2017-03-24 / Columnists

Simon and The Duck

By Paula DiGioia

My neighbor, Simon Chardiet,* was surfing around Beach 99th the day before “blizzard” Stellaaaa. While waiting for his next wave, he noticed a duck getting tossed around. Simon paddled over and saw the fowl was injured. He felt compelled to take action.

“It was going to die. If I was that duck, I would hope someone would try to help me and not turn a blind eye,” said Simon.

Simon managed to secure the duck and they both body boarded to safety. On land, he got assistance from a Russian guy. They inspected the duck and noticed his leg and wing looked limp. They made a little ditch for the bird in the sand but Simon soon realized with the pending snowstorm, the duck was doomed.

This is where I come in.

Simon called my husband, knowing we’re animal people. “I found a hurt duck but I can’t keep it in my apartment. Can you guys take it in and we can reach out to some rescue groups?”

PAULA DIGIOIA PAULA DIGIOIA Next thing I know, there’s an adorable duck on the rocking chair on my porch. Simon helped carry the duck into the house. We made a little spot for him in the basement. I named him, for lack of quick thinking, Mr. Bird.

We reached out to the Audubon Society who in turn put us in touch with the Wild Bird Fund. It was late in the day. We were told they wouldn’t be able to make it to Rockaway until Wednesday - two days. I started stressing out…What do ducks eat? Do I need a tub of water for this thing? What kind of duck is this anyway? I started Googling: black duck, orange beak, Atlantic Ocean.

Turns out Mr. Bird is a male American Scoter (Melanitta Americana). This is a common offshore winter sea bird but it’s listed as near threatened by the IUCN. Their numbers are declining. Flocks are susceptible to oil spills and other pollution. Poor Mr. Bird and his family!

Simon Chardiet and Mr. Bird. Simon Chardiet and Mr. Bird. I was thinking, I need to feed the duck if he was staying with us for two days. I learned American Scoters enjoy eating mollusks, crustaceans and small fish. “I should go to Cross Bay Sea Shell Fish Market, I’ll get some live mussels,” I thought.

Keys in hand, my phone rings, “They found a volunteer! Amy Aversa is on her way to bring Mr. Bird to the Wild Bird Fund headquarters.”

I was contacted a day later with some news. I wish I could write a happy ending to this story but despite our efforts, the Scoter duck did not make it through his ordeal. The veterinarians performed a necropsy to determine the cause of death. They found two golf ball-sized masses in his abdomen, which had displaced his liver.

I find comfort in knowing that he was at peace when he passed, rather than at the mercy of the elements. Mr. Bird’s passing was not in vain, either. I learned about the American Scoter and other coastal birds in our area. I know now what can harm them and what we can do to help.

Now, I’m passing that information on to you. As residents of Rockaway, Breezy Point and Broad Channel, we share our beautiful coastal home with many types of wildlife, including 355 different species of birds. If you see a bird in distress, please contact The Wild Bird Fund: 646-306-2862, 565 Columbus Ave., New York, NY 10024. Their mission is to provide medical care and rehabilitation to native and passing migrant wildlife so they can be released back into the wild. To learn more, visit wildbirdfund.org.

*In addition to being a surfer and animal lover, Simon is a first-rate guitar player. He’s performing on April 2 at Thai Rock with Mike Severino at 6:30 pm.

Paula DiGioia is a Rockaway Beach resident, a lover of cats, a passionate cook and an enormous Fran Drescher fan. DiGioia enjoys writing about food, family, community, gardening and everything in between. Find more narratives like this on her blog theglorifiedtomato.com.

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