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Lucky, the Hitchhiking Duck

By Bill Jennings

I was up early this Sunday to beat the crowd to Lady Bird Lake for a quick paddle around Red Bud Island. My favorite parking spot was empty, but the rest were just about full already at 9:30 am. I launched and got a great speed paddle to Red Bud Island, then slowed down to look for birds, tennis balls ( got 8 balls on the trip and a really nice frisbee) and whatever Mom Nature throws in my direction. There was a white duck, the domestic kind, that was quacking continuously near Red Bud, like a hunter’s child who finds his duck call and can’t stop blowing it. It is very unusual to have a domestic duck in that neck of the lake, or really anywhere on Lady Bird. Red Bud is home to a leash free dog park, so life would be short for him there. I looped the island, stopping by the dam to watch some herons fish. Spent a lot of time with a Green Heron, and another bird lover paddled over and we both laughed at the fact there is no green on a green heron. Continuing on, I came up on the duck who made a bee-line toward me. I never feed any ducks or swans, as there is plenty for them to eat naturally in Lady Bird, so why mess with success? Amazingly, he jumped on my back deck and made himself at home. I was moving at the time, and just continued on, which was fine with him. People all over started to notice, as he continued to quack, and started asking if they could take my picture. Many asked me, "Is that your pet duck?" I said, "Do you really think I have a pet duck? He just jumped on a way back..." He was happy behind me, and it was like having my own horn on the boat, clearing the way between the horde of paddlers headed in my direction. My guess is he was someone’s pet until he grew up and started getting really loud. They thought Lady Bird would be a good place to drop him off, a sad comment on our relationship with animals, as he obviously was looking for people to feed him. I thought I’d take him to Barton Springs, or at least the arm of the lake that goes there, as many people bring their children down to the water and feed the ducks there. I got close, but came up on a group of kayaks and SUP’s (Stand Up Paddleboards) with children aboard, and he hopped off and quacked his way at speed to them. The little girls all screamed until their folks calmed them down. At least in that area he has a much better chance. I guess he rode with me for two miles... and left me a feather on the back deck.

You just never know what’s in store, do we?