May 1, 2012
Lucky ducky finds its way
Group helps fish baby duck out of Main Street sewer grate
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland firefighter Mike Sweeney, left, and city Department of Public Works employee Nick Dovi rescue a duckling Monday afternoon from a Main Street storm drain in front of the Cortland VFW.
One wayward duckling found its way to a happy ending Monday at the city Water Works, after falling into a storm sewer on Main Street earlier in the afternoon.
The duckling fell through the sewer grate when Homer resident Richard Little stopped a brood of hatchlings and their mother from crossing Main Street and being struck by cars.
He ushered all but the one duckling up onto the sidewalk.
“I figured if they crossed the road they might get run over,” Little said. “I was afraid they’d get squished.”
The hapless duckling soon drew a crowd, with about 10 passersby gathered around the sewer grate around noon Monday, listening to the peeps coming from below. Carol Agate ran to the Cortland Fire Department to get help.
A red Chevrolet partially parked over the sewer grate prevented it from being lifted, and the duckling could not be plucked from the dirty sewer water through the bars of the grate.
City Department of Public Works employee Nick Dovi stood with a crowbar in hand, ready to pry the sewer grate up after the car’s owner was found.
“This is about the fourth time I’ve done this,” Dovi said. “This happens a lot.”
Dovi said he had conducted similar duckling search-and-rescue operations on River Street and Prospect Terrace recently.
“Luckily, usually someone sees it,” he said.
The car’s owner, John Beardsley, was located in the Cortland Fitness Center. He hurried to his car and found the crowd gathered near it. Three firemen and two DPW workers stood ready to pry open the grate.
“I was working out, and they called me and said I have to move my car,” Beardsley said.
Once Beardsley moved the car, the rescue effort got under way. Dovi lifted the grate easily after chipping away some paving, then reached a basket into the water and lifted the duck to safety, to the applause and congratulations of the crowd.
Agate said the experience was moving, praising the firemen and city workers for their caring response.
Then the next phase of the rescue began: to locate the duckling’s family.
Careful measures had been taken not to touch the duckling, so that its mother would not reject it.
The duckling was one of a brood that had been watched over by their mother at her nest near Clayton Avenue outside the YWCA. They just hatched Sunday, according to YWCA employees.
Agate took the duck in her bicycle basket to the YWCA, hoping to find the ducks had returned to their nest or to locate a worker who knew their whereabouts. Agate learned YWCA employee Susan Vanhelsdingen was escorting the ducks nearly a mile to the city Water Works with J.M. Murray Center employee Annette Everett.
Everett said the ducklings were carried in a box all the way to the Water Works.
“She just followed the box,” Everett said of the mother duck. “She walked the whole way.”
Once Everett and Vanhelsdingen returned to the YWCA, they found Agate there with the peeping and displaced duckling in her basket.
Everett drove the duckling to the Water Works and reported a happy reunion about an hour later.
“She was in the side creek, teaching her babies how to swim,” Everett said of the mother duck.
Agate lowered the basket into the creek and at first the lost duckling paddled the wrong way. But the mother duck soon located her errant offspring and ushered it back.
“Now she’s happy as pie,” Everett said. “There are a whole bunch of other ducks and babies swimming around.”
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