucky soon made herself at home, laying eggs under bushes in the Honeycutts' front yard. One hatched last month, which is why one neighborhood kid named the duckling "September." If you've seen Lucky, you've seen September. They're inseparable.
So Mother Goose does have a family, although not an "Ozzie and Harriet"-era one. It includes a dog, a cat and an odd assortment of ducks.
"I think there's a lot of loving going on in that pond," Suzanne said with a laugh. "We have some interesting ducks."
The wading pool no longer is necessary. The injured birds got stronger and safely returned to Duck Pond, although whenever Harriet gets into it she can't get out. Joe built her a ramp, but she can't seem to figure out how to use it.
"Harriet is pretty," Suzanne says, "but she isn't very smart."
So Joe fishes her out with a swimming pool leaf net.
It isn't exactly "Make Way for the Ducklings," with a traditional bird family living a traditional bird life in Boston Public Garden. But it's a sweet story about a pond and a neighborhood in Jacksonville, one which has led some to suggest that speed bumps should be built near it.
That hasn't happened yet. But there is an addition to the sign next to the Duck Pond. In the middle of the information about Great Blue Herons, Anhingas and ducks that can be found in the pond, it says: "Mother Goose has returned home!"
(904) 359-4212

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