Nature Notes: When you wish upon a star

CRAIG SPARKS photo

As thunderstorm after thunderstorm comes roaring through, and the wind blasts from the "gust fronts" that precedes each new storm tears at the trees, the rain comes down in hard, even sheets.

Hard soaking rain - no doubt about it - is the best thing for this place. It keeps the trees healthy and the dune grass a bit more fireworks resistant, and the frogs have better breeding habitat. In fact, the whole wildlife food chain gets a moment to catch its breath. The beach drivers are kept at bay, and crime in general is blunted by this beautiful "fowl" weather.

As I was out feeding some of the new releases from the wildlife center, I noticed a couple of our regular fly-in ducks circling to land, and I could tell that one of them was flying with real difficulty. As they turned their final turn and let down into "gull field," I recognized the incoming mallards as Binky and Peanut, two local ducks who feed regularly in our field.

But something was really wrong. Peanut had a damaged wing and an injured foot and could hardly move around. Binky, his mate, was staying close by his side - and they had obviously come in for help.

I walked across the field to these two ducks who would normally fly off when I got too close, but this time Peanut just sat on the grass with his hurt wing and bleeding foot, and Binky didn't make any move to fly off either. I eased up to them and sat down next to these two wild ducks. Peanut just looked up at me, and it was obvious he was in real pain. I reached out to touch Peanut, Binky reached over with her beak and tugged on my sleeve as if say, "please be gentle, he's all I have in the world!"

I looked at Binky and said, "I promise I'll be very careful." I kind of melted inside seeing this concern that Binky had for Peanut.

I gently gathered up Peanut in my hands to have a look at his injuries, and it was clear he had been shot by a hunter. The wing damage was not too serious and would be fairly easy to fix, but the foot damage was more severe and, he needed to go into the center for attention.

I looked over at Binky and asked her if she wanted to go with Peanut to keep him company while he was in the hospital and she waddled right up next to me. Taking this as a yes, I reached over and she allowed me to pick her up and I carried them both into the wildlife center.

After a few weeks of antibiotics and five star dining, these two ducks who had by then been moved outside and were now "yard patients," were getting anxious to get back to the wild. And on a sunny afternoon, in one big launch, they both hit the sky and were off to their regular home at a nearby pond.

After a few days Binky and Peanut were back, Peanut limping a bit, but hungry and eating well. I expect to see a bunch of little Binkys and Peanuts real soon, as duck breeding season is now in full song. Such wonderful cuties these little guys! What a privilege to be so close. They can teach us much about peace.

• Check out our new weekly nature movie at: http://home.pacifier.com/~sparks/wildlife!!.html

• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

• Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 665-3595 or send an e-mail to: sparks@pacifier.com.

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