Ducks go quackers for morning meal
Just the sight of Lindy Michael sends the ducks into a tizzy.
The mallards, Scandinavian blues, black Swedish -- even the occasional Pekin and Muscovy -- flap their wings and quack furiously as Michael approaches the Schiller Park pond with her trademark red pail full of cracked corn and poultry pellets.
Every day about 6:45 a.m., she pours out her bounty in a 10-foot-long strip along the pond's edge and the 60 or so waterfowl stand wing to wing in the makeshift chow line, eagerly gobbling up their breakfast.
Within minutes the food is gone. Then it's back into the water.
"I'm just an animal lover and nature lover, and I just want to help those poor ducks," said Michael, who's a former volunteer at the Cincinnati Zoo and currently involved in sea turtle rescue in South Carolina.
She said she fed the ducks sporadically until she bumped into Mary Lopez, a local duck rescuer who gave her feeding tips. A few months ago, Michael ramped up her feeding schedule.
Lopez, who's been rescuing ducks throughout central Ohio for 12 years, said she's disappointed by the amount of domestic ducks that have been dumped at Schiller.
Domestic ducks often cannot migrate or fly, leaving them at the mercy of predators and the weather.
During warmer months, they forage for food. When it's cold, provisions become scarce and many domestic ducks starve.
"I am just so grateful Lindy is there taking care of them," Lopez said.
People often acquire ducklings and don't know to properly care for them or lose interest in them, and drop them off at a pond, not knowing domestic ducks can't re-enter a wild habitat, she said.
Lopez of Pataskala either adopts them or tries to find the ducks a suitable home.
She emphasizes that bread or crackers are filling, but do not provide adequate nutrition for ducks or geese.
And moldy bread is particularly dangerous because it can cause lung disease, said Lopez, a special education teacher at Alum Crest High School.
As many as 100 ducks -- both wild and domestic -- can populate the Schiller pond, Michael said.
They have few natural predators, save for the snapping turtles, hawks and fishing line, in which the ducks get tangled on occasion.
Canada geese can be aggressive when it comes to food but they have not been present during the morning feedings, Michael said.
Unleashed canines are another problem altogether, she said.
And Michael is not alone in her devotion to the Schiller ducks.
When she's out of town, Tonja Blackmon, a teacher at East High School, helps pick up the morning shift.
"They're at the mercy of humans to rescue them," said Blackmon, who lives on the East Side.
Michael said she'd like to get more people involved in the feeding schedule, but asks that they offer the ducks a healthy diet.
"People really feed them garbage food," Michael said. "Bread is bad enough, but fries really take the cake."