By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
The ducks hanging about Mud Creek retreat into the water the second a human walks by. But then Carmen McCauley comes and they run right up as if they are excited to see her.
McCauley, 67, says she believes they recognize her and know that she is bringing them food. She has done this for the past 13 years.
“It’s the equivalent of giving someone a slice of bread for the whole day. But at least they will survive,” she said.
It’s that time of year in Chatham-Kent where the weather dips to well below freezing, leaving the omnivorous birds with little to eat. Every year, McCauley receives donations from the community of Chatham-Kent, and this year she is asking for help again.
“When you see something starving like that, you’ve got to feel rotten,” McCauley said.
Every winter a raft of ducks settle along Mud Creek, north of Tweedsmuir Avenue in Chatham. The ducks normally band together so they continuously swim in the pools of water to prevent them from freezing over.
McCauley visits the ducks everyday around 2 p.m. and feeds about 70 of them one bag of cracked corn.
Cracked corn is a recommended food for the birds that is both nutritious and easily digestible, but McCauley can’t afford it all on her own.
“It’s for a good cause; the poor birdies are starving,” said Helen Bushey, who was McCauley’s first donation of the year.
Bushey said she is happy to know to know that McCauley is taking it upon herself to free the birds and encourages residents to go out and buy a bag, which can be found at many local feed stores for less than $10.
McCauley herself has been purchasing her cracked corn from TSC on St. Clair Street and also welcomes gift cards.
“They just ran toward me. They are so starved. It was surprising. They’re quite remarkable; all birds are,” she said during her first feeding, which took place last Friday.
By the time she had walked back up to the hill and opened her car door, the food was gone.
McCauley decided to pick up this initiative after volunteering at Maynard Avian Rehabilitation Centre where one winter she noticed most of the cages were filled with starving ducks.
“People around here enjoy their birds and see them struggling during the winter. But this particular group (by Mud Creek) for some reason, I can never find somebody down there along that creek. I don’t know why the people along there just won’t step up,” McCauley said.
If anyone wants to help, they can contact McCauley by e-mail at email@example.com to donate bags of cracked corn, drop off a gift card or co-ordinate a time to do their own feeding.