April 7, 2011 —
On the morning of March 23, I received a phone call from my friend and neighbor, John Keator, who told me that he had a duck in his woodstove. I asked, “You have a what in your woodstove?!” John is an avid and competent birder, and it was quickly determined that there was some sort of waterfowl in his woodstove. I grabbed a few items and left for John’s house.
I arrived and John turned on the lights to the basement where the woodstove was, and there was a dark eye peering back at me. Through the smoke-stained glass, it appeared to be the size and shape of a mallard. John slowly opened the stove door just enough for a pair of hands, and I grasped the feathered interloper so it would not fly throughout the house and hurt itself.
Once we got it out of the woodstove, we could see that it wasn’t a mallard at all; it turned out to be a female wood duck. Wood ducks are cavity nesters; they will nest in a woodpecker hole or at the hollow at the top of a broken off snag. She may have thought that the chimney would make a nice nest cavity, but she got a bit more cavity than she bargained for; a confined space rescue was now in the works for her.
Luckily, the stove was cold, and it was a large diameter, straight drop to the woodstove with no chance of entrapment in the flue. We gave her a quick checkout and all looked good. John opened a cellar window and I placed her on the outside ledge. She stood there, perhaps getting her bearings for a few seconds, and then she vaulted off the ledge. She weaved between two white pine trees and flew out of sight toward the far shore of Walker Lake, perhaps re-evaluating her nest selection location criteria during her liberation flight.