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Flightless ducks escape eagles, survive winter

Staff writer

The neighborly concern and kindness of rural Marion resident Marge Summervill may have saved a trio of flightless ducks from becoming frozen eagle food at Marion County Park and Lake over the winter.

Like many lake patrons, Summervill and her grandchildren developed a fondness for the social, snack-seeking ducks last year.

“Some people called them ‘Huey, Dewey, and Louie,’ but we called them ‘Donald, Daisy, and Dukey,’” Summervill said. “We’d always shell ears of corn for them. The kids loved feeding them.”

Summervill’s affection turned to concern for the quacking trio’s well-being in January when the lake began to freeze along the edges.

She talked to Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson and discovered that he feared for their safety, too.

“We were afraid that if the lake froze up they would have no place to go and the eagles would get them,” Summervill said. “I was just so concerned about them and I thought I could catch them, so I told Steve the ducks could winter at our trout pond.”

Less than a mile south of the lake, Summervill’s spring-fed pond is a popular spot for other ducks because it doesn’t freeze over in the winter, she said.

Summervill didn’t promise that the ducks would make it through the winter, but she told Hudson that she believed they would have a better chance there.

“The ducks are like pets and everyone kind of looks after them,” Hudson said. “Marge was the one who caught the ducks.”

Summervill borrowed a cage from neighbors Quinn and Julie Trapp, then enlisted the help of her husband, Mick, and hired farm hand Nate Litke.

They loaded the cage in the family van, armed themselves with corn for bait, and drove up to “sandy beach,” a small stretch of shoreline in a camping area on the lake’s east side.

“All of us had a handful of corn,” she said. “I told the guys to just reach down and grab the ducks when they got close enough.”

They caught the female first.

“When we caged her, I was afraid the other two would get back into the water and get away,” she said, “but they were protective of her and they stayed with her.”

She said Mick nabbed one of the mallards but the other slipped through Litke’s grasp and ran around the van once before they were able to block its path with the cage and capture it, too.

Donald, Daisy, and Dukey were soon swimming on the Summervill’s pond.

“They acted like they enjoyed it,” Summervill said. “They pretty much swam all over the pond with their ‘cousins’ as we like to call them. It was nice to look out the window and see them become part of the farmstead.”

She said they could tell the lake ducks apart from their cousins because Donald, Daisy, and Dukey were bigger. She also noticed that Donald, the larger male, seemed to lead the trio.

Friends and family visited the ducks to feed them, and then Summervill returned the ducks to the lake around the first part of April.

“Someone asked me if we were going to keep them and I said ‘Heavens no, they’re not mine, they’re lake property,” Summervill said. “It was interesting and fun though. You kind of get attached to them.”

If the ducks survive this year, Summervill said she would be happy to let them winter on the family pond again.

Last modified May 19, 2016

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