I have to update my readers. I’ve intentionally stopped posting about the pond. No bush. No duck. No footprints in the snow.
Four days ago, I wrote a tribute to Mrs. Shoveler, a hen Northern Shoveler who, having suffered an injury, was grounded on the pond. I first noticed her on December 14. Very consistently, nature shares some revelation with me on December 14, every year. This year, having solicited the support of all of my social media contacts and City of Calgary wildlife organizations, I had lost hope of retrieving this bird from the open water and on January 2nd, having come upon a kill site, I knew that she had come into the clutches of a canine predator.
I woke, on January 3rd, knowing that later in the afternoon, I would be attending prayers for Emelia, a former student who passed away, sadly, on December 26. I had one of those mornings where I drifted in and out of sleep for quite some time. I’m an early riser, but when it’s bitterly cold outside and the alarm isn’t set, I enjoy that wonderful pull-back into sleep. I didn’t know where the distinction was, that morning, between dream and thought. Let’s just say that the images that surfaced from the fog included a big red vessel, many cables from land being pulled strenuously, heavily weighted, a duck-like bird that looked as though it was a character in a graphic novel, these images all in techno-colour blue and red and yellow…somewhere, a shift…a large wolf-like dog pouncing, shaking, lifeless form, indistinct. I jolted awake from this.
While I made my coffee, I prayed for parents who have lost a child, for each morning, for each new day’s realization. It was ridiculous that I should have had an attachment to the Northern Shoveler. “Time to let go of these images and these attachments. What can I do to disconnect from this experience?” Several people, including my father and Ruth Purves-Smith and Sean Kubara said all of the right things and while disappointed, I did realize that in nature, you truly find a circle of life. I headed for the pond, with Max, thinking that I might collect a feather to bring home.
This is what I found…”PIGEON FEATHERS!!! Are you kidding me???”
Looking to the right, this is what I saw…
“YES! That’s her!” I hooted! I ran to the car and called the non-emergency fire department. That was it! I wasn’t messing around anymore. I was going to get Mrs. off of the water! The department was kind enough to assess the situation and their feed back was, “She seems to be enjoying her time out there on the pond.” Okay…so, that wasn’t the avenue I was going to take. I sent a message off to AIWC Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation. Ducks Unlimited sent me a message, “Ducks sometime choose to hang out all winter long.” At this point I thought about all of the people who had supported me and who had read my heart felt thoughts in my Mrs. tribute. I decided, until this situation had a resolution, I was going to stop myself from sharing anything at all. I left the pond, feeling determined.
I went to say prayers for Emelia, connecting with so many people who loved and shared time with Emelia in life…hugging her Mom.
Exhausted, I headed home, full of the absolute joy and sadness of life and living.
On January 4, word came from AIWC and a capture attempt would happen, around noon. Thanks to the training and experience of Cheryl, Dan and a Birds Calgary member, Rodney, we put in an effort and discovered more about the little lady on the pond. First of all, the injury was to her leg/foot and not her wings. This was a good thing. This meant that she could escape a predator if need be. Since December 14, I had visualized getting a raft out onto that open water, and yet that would not have been helpful at all. She would take off at every approach, circle and swish down into the water over and over again. When she landed onto the fresh snow, she couldn’t walk and would take off from there again and again.
Mrs. got really annoyed with all of us and finally took off east down the line of 22X. We had to close up shop. I had gratitude, for the fact that she could fly and that she could use her natural instincts to avoid predators. Unfortunately, I knew that bad weather was on the way. The next attempt would not be until January 6. I hugged the volunteers and headed home, informed of how to feed her and what to feed her in the case that she came back, so a quick stop was made and that evening, as sun was setting, I headed to the open water, hoping for her return, bucket of corn millet in tow.
Not only was little Mrs. back, but she had company in a female Mallard who enjoyed the easy pickings of the seed that I threw out onto the water.
The next day, Mrs. Shoveler was alone again, when Max and I stopped in to throw some feed and to go for our walk.
I knew that weather was changing and sure enough, when I visited her at 5:00, the water was turning to slush, the seed was just sitting on the solidifying surface and she was barely moving on the far side of her patch of open water. Evening…and I wondered with the snow that was falling if there would be any way to survive the plummeting temperatures and the snowfall.
Today, I hiked down to the site, with Dan and Cheryl’s promise that they would be coming down for noon time, to find this…
I texted Cheryl…there was no reason she should make the effort and come south from Airdrie in such rotten conditions, if our Shoveler had met her demise. I went back to the car and stayed warm and hoped that Cheryl would contact me.
We hugged in the parking lot and then, together, walked down to the site, in order to scout around the cat tails. It took no more than ten minutes and Cheryl spotted her…back wing feathers and tail feathers out of the snow…but otherwise, buried and seeming stuck on the slope directly up from the pond. Quietly, Dan approached with his net, gathering her up. There were joyful utterances from all of us and an urgency to get the snow off of her and warm her up, however gradually. Wrapped in a towel, Cheryl described how small she was, likely underweight and also dehydrated. So readers, we got the save! This is the ‘resurrection’ story…this is a story of how things sometimes ‘go right’ in nature.
I’m so grateful that I have this story to share with each of you and thank all of you for putting up with my perpetual efforts and amusement in all of this. I will be applying for AIWC as soon as possible. There’s some evidence that I take an interest!
Report from Cheryl is that Mrs. Shoveler is being assessed by their vet team…she couldn’t stay for her check up as she was off and running to deal with an owl stuck in a vehicle rad. :0( Apparently, these are the stories of our wildlife friends and I encourage you to support, how you can, the fine people who fulfill this very specialized need.
To update my readers…and again, thank you for your support through this little journey into nature.
To all of my readers/supporters/wild life enthusiasts, I am sorry after such a ‘save’ today that I have to report that Mrs. had to be humanely put to rest this afternoon. Her fracture to her left leg was a complicated one as it was on her joint, she had multiple fractures to her toes and she had extensive frost bite to the left foot as well. There was no treatment that might have prepared her body for the life of a functioning Northern Shoveler. She was a resilient and determined Mrs. and she filled my heart…and she made Max bark…and she created light in her life by the sheer beauty of ‘being’. If she was that for us, how much more can we be for others, not by appearances, but, by sheer will? Just paddle as hard as you can. It is enough. AIWC rocks. I just want to thank you and I’m happy that she isn’t alone out there, in the snow and cold tonight.