Riverkeeper report: Ducking Mother Nature

Published 12:10 pm Saturday, July 2, 2016

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 25th through the 27th on the Nottoway below Hercules. The water was muddy (as it is a lot lately) and 77 degrees. Air temps ranged from 60 to 85 degrees.

The Riverkeeper scooped up from the Nottoway this baby wood duck, which he figures had been born quite recently. Although he later found a sibling, there was no sign of the mother. -- Submitted | Jeff Turner

The Riverkeeper scooped up from the Nottoway this baby wood duck, which he figures had been born quite recently. Although he later found a sibling, there was no sign of the mother. — Submitted | Jeff Turner

The fishing on this trip was okay. I only caught three cats the first night to 10 pounds and got skunked the second night. I fought tide both nights. About the time I would get situated, the darn water would change and go slack current for an hour or so and then start coming back in. That really screwed up my boat positioning. On the second night I thought I was going to be smart and anchored in the narrows, thinking the faster water there would not turn. It did, but I was ready and had the boat positioned so I could fish up or downriver, even though that did not help during slack water no flow. Regardless, all that effort got me skunked that night.

I fished for bass only a couple hours the entire trip, but only caught some small fish on topwater. I caught plenty of bream though; they were all caught on small spinners.

The trash on this trip was bad for the Nottoway, but what really got my goat was having to deal with a refrigerator (and two doors) some low-life put in the river. I had gotten a call about it earlier in the week, so I knew it was out there. I can’t talk a lot about it right now as it is an ongoing investigation, but we know it got into the river around Monroe Bridge.

I could not get to one of the doors, but thanks to Mr. Beltrami the refrigerator and the other door are no longer in the river. That was a BIG help and I greatly appreciated it. If anyone has any information that will lead us to the scumbag(s) that did this, please contact me. There is a small reward if that information nails the culprits.

Now for my ducky story. I was fishing along the second day around the turf farm when Moonpie hollered, “Ahoy, matey! Itty-bitty critter off the starboard bow.”

I looked and looked, but could not see a thing at first.

Then coming right alongside I heard a whole bunch of peeping and there cruising along was a wood duck about the size of a golf ball, swimming upriver against a very strong current. I grabbed the camera and took some quick pics because usually when the ducky family gets separated the momma duck will start hollerin’ and gather the babies up and haul tail to the shore.

I followed this baby duck along at a distance for awhile and never heard its mother or saw another baby. An hour went by and still nothing. The little duck was obviously abandoned, so against my better judgment I scooped it up next pass it made. It was obviously hatched that day it was so small. I put the tiny thing in my pocket and it instantly went to sleep.

So I spent the next hour looking for its mother, and just about the time I was going to give up I saw another baby. So I did the same thing and backed off and watched and waited to see if I could hear the mother.

Once again nothing, so I decided the best thing would be to unite the two and see how that worked out. I had kept tabs on the newly discovered baby, so I got over close and woke junior. up out of my pocket and plopped him down in the water next to his brother … or sister. They instantly went to greeting with a barrage of excited peep peeps and swam off happily together. I felt pretty good about that and wished them well, thinking that would be that. It was not. Two hour’s later I was taking a nap like a mile from the duck derby when suddenly I heard the distinct sound of peeping baby duck language. I thought ‘Oh, no, it can’t be.’ But then I thought, ‘Hey, maybe it’s the rest of the family.’ However, when I sat up I saw it was the same two little babies I had dealt with earlier. Well, I thought at least they are still together. I then watched them get up on a log that was about as big as my arm … skinny. It was hilarious; they were actually preening like grown-up ducks, except they had the balance of a pinecone.

One would fall off the log and the other one would look at it like ‘What’s wrong with you,’ then by the time that one crawled back up on the log the other one would fall off. I watched them do this for 20 minutes, so I went back to may nap.

Again, I was awakened by that darn peeping sound. I rose up and looked and one of the duckies was swimming past me headed upriver without the other one. One was still sitting on the log. So I just did not know really what to do. I decide I best just move on. When I left one was still on the log and I could see the other one way upriver.

I did some quick research on baby wood ducks and was not happy with what I read. In the first week of their life the mortality rate is 90 percent and that’s with a mother.

I felt pretty bad about leaving them, but I figured it’s the way of the wild and I prayed that maybe, just maybe, the two little duckies could duck Mother Nature this time on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.