When a newly hatched mallard duckling crossed Clevelandtown Road Sunday, it was embarking on an odyssey.
The trip would take it down a storm drain and then to a new home among chickens. It would involve police, the highway department and the kindness of strangers. It would give the duckling (gender yet unknown) a name: Stormy.
Stormy, less than a week old, was observed Sunday crossing Clevelandtown Road when he walked across a storm grate and fell through to the bottom. “He was seen swimming in circles down at the bottom,” Edgartown police Sgt. Craig Edwards said. Sergeant Edwards was driving by when he stopped to offer assistance to the onlookers. It turns out they were worried about the duckling in the drain.
A search didn’t turn up a nest or the rest of the family nearby, Sergeant Edwards said. He speculated that it might have been a late hatch.
Henry Parent with the Edgartown highway department responded to the scene, taking the grate off the drain and putting a ladder down to the bottom. His wife, Bonnie, went down to retrieve the duckling.
The onlookers named the duckling Stormy. Sergeant Edwards said there was no sign of Stormy’s family. “This little duckling would not have made it,” he said.
Enter Suzan Bellincampi, director of Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. Ms. Bellincampi said the duckling was “wet and cold and shivering,” and it was placed in a box under a heat lamp with Ms. Bellincampi’s domestic chicks. (Chickens have their own history with crossing the road.)
“I’m going to keep it for a little bit and hook it up with another mallard family,” she said. Stormy has a good prognosis, she said, though he’s very young.
“Ducklings have a tendency to imprint,” she said, making if very difficult to put them back in the wild.
While Stormy’s situation is unusual, Ms. Bellincampi stressed that wildlife generally should not be taken out of its habitat. “People think they are saving wildlife,” she said, “while the parents are hiding in a bush nearby.”
This time of year especially, she said, baby birds and baby ducklings are learning to fly and sometimes fall out of nests or appear abandoned. She said that the fledglings should be left alone.
“The best help you can do is leave it for its parents to find,” she said. For more information about living with wildlife, Ms. Bellincampi recommended visiting massaudubon.org.
As for Sergeant Edwards, Stormy will go down in history.
“In 26, 27 years, I’ve had a lot of different animal calls,” he said. “Goose calls, turtle calls, you name it.”
But before Stormy, “never a duckling, no.”