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Collaborative effort saves ducklings from Downers Grove sewer

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 11:23 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:57 p.m. CDT
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Downers Grove Police Sgt. Rick Giancarlo and Mary Loye, from Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, try to retrieve some ducklings Wednesday that had fallen into the sewer on Parker Avenue in Downers Grove. (Lorae Mundt photo)
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Some of the ducklings retrieved from the sewer they had fallen into on Parker Avenue in Downers Grove. (Lorae Mundt photo)
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Residents check on some ducklings Wednesday that had fallen into the sewer on Parker Avenue in Downers Grove. (Lorae Mundt photo)
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Mary Loye, from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, uses one of the ducklings to try and get the mother duck to come back and get them after they were retrieved from the sewer they had fallen into on Parker Avenue in Downers Grove. (Lorae Mundt photo)
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Mary Loye, from Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, puts the ducklings in a cage after they were retrieved from the sewer they had fallen into on Parker Avenue in Downers Grove. (Lorae Mundt photo)

DOWNERS GROVE – Following their mother across Parker Avenue this week, eight baby ducks fell one, right after the other, into a storm drain.

"They all huddled very close to their mother, and they just fell in," said Mary Loye, a Downers Grove resident and volunteer with the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors who helped fish the birds from the sewer Wednesday. "It does happen pretty often."

Loye said the birds were likely following their mother across the street toward the pond shortly after hatching. She estimated the birds were a day or two old.

Luckily for the clumsy ducklings, Loye, neighbors and an observant mail carrier rallied help to save the small, fluffy birds.

Help for the ducklings came from several directions. Postal carrier Colleen Metzger first saw the ducks Tuesday. After Downers Grove Public Works made an unsuccessful rescue attempt, she called the Downers Grove Reporter the next day, which relayed the message to Downers Grove Police Sgt. Rick Giancarlo.

Around the same time, a neighbor contacted the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, which sent Loye to help.

Corralling scared baby ducks is not easy.

The frightened birds scampered along the series of sewer pipes leading from one storm drain to another whenever rescuers got close. That foiled the public works crew's efforts the day before.

But, Loye and the neighbors eventually found success by encouraging the ducklings down one pipe, when they would become visible, while blocking off the other pipe with a towel as they scooped them up with a net. It took more than an hour to fish out all eight.

"It would have been nice to take one home, but I know you can't do that," Giancarlo said.

Loye put the mallards in a small cage she brought, and waited another two hours hoping their mother would return.

When the mother duck never appeared, Loye took the birds to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. There, the ducklings will be cared for until they are big enough to live on their own in the DuPage County Forest Preserve.

"I was surprised to hear [the ducklings] were there the day before, because sometimes they can die down there," Loye said. "It was kind of a cold day, and nobody is keeping them warm or feeding them. They seemed pretty strong when we were driving them to Willowbrook."

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