Wild ducklings’ chances of survival in Northern California are greatly increased thanks to the Egg Salvage and Duck Rescue Program of the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) with the cooperation of farmers and hatchery partners. I joined CWA staff Regina Stanford, Egg Salvage Coordinator and Brian Huber, Wildlife Biologist in Nelson as they dragged a vetch field at Lundberg Family Farms searching for duck eggs. They drove ATVs with a rope with cans attached between them to scare up the nesting hens. Once the hen was flushed they would then go search for a nest with eggs. This field was scheduled for harvest within the next couple of days so the eggs would not have survived.
They work with volunteers at times to search fields and collect eggs that farmers have rescued. It’s currently wheat harvest time in the Sacramento Valley and combine operators are encouraged to stop when they flush a duck hen and collect the eggs. They can contact Regina at (530) 870-7589, and the eggs will be picked up that evening.
Following my time in Nelson, I went down to my home town of Grimes and visited with Roger Moore, who has been helping rescue and hatch duck eggs since 1987. He estimates that he has hatched over 50,000 ducks. It was neat to see the eggs in the incubator, ducks hatching, ducks in the brooder just a day or so old and the older ducks in pens enjoying water and plenty of feed. The ducks will be banded and released when they are about five weeks old.
As I left the vetch field, I saw a duck hen coming back to the nest she was flushed from and I imagine she would be sad to realize she wasn’t going to find eggs. I wish I could explain to her that, thanks to this program, the eggs would be hatched and the ducks would be given a great start in the Sacramento Valley.