Police, passers-by make way for ducklings

Help mother, 11 little mallards through downtown morning rush to Inner Harbor

May 19, 2010|By Frank D. Roylance, The Baltimore Sun

Police and passers-by brought the morning rush to a halt in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday to help a mother mallard and her 11 ducklings make their way to the relative safety of the Inner Harbor.

"It was an incredible way to start the day," said Daveed Korup, 51. A performing-arts specialist at the Port Discovery children's museum, Korup was walking to get his morning coffee about 8 a.m. when he pitched in to help herd the waterfowl. "I needed something to cheer me up, and there it was."

In a scene right out of Robert McCloskey's 1941 children's classic "Make Way for Ducklings," city police officers pulled their cruisers across Pratt Street near Market Place to block traffic for the family of mallards.

"They were all very friendly and smiles," Korup said of the officers. "This was such an odd occurrence … everyone was taking it in as something very special."

It's not clear where the mama duck had been nesting. But she and her family were already headed south on Market Place, just north of Lombard Street — a major westbound thoroughfare — when Korup spotted them.

He joined two women who were trying to shepherd the birds as they made their way toward the harbor.

Larissa Peters was walking to work at World Relief when she spied the ducks and snapped a few pictures.

"I thought, 'Only in Baltimore would this happen,' " she said. She was about to walk on when the birds started across Lombard Street and "nearly got run over."

"So another lady and I decided to help them to the harbor. I was afraid if I didn't see them [all the way to] the water, one would get killed during the day," she said.

As the odd procession reached Pratt Street — the multilane eastbound boulevard that runs along the Harborplace Pavilion and the waterfront promenade — the duck herders halted the parade.

"They didn't want to cross," Peters said. That's when the Baltimore Police Department rode to the rescue.

The officers emerged from the Panera restaurant on Pratt Street with their coffee, jumped into three or four cruisers, Korup said, and pulled them across both streets, halting traffic.

In "Make Way for Ducklings," police in Boston stop traffic on Beacon Street to allow Mrs. Mallard and her eight offspring to reach Boston Public Garden and the lagoon where Mr. Mallard is waiting for them.

It's precisely the sort of scene that wildlife rescuers hoped to avoid a couple of years back when they removed 11 newly hatched ducklings from a planter outside the Capital Grille on Pratt Street.

The rescuers said the mother was just hours away from attempting to march her brood off for a first meal — probably in the harbor slip beside the Power Plant.

There was no such intervention for the duck family Wednesday. With police now blocking Pratt Street, Panera manager Chris Dorsey watched as the duck herders finally allowed the parade to resume.

"They crossed Pratt Street right at the light," he said. "Some people got out of their cars and got cameras out."

It took the duck family perhaps two minutes to cross Pratt. "Once they got going, they were pretty quick about it," Korup said.

From the south curb, Mama led her ducklings straight to the pier where the Coast Guard cutter Taney — a survivor of the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor — is berthed.

Mother mallard jumped in first, Korup said, then "the chicks took their own time deciding whether to go for a swim."

They had to jump a few inches to a ledge, then another 18 to 24 inches into the water. Eventually, they all made it.

"Incredible," Korup said.



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